By CPA David Kiwanuka.
If you spend a lot of time writing chats with your friends, business partners and family on WhatsApp, it would be a big problem if someone hacked into your accounts or read your chats, since they could potentially know everything about you.
To avoid getting such an unpleasant surprise, you must be in position to competently answer the How, Where & What questions!
Let’s start with the Where & What Questions?
- Using WhatsApp Web
To allow people to use instant messenger on their PCs, WhatsApp introduced the WhatsApp Web sometime in 2015. With this feature, you can sync your WhatsApp to your computer and/or smartphone to smartphone. Thus, making you enjoy instant messaging from the direct comfort of your web browser. Remarkably, all your messages will still be live on your mobile phone.
First, you need to update the WhatsApp on your device. If not, download the WhatsApp for Android users or WhatsApp for iOS users. Equally important, ensure you have a strong internet connection to make this work.
However, someone else can use this activity to get into all your WhatsApp conversations.
The moment one gets access to your device, especially your phone, they can quickly scan your WhatsApp QR code, and can now access your entire WhatsApp conversation in that short time.
Further still, it is possible that they’re also able to use the WhatsApp web from a different computer/smartphone than yours. So this gives anyone a possibility to access your WhatsApp account from anywhere in the world for as long as they can access the WhatsApp QR code.
A Simplified Guide to Using WhatsApp Web
To begin with, open the installed WhatsApp on your mobile phone. Locate the three-dotted button at the top right of your WhatsApp screen and click. An overflow menu will appear, identify the WhatsApp Web option, and Click. You will find a Square Box with a horizontal green line inside moving up and down waiting to scan a QR Code.
Proceed to open the Google Chrome browser on the computer/smartphone (check the desktop site) you intend to use. Note that for WhatsApp Web to work, you must be using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, or Safari. Unfortunately, you cannot enjoy this feature via Safari on an iPad and on the Internet Explorer browser. Proceed to input web.whatsapp.com. inside the search box of the web browser you choose. Immediately, a WhatsApp Web page shows up. On the right side, you will find a QR code on the right side of the screen you need to scan. On the left, you will see a 3-step guide to use WhatsApp on your computer/smartphone.
Point your smartphone camera to the computer/smartphone screen to capture the QR code on the WhatsApp Web page. Wait for a few seconds for the QR code to scan. When the connection is established, the interface changes to that of the WhatsApp home screen instantly. You even have the option of keeping your device signed in at your will. Proceed to enjoy sending and receiving WhatsApp messages using your computer while surfing other websites. At this point, the hacker is in position to have your interface at his smartphone and will definitely receive your conversation(s) at real-time.
Finally, you need to note that your mobile phone needs to stay connected to the internet for this to work. Connecting the WhatsApp Web to your computer would come handy in your day-to-day activities. Enjoy but with caution!
2. Access to Your Device Backup File
This works even when you have locked your WhatsApp with the AppLocker. However, it should be noted that this hack affects only those devices that do not have the recently updated WhatsApp.
The moment the hacker gets access to your device, within minutes they will be able to read or delete WhatsApp conversations from another device.
After getting your backup file using the file manager, they can send it via Bluetooth to another device.
They can use auto-backup apps like backup text for WhatsApp and directly email all your WhatsApp conversations in plain text by installing this app in your device and when they are through, they uninstall it.
With just these, they will access all your chats even when your WhatsApp is locked.
3. Using Wi-Fi Network with WhatsApp Sniffer
Just like it is risky using Wi-Fi with your email account, it is also possible for your WhatsApp to be compromised with the WhatsApp sniffer via a wifi network. Because every device has a unique mac address, if the hacker is able to spoof your mac address then he will be able to see all your WhatsApp activity.
4. Using Third-party Spyware
There is some other third party spyzie which claims to hack WhatsApp conversation. Apps like spyzie are paid and often require the intruder to install a small piece of software on your device, which will get them to your WhatsApp conversations.
How to boost your WhatsApp security?
1. Activate two-step verification
Two-step verification adds an extra layer of security. To activate two-step verification, go to Settings > Account > Two-step Verification > Activate.
Follow the steps to create a six-digit PIN code that is easy for you to remember. You can also add an email address that will receive the code in case you forget it.
From now on, and at random intervals, you’ll see locks that will only be deactivated when you enter the PIN. This way, if someone steals your mobile, thanks to this system, they won’t be able to snoop on your WhatsApp.
2. Get yourself a good lock code
If your mobile is stolen but the thief cannot unlock it, he will not be able to access your WhatsApp (or any other app, of course). Use everything that your mobile can offer you in this regard to prevent someone who is not you from using it.
It may sound like dumb advice, but you’d be surprised by how many people use, for example, the sequence 1-2-3-4 for their lock code.
