New MP4 scare on WhatsApp: Central Agency advises to upgrade version

The specially crafted MP4 file triggers the remote code execution (RCE) and denial of service (DoS) cyber-attack. CERT-In has categorised the severity of the threat as ‘high’

Representational image
Representational image

NH Web Desk

Government’s cyber security agency has warned WhatsApp users against a "vulnerability" that can attack this popular social media messaging app and compromise individual system without seeking permissions.

The Computer Emergency Response Team-India (CERT-In) has issued an advisory in this context calling the severity of the threat, being spread by an MP4 file, as "high."

"A vulnerability has been reported in WhatsApp which could be exploited by a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code on the target system," the latest advisory said.

The advisory comes in the backdrop of recent developments where WhatsApp had informed the Indian government in September that over hundred Indian users including around two dozen of Indian journalists and human rights activists were targeted ahead of Parliamentary election to surveillance through the Israeli spyware Pegasus.

The Spyware made by Israeli firm NSO Group was allegedly used to snoop some 1,400 selected users from 20 nations globally.

However, the government sources denied the claims, saying WhatsApp only informed them about the vulnerability of their app in "technical jargon" in May and that the company made no mention of Pegasus spyware and Indian users being targeted.

WhatsApp's parent company Facebook, which claimed the snooping took place has also sued NSO group.

The CERT-In is the national nodal agency within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, to combat hacking, phishing and to fortify security-related defences of the Indian internet domain.

The agency's advisory suggested "upgrading" to the latest version of WhatsApp to combat or tide over the problem.

Describing the malicious action of the vulnerability in the popular social messaging app (application), it said, "A stack-based buffer overflow vulnerability exists in WhatsApp due to improper parsing of elementary stream metadata of an MP4 file. A remote attacker could exploit this vulnerability by sending a specially crafted MP4 file to the target system."

It added that this could trigger a buffer overflow condition leading to execution of arbitrary code by the attacker.

"The exploitation does not require any form of authentication from the victim end and executes on downloading of malicious crafted mp4 file on victim's system," it said.

Successful exploitation of this vulnerability, it said, could allow the remote attacker to cause remote code execution (RCE) or denial of service (DoS) condition, which could lead to further compromise of the system.

It stated half-a-dozen WhatsApp software have been "affected" by the current vulnerability.

They have been identified as WhatsApp for Android prior to 2.19.274, WhatsApp for iOS prior to 2.19.100, WhatsApp Enterprise Client prior to 2.25.3, WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to 2.18.368, WhatsApp Business for Android prior to 2.19.104 and WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to 2.19.100.

(With Inputs from PTI)

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