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WhatsApp Gold

It's a scam!

Popular cross-platform messaging app WhatsApp has been embroiled in a novel attack which cybercriminals are using to steal users data. A version is in the wild which claims to offer exclusive features, such as the ability to send hundreds of messages at once and is supposed to be "used by celebrities". It apparently offers other features that are not present on the standard version and is going by the name "WhatsApp Gold".

If you receive a message offering to install this app - don't! Experts are warning users to spread the message that this app is NOT from the legitimate WhatsApp developers and will infect their handsets.

The scam has actually been around a while, and smartphone virus watchers have alerted users that an earlier version called "WhatsApp Plus" tried the same thing. This time, however, the message seems to be getting pushed far wider, hence the need to inform users as soon as possible to be on their guard.

Targets existing WhatsApp users

Facebook didn't pay $22b for WhatsApp in 2014 for nothing. It knew such a huge user base was incredibly valuable. Unfortunately, so do the bad guys. By targeting such a large set, even a tiny success rate means big bucks for them. Facebook actually had their own chat app - Facebook Messenger - but saw WhatsApp as being more of a universal replacement for SMS which Facebook users were using to communicate with non-Facebook users. In any case, we're talking over a billion users:

whatsapp growth 600x427

WhatsApp is taking the precaution of actually banning users of its real service if it detects this fake app on their phone. It offers advice regarding this in the FAQ section of its website.

WhatsApp Gold

If infected, delete the app then wait 24 hours

WhatsApp have advised users to not use the service for 24 hours after uninstalling the rogue app. The malware is being spread using any communication system which can send a link - in other words, pretty much everything including SMS, tweets, emails, IM's on other platforms and even webpage links.

Can only affect users if they knowingly install it

Whilst still dangerous, the WhatsApp Gold malware does have a weakness - it is NOT automatic. To spread, it relies on social engineering techniques aimed at the potential victim. One of the actual texts sent to users read: "Hey Finally Secret Whatsapp golden version has been leaked, This version is used only by big celebrities. Now we can use it too". This is relying on the user thinking they are getting something extra for nothing, and can be a powerful incentive.

WhatsApp is advising users who receive a message inviting them to install WhatsApp Gold to report it back to them.

Four bad whatsapp gold

It is not currently known how many users have been affected by WhatsApp Gold, but so far only Android users have been hit. This doesn't mean users of other platforms can be complacent - remember, WhatsApp itself is cross-platform, so its malware variants might well turn out to be also. Users are asked to spread the word regarding this software being malware - the more know about it, the safer we will all be.