3. Disable cloud backup
WhatsApp creates backup copies of your conversations in Google Drive or in iCloud. This way, if you reinstall it, you can recover old messages.
The problem is that this backup is not encrypted. That means there are chances that a hacker could gain access to this copy and read the data.
If you are worried about this possibility, all you have to do is go to Settings > Chats > Backup. There you can select how regularly your conversations will be saved.
Choose Never to deactivate it. Remember, however, that this means there will be no way to recover your conversations!
4. Never Let Anyone Get Access to Your Phone
After discovering that with just a minute of accessing your phone, anyone can use the WhatsApp web, or a backup file to access your WhatsApp conversations, see your WhatsApp status messages, you ought to know that it is very risky to let anyone access your phone.
Another thing to note is that WhatsApp is connected to your account with your phone’s IMEI number, which is unique to every single mobile device.
Getting access to this number could get you whole phone activities to be hacked including your WhatsApp account. Ensure that no stranger gets access to your phone.
5. Do not use Public or Free Wifi access points
The most favourable way for hackers to access your apps is through insecure wifi connections. It should be known that most email hacks are through insecure wifi networks and so is all other apps on your mobile phone including your WhatsApp account.
Using insecure wifi network connections is a very risky activity and it could be the one way through which your WhatsApp account could be compromised.
Stay away from insecure wifi connections and this includes random wifi networks that you come across anywhere. This will prevent you from this risk of your WhatsApp account being hacked.
Also, please be informed that an intruder is able to access your device if you’re both on the same local or wifi network connection. That’s why it is highly advised not to login into public and unsecured networks.
7. Watch out for scams
Every now and then, you’ll receive misleading messages that promise you, for example, access to new colours for WhatsApp or six free months of Netflix. All these messages have been created by cybercriminals who’re trying to steal your private data and access your account or to sell the information to third parties.
The golden rule here is this: DO NOT trust any of these promotional messages. Especially if they are related to WhatsApp. If you have doubts about it, look for information about the message to make sure. A quick Google can go a long way.
This WhatsApp Colours scam is a great example of the type of thing you should be keeping an eye out for.
8. Check out the WhatsApp privacy section
Remember that WhatsApp allows you to block your profile picture to anyone who is not your contact, disable the last time you connected etc.
To access all these options, go to Settings > Account > Privacy.
9. Inspect security codes
When contact and you initiate a new chat, a security code is created. As long as you both have the same code, your conversations will be secure. If they are different, it means that a third party has secretly accessed your chat.
How can you find out if you have the same code? Comparing. Each of you can see the other’s code.
Select the profile picture of your contact in the chat. Then select Encryption. The code that you get should be the same. If it is different, it means that someone has managed to hack your chat.
10. Activate security notifications
There is a way to keep on top of when a chat’s security code has changed (that is, to know when your conversation may be in danger).
You can activate notifications that will alert you each time a code has changed. To do this, go to Settings > Account > Security. Ask your contact to do the same to be 100% covered.
How to Fix a Hacked WhatsApp Account?
- Disable WhatsApp Web
The moment you suspect unusual activity in your WhatsApp account, then it is no doubt someone is poking their nose in your WhatsApp chats and conversations. If they are using WhatsApp web, then you can confirm this:
- Open WhatsApp on your phone,
- Tap on the 3 vertical dots on the top right
- Then tap on WhatsApp web, a new window will open,
- Here sees the list of last used clients, if you don’t recognize it, then chances are someone is hacking into your conversations and WhatsApp activities on your phone.
Note: To stop this, tap on Log out of all computers. This will stop the hacker from accessing your activities. This should, therefore, be a caution for you to always check this and log out of all unknown devices.
- Lockup All Your Apps
According to learning ocean team, hackers use the extract messages from files technique to copy your WhatsApp messages from your device and email to another email id. It is also possible to use chatbots for WhatsApp.
They easily read all your WhatsApp messages by copying some files from the WhatsApp folder and the solutions to this is to use an app called App Locker in your WhatsApp enabled smartphone.
App locker enables you to lock any application on your smartphone hence securing it. So when an attacker tries to copy those stored files from your WhatsApp enable smartphone, they will first have to unlock your phone
Of recent, WhatsApp introduced two-factor authentication. When you have two-step verification enabled, any attempt to verify your phone number on WhatsApp must be accompanied by the six-digit PI that you created using this feature.
When this is enabled, you can enter the email address that will allow WhatsApp to send you a link via email to disable two-step verification in case you ever forget your six-digit PIN.
I hope this article helps you to secure your WhatsApp account from being hacked and if already hacked, to fix the account. You must be on top of the game if not, the game will be automatically on top of you!
CPA David Kiwanuka is the reigning Young Accountant of the Year 2019-2020, Contact him via (+256) 773461710 | email@example.com