In the past few weeks, reports regarding WhatsApp spy software, a Microsoft cyber weapon computer bug, and former Google CEO’s defense of censored Chinese search engine indicate that much more happens beyond our screens than most of us realize.
This week, The Sun reported that hackers were able to install spy software on a limited number of smartphones—out of 1.5 billion overall users—through a significant flaw in the Facebook-owned app, WhatsApp. Installation was as simple as a hacker making a call to the target phone number. Even if the user didn’t answer the call, the software would be installed and give the attacker access to the user’s messages, contacts, and even cameras.
At press time, WhatsApp released an update to address this breach, but it remains to be seen how confident users can be that this type of vulnerability won’t happen again. For anyone looking to make the switch away from WhatsApp, here are some alternatives.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft publicly disclosed a vulnerability that has the potential to affect users still on the Windows 7 and older operating systems. The related malicious software is said to be similar to the vicious WannaCry malware that ran rampant about two years ago. Microsoft has already released an update to address this threat.
Upgrade your operating system and make sure you have the latest patches installed. This vulnerability doesn’t affect newer Windows operating systems such as Windows 8 and Windows 10.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the BBC that he supported a project named Dragonfly to build a censored search platform for China. He sang the praises of the platform having the potential to “help change China to be more open.”
According to The Intercept, “A Google employee with knowledge of Dragonfly was angered by Schmidt’s remarks, characterizing them as ‘bullshit.’ The source said that ‘probably 90 percent of engineers [in Google’s search department] had no idea [about Dragonfly] and were very upset when they learned that their work was contributing to this.'”
It’s certain to be a relief for some that Schmidt is no longer in charge of Google, because he cannot directly order resurrecting the stalled Dragonfly project. Only time will tell what the current Google executives are planning.