Security experts in the UAE have warned WhatsApp and smartphone users to be extra vigilant, as there is a spy software going around that can secretly read chats, take selfies and record audio and video.
Described as one of the “most advanced” and highly sophisticated malware that has already infected some mobile phones, Skygofree can enable hackers to spy into a user’s internet activity, track location and steal critical information like passwords and card numbers.
“It collects messages from WhatsApp.. [and] can secretly turn on the front-facing camera and take a shot when the user unlocks the device – one can only guess how the criminals will use these photos,” cybersecurity firm Kapersky said in a report.
The spy tool is spread through fake mobile operator websites, where it is disguised as an update to improve mobile internet speed.
“Any user should be cautious of their online activities and pay due diligence to security as threats are often only detected long after they have carried out their malicious intent,” Majid Khan (right), manager for cybersecurity managed services at Help AG, told Gulf News.
“Any smartphone user [should] read about the capabilities of the Skygofree malware so they can understand the incredible amount of sensitive information such attacks are capable of intercepting and extracting. To give you an idea, it can go about intercepting phone calls, turning on your microphone, tracking your GPS location, using your camera,” he added.
The Facebook-owned messaging app has a huge following in the UAE and is one of the most popular mobile apps worldwide. As of July last year, more than 1.3 billion people around the world actively used the tool every month.
Researchers, however, said that only smartphone owners in Italy have so far been affected, but that doesn’t mean those in other markets like the UAE are not vulnerable.