What We Can Learn from This WhatsApp Double Hoax

Security & Privacy, Threats & Hacks, Tips & Tricks

In the past few days, months and years, you may have seen a Facebook post with a link that looks something like this:

If you know anyone using WhatsApp you might pass on this. An IT colleague has advised that a video comes out tomorrow from WhatsApp called martinelli do not open it , it hacks your phone and nothing will fix it. Spread the word.
If you receive a message to update the Whatsapp to Whatsapp Gold, do not click !!!!!
Now said on the news this virus is difficult and severe. Pass it on to all.

Is it true?! Nope.

There’s an old saying: “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” An equal and opposite corollary applies to social media: “If it sounds too terrible to be true, you probably wouldn’t be hearing about it first from your friend on Facebook.”

If this post were true in almost any way, it would be huge, terrible news.

“A phone getting infected when a message is opened would require n zero-day exploit for WhatsApp,” Jarno Niemelä, Principal Researcher at F-Secure Labs, told us. A zero-day exploit targets a vulnerability that has not yet been identified or exploited thus the software’s creator is not aware that it needs to be patched. “And considering how valuable those sorts of exploits are, you can be sure that someone who is capable of finding one and unethical enough to write a worm like this would rather sell it on the black market.”

So this message your friends may be sharing is a hoax that has been around in some form since, Jarno estimates, since 2000.

“Actually, it’s a double hoax,” Sean Sullivan, F-Secure Security Advisor told us.

The first part about the video called “martinelli” is a newer hoax. And the second part about WhatsApp Gold is from 2016.

How did Sean figure this out?

“I find Snopes Fact Check posts to be fairly good without too many annoying ads,” he said. “I would recommend it when getting messages such as these.”

So what’s the lesson here?

Assume any really good news or bad news you see on Facebook needs fact checking, obviously.

But there’s also crucial lesson here when it comes to using “basic caution” for clicking on links.

“You should always be careful of any links leading to outside of the application you are using,” Jarno said. “And if any webpage offers an app install. It is most likely malware, or intrusive spyware or adware, at the very least.”


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