Watch out! It’s this easy to spy on WhatsApp chats
There’s a silent danger lurking in our midst that hardly any WhatsApp users know about. Let your attention slip for even a moment, and others can easily spy on your WhatsApp chats – without any hacking knowledge at all. So if you want to go sharing your little or even big secrets with friends on WhatsApp, be extremely careful.
The world chats with WhatsApp. Around 1.2 billion people globally and around 35 million Germans share trivial details, including intimate details and business secrets, via the messaging service each day. And they do so with a safe, fuzzy feeling inside as ultimately WhatsApp has offered secure end-to-end encryption for some time now. This feature virtually rules out hackers getting their hands on their data. Yet despite this, there’s a silent danger in our midst that hardly any smartphone users know about. Let your attention slip for even a moment, and others can easily spy on your WhatsApp chats – without any hacking knowledge at all. There are numerous ways to do this.
1. Using a spying app
More and more commercial monitoring services are popping up on the internet. These can help hobbyist spies keep tabs on everything that’s happening on target smartphones in one fell swoop – including entire WhatsApp chat histories. In addition, they can even gain access to incoming, outgoing, and even missed calls, the calendar, photos, location histories, and lots more besides – everything beautifully presented and accessible online. Demand for these services is incredibly high, particularly among jealous spouses and anxious parents, who are just two examples among many who use the popular service MSpy.
There are numerous options to get armed with the required info. It’s particularly easy to do on iPhones. All the spy needs is the victim’s Apple ID and password. Both of which – at least within the circle of family and friends – should be easy to find out. Equipped with these login details, the snoop can then access iCloud backups, which are typically created on a daily basis, via the service’s online dashboard. When using MSpy with Android devices, things get much more complicated. With these devices, direct smartphone access is required for the spy to install the MSpy app which then transmits the data to the MSpy service. But there are two snags: First, the snoop needs to know the victim’s Google password; second, the whole thing only works on rooted Android devices (meaning that the user has access to deeper system functions, which is only possible with complex fiddling around). In addition, MSpy comes with a hefty subscription price: One month costs €60, whereas the annual subscription will hit you for €170. It’s cheaper than hiring a private investigator I guess, but still expensive.
The best precaution you can take against surveillance apps is to never let your smartphone out of your sight, and never share unlock codes or passwords with anyone. If you do, anyone in your circle can easily keep tabs on your messages. Also be wary who you lend your smartphone to, and make sure you never leave it lying around.
2. Using the official WhatsApp app
Those who just can’t keep their curiosity to themselves can take another approach that’s free and also makes it much easier to spy on WhatsApp – that’s if the intended target lives in the same home as them. That’s because WhatsApp is also available for computers – and it’s easy to abuse this service for spying purposes. To get things up and running, besides the free program the nosy so-and-so just needs the victim’s smartphone for a moment (“Can I borrow your phone quickly?” is anything but as harmless as it sounds) to take a photo of the QR code displayed on the computer screen using the WhatsApp app on the victim’s smartphone. Once that’s done, the snooper can then view the victim’s entire chat history on the PC and comb through it at leisure – with the flow of juicy details never stopping as the chat history gets updated each time the victim’s smartphone connects to the home Wi-Fi network.
So what can you do to stop this from happening? Thankfully, blowing the nosy so-and-so’s cover is just as easy as configuring the settings themselves. In the WhatsApp app’s settings on the smartphone, take a look at the area called WhatsApp Web/Desktop. Here you can see in black and white when the service was last active. So, if you’ve never connected WhatsApp to your PC, or you see entries here, don’t waste any more time and hit the “Log out from all devices” button to disconnect from the sinister connections.
3. Employing hacker methods
With the hacker method, the WhatsApp snoop pretends to hold the intended victim’s smartphone. But what’s actually happening is that this person is using special apps to swap their device’s MAC address with the target’s smartphone MAC address. While it sounds complicated, the whole thing is relatively easy to achieve when it’s being done within the close circle of family or friends. The greatest hurdle is that the snoop needs to have access to the victim’s smartphone for long enough to find out its MAC address. This is easy to do by looking in the device settings. The snoop then just needs to plant the captured MAC address into their own smartphone using a spoofing app. Now comes the second hurdle: Once WhatsApp is then installed on this smartphone, the snoop needs to enter the victim’s phone number and get hold of the required verification code that gets sent by SMS to the victim’s smartphone. If the nosy so-and-so now enters this into their phone, they can not only keep tabs on the victim’s WhatsApp messages but also write messages in the victim’s name.
Once again, the best precaution you can take against spoofing scams is the same as for surveillance apps: Never let your smartphone out of your hands and never give your unlock codes or passwords to anyone.
Punishable with significant fines
Snooping on WhatsApp messages isn’t only morally wrong; it’s also a no-no in the eyes of the law. Without the victim’s consent it is strictly prohibited to intercept someone’s communications. In Germany, for instance, “Anyone who gets caught risks getting punished under section 202b of Germany’s Criminal Code for unauthorized interception of data at the very least. They could be faced with a prison sentence of up to 2 years,” warns media attorney Christian Solmecke. It’s not without good reason that the developers market the surveillance apps as child protection apps for anxious helicopter parents. After all, their own offspring don’t need to be told they’re being spied on.