WhatsApp announced on February 12 that it had reached the two billion mark. These users now face a security risk. The threat revolves around a WhatsApp warning about a malicious message. It first appeared in 2016. As these messages have a tendency to spread virally, the warning involved a WhatsApp invitation to upgrade WhatsApp Gold. Users would need to accept the invitation and then click a link that would download malware onto their devices. The special edition app was never created. As far as I know, the WhatsApp invitation people were warning about, or any malware payload, never existed. It was, dear reader. It was a viral hoax, which existed for all intents, to spread as much as possible. It is back and it has security implications. That is why I am warning you.
WhatsApp Gold, Martinelli, and the Dancing Pope
According to the current WhatsApp hoax, it urges people to not click on a message asking them to update to WhatsApp Gold. The recipient is then asked to notify all their contacts to not open the video titled “Dance of the Pope”, as it contains malware that will reformat their phone. A second hoax warnings users not to open the video called Martinelli because it “hacks your smartphone and nothing will fix.” These WhatsApp hoaxes are the modern version of an old chain letter in which the reader was urged to send copies to ten people or else something horrible would happen. The Dance of the Pope, Martinelli or WhatsApp Gold messaging has started to spread on social media.
The clues to this being a hoax exist, as Graham Cluley, an information security veteran said: “There is no mention of which mobile operating system the malware runs. The link to the BBC News article that warned of the virus is not provided.
Security implications of hoax message distribution
You are probably thinking, ignore it, and just move on. It’s not a problem if you get caught and share with others. Wrong. This kind of viral hoax messaging can become a malware distribution tool, which is the real problem. Cybercriminals will choose whatever topic is popular at the moment. Unfortunately, we have seen this with ransomware groups targeting healthcare workers using coronavirus-related Phishing lures and the FBI warning about a significant rise in COVID-19 scams. It is more likely that hoaxes will be passed on to others than the actual malware link. It has been reported that was the hacker of the world’s wealthiest man. This was done using malware via a WhatsApp message.
Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist from ESET, said that malicious attachments can cause havoc on phones. He also cites the example of Jeff Bezos. Normally, it is vital to verify any messages sent to you with the sender before they are forwarded to anyone. The sender believed the message to be correct in the case with WhatsApp Gold. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have sent it. Moore said that there is enough fake news out there without Moore. “If you see a message asking for it to be sent, resist the temptation to delete it and inform the sender about the misinformation being spread.”
WhatsApp stated it wants users to think carefully before sharing something. Ask yourself this question: Would you like others to see what your messages are?