Meta-owned messaging app WhatsApp has been compromised, with information of nearly 500 million users potentially compromised.
A user has posted on a popular hacker forum that he is selling the data of more than 487 million users of messaging app WhatsApp. Cybernews, a digital security investigative media outlet, reported on November 24 that it had obtained samples from the seller and confirmed that the data for sale was indeed from real WhatsApp users.
According to the user's post, the data covers 84 countries and regions, of which about 32 million are from the United States, 45 million from Egypt, 35 million from Italy and 20 million from France. The user described the data as "the phone number of an active WhatsApp user" for an undisclosed price. It should be noted that the user only joined the forum in November this year, according to the user's information.
The user did not present the user's data sample in the forum. Reporters from The Paper inquired through the contact information provided by the user, but had not received a response as of press time.
Cybernews, however, reported on Nov. 24 that it obtained a sample of data from the seller and investigated to confirm that the data for sale was indeed from real WhatsApp users. The sample included 1,097 UK phone numbers and 817 US phone numbers, the report said.
WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by Meta, was founded in 2009 and acquired by Meta, formerly known as Facebook (FB), in 2014 for $19 billion. As one of the most popular messaging apps overseas, WhatsApp has a large user base. In the third quarter earnings conference call, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Meta, said that WhatsApp has more than 2 billion monthly active users.
In fact, Zuckerberg has high hopes for WhatsApp. Just last week, Zuckerberg said messaging will become Meta's next major business pillar. Zuckerberg said the ability to monetize messaging apps WhatsApp and Messenger was still in its early stages compared to Facebook and Instagram, but he said that while the company still sees the metacomverse as a long-term future business opportunity, But the reality is that WhatsApp and Messenger have a better chance of driving sales growth.
Meta has always been a "disaster zone" for information leaks. In March and October 2018, Facebook suffered two "thefts" of user data. In April 2021, another hacker stole the personal data of an estimated 533 million Facebook users, and this time Zuckerberg's phone number was among them. Facebook ids, full names, locations, birthdates, personal profiles and email addresses were all compromised for users in 106 countries.
Mantas Sasnauskas, Cybernews research team leader, said: "In this day and age, we leave quite a bit of information online, so tech giants like Meta should take every step to protect their users' data.
Sasnauskas argues that hackers don't have to worry about the "no grabbing or misusing of user data" clause, and that tech companies should take strict measures to mitigate the threat and technically prevent the misuse of data by their platforms.