Instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram have enabled a lot of people out there share stuff over their networks easily. They have become that indispensable and that is why such a report by Symantec is a bit worrying.
Symantec says that new research has revealed a ‘Media file jacking’ flaw that affects the WhatsApp and Telegram apps for Android. This means that files shared on these platform could be exposed and manipulated by ‘malicious actors’ if certain features are enabled.
They explain how that works. “It stems from the lapse in time between when media files received through the apps are written to the disk, and when they are loaded in the apps’ chat user interface (UI) for users to consume. This critical time lapse presents an opportunity for malicious actors to intervene and manipulate media files without the user’s knowledge.”
This means that if this vulnerability is exploited, a hacker could misuse and manipulate files likes like personal photos, videos, corporate documents, invoices and voice memos that are shared.
Symantec describes the scary impacts of this vulnerability. Hackers could perform image manipulation, payment manipulation, altering audio messages and spreading fake news. These can break down the communication chain greatly between people and can cause chaos and misunderstanding.
The company says that WhatsApp and Telegram can protect against the threats by validating the integrity of files, storing media in non public directories like internal storage and encrypting sensitive files like how they do it for text files. The last one in particular will have a disadvantage since photo backup apps won’t be able to easily access these files.
Well some good news, Google plans to change how apps access files access external storage with Android Q. That ‘Scoped Storage’ makes it more restrictive and may help mitigate threats that take advantage of the WhatsApp/Telegram flaw they found.