October 25, 2013 5 Comments-
Visitors to the website of messaging giant Whatsapp were in for a surprise earlier this month, as the webpage for the popular smartphone chat app started redirecting to a pro-Palestine political page. But how did this happen? And what does it mean for internet security?
What happened to Whatsapp
The good news for Whatsapp users is that it appears that no part of the companies’ security was compromised. The hack seemed to have targeted the external company that translates Whatsapp’s website IP address (like a website’s telephone number), into a readable name, i.e. Whatsapp.com.
The hackers appeared to have broken into that company’s systems, accessed the database containing the IP information, and changed Whatsapp.com to point to the hacker’s own computer number, thereby redirecting Whatsapp.com to a website of the hacker’s choosing.
While this means that Whatsapp’s security wasn’t attacked, it doesn’t mean the companies’ data is completely safe. When the domain was hacked, the criminals could have temporarily redirected all emails to @whatsapp.com to the criminal’s own computers.
Just how much information could they have received in those few hours? It’s impossible to say.
The scary possibilities for other websites
Whatsapp issues aside, however, the hack itself is actually a much bigger commentary on general internet safety. For example, in this case, the company hosting this information – Network Solutions – was infiltrated.
Network Solutions most likely holds the domain information for tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of websites, which means any number of websites could have had their websites redirected.
Thankfully, a big website like Whatsapp will notice these issue pretty quickly. With smaller websites, however, who knows how long it would be take for these issues to be noticed and fixed? And until then, how many visitors would be visiting a website masquerading as an official one?
It really is a whole new level of potential internet issues to worry about. Are you sure the website you are visiting is the real one? Do you really know that what you’re reading right now is actually Norman’s content, and not a fake?
Because the security issue is happening at the server end, there’s currently no way for your computer to notice this kind of issue. Therefore it’s down to you to use your wits to stay safe online.
On this page, for example, we’re not offering you any tempting links that are too-good-to-be-true, or asking you to download anything, so we’re probably legitimate.
Those two are big warning signs for fake content, but there are plenty of other ways for websites to exploit users. The only thing you can do is be aware whether something seems out of place, and if in doubt, get out.
Made up of various contributors' opinions and insights - the power of the collective.
Norman Safeground Blogs Archive