UN bars officials from using WhatsApp over security concerns, company responds

By Digit NewsDesk | Published on Jan 24 2020
UN bars officials from using WhatsApp over security concerns, company responds

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HIGHLIGHTS

The directive of not using WhatsApp was given to UN officials last June.

A ban specifically targeting WhatsApp has left experts in disbelief.

The United Nations (UN) has barred officials from communicating on WhatsApp citing accusations made against the Saudi Arabia crown prince back in 2018. The crown prince was accused of using the app to allegedly hack the phone of Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. “It is not supported as a secure mechanism,” a UN spokesman said on Thursday. UN experts say they had details pointing to “possible involvement” of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the alleged 2018 cyberattack on Bezos. As a result, senior officials at the UN have been instructed not to use WhatsApp.

Based on the forensic report by Washington-based FTI Consulting, the UN called for an immediate investigation by the US and other authorities. The report claims Bezos’ iPhone was hacked by a malicious video file sent from a WhatsApp account used by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. While there is no proof of that happening, Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman said, “the senior officials at the UN have been instructed not to use WhatsApp, it’s not supported as a secure mechanism.”

The directive to stop using WhatsApp was given to UN officials last June. When asked about the move by the UN, WhatsApp Director of Communications Carl Woog said, “Every private message is protected by end-to-end encryption to help prevent WhatsApp or others from viewing chats. The encryption technology that we developed with Signal is highly regarded by security experts and remains the best available for people around the world.”

A ban specifically targeting WhatsApp has left experts in disbelief. According to Oded Vanunu, Researcher at Tel Aviv-based security consultancy Checkpoint that regularly points out security flaws in popular messaging apps, “WhatsApp takes security seriously compared to the other social media messaging platforms.” He added, “Every application has vulnerabilities that can be exploited in some way.”

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