The WhatsApp Let Down

May 14, 2021
Rebecca LaChance
Animation of WhatsApp conversation

It’s one of the most widely used messaging apps on the market, but why has WhatsApp been under a lot of scrutiny lately? After all the buzz about its impending new privacy policy, is this secure (we use the term with a raised eyebrow) messaging app actually protecting its users?

Still making the rounds, a whole year after it first came to light, is a scam where hackers hijack your phone by posing as a friend who needs a 6-digit verification pin. In reality, the hackers have already hijacked your friend’s account and are  attempting to set up a new account on your number. If you send the requested code, they now have full access to your WhatsApp (though not any previous messages) until you are able to recover your phone number. They’ll be able to see all the groups you are in as well as read any incoming messages. And if they set up two factor authentication on your account before you can recover it, you will have to seek help from WhatsApp to get the account back. As Zak Doffman wrote in his article about this scam back in 2020, “This is social engineering at its best—we are coded to trust and help out our friends.”

Because we’re only human, most of us trust that messages we send to our friends and contacts will only ever be read by them, but the truth is that these accounts can easily be hijacked as scammers grow ever more sophisticated

Even Signal, where swarms of former WhatsApp users flocked in recent months, isn’t immune to spam and scammers because user accounts are identified simply by their phone numbers. To Signal’s credit, messages from scammers only appear as “requests,” but often contain malware in links that attempt to steal your personal information. Because spammers frequently change numbers, users must constantly block requests from these insidious accounts... on one of the most “secure” apps on the market.

We’ve thought long and hard about secure messaging and so we’ve designed Self to be better across the board. Our platform depends on trusted connections between real people who can verify themselves, so you know that the person you’re talking to is exactly who they say they are. 

We’re getting ready to launch the first beta of Self – our answer to trustworthy, private, secure connections. We’d love you to join, so if you want to be one of the first to try it, drop your email in the box below and we’ll be in touch.

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