Messaging Apps

WhatsApp logo - WhatsApp text with dialog balloon filled with grass green fill color with white classic rotary phone handset icon in balloonWhatsApp
The Facebook-owned messaging app debuted in 2009 as a mobile alternative to Skype. Now, just a decade later, it has easily cornered the market with a user base topping one billion.

WhatsApp offers users an extensive platform for text and video messaging along with a brilliant, cellular-powered voice call feature, allowing users to connect from around the world. There’s no word or minute count with WhatsApp; the only limit is your data.

Best features
WhatsApp offers a simple, clear interface that’s easy to use and everything you’d expect from a messaging app; however, its best feature may actually be its popularity. With 1.5 billion users in more than 180 countries, it’s safe to assume the contact you’re messaging or calling is a WhatsApp user, too.

Aside from its broad reach and many convenient features, WhatsApp has distinguished itself from other messaging apps though its outstanding network connection, especially in picking up dropped calls.

Glaring glitches
The one feature missing on WhatsApp’s platform is the message self-destruct feature. Unless you connect to a third-party app like Kaboom, your WhatsApp messages are there to stay.

Some users also complain that WhatsApp calls don’t offer the clearest connection.
Viber logo - purple dialog balloon with a white classic rotary handset and the word "Viber" in white. "Connect. Freely" is written in purple print underneath the balloon.

Viber
With over 800 million users, Viber is easily WhatsApp’s biggest competitor. The messaging app created a name for itself by being the first of its kind to offer the ability to seamlessly transfer calls between mobile devices and desktop computers.

Best Features
The primary feature setting Viber apart is its high-bandwidth connections, which allow for HD-quality voice calls. There’s nothing tinny or fuzzy about a Viber call; it’s all crisp and clear. If you’ll be using your messaging app primarily for phone calls, this may be a deciding factor for you.

Viber’s huge selection of stickers to add to your messages is another outstanding feature that is a favorite with the younger crowd.

The app also offers self-destructing messages that delete after a predetermined amount of time for added privacy.

Glaring Glitches
Viber has a rich interface that many users find cluttered and complicated. The vast library of stickers can also be overwhelming, not to mention further complicating the interface. If you like your apps clean and simple, this issue may really annoy you.
Viber’s smaller user base, (1.1 billion users) is another negative point of the app. Like WhatsApp, Viber allows you to call Viber users all over the world at no cost. But, if you want to use the app to call a non-Viber user, you’ll have to pay a small fee.

How they stack up

App NameNumber of UsersMessage Self-DestructClean InterfaceClear Connections
WhatsApp1.5 billion as of 2019NoYesNo
Viber1.1 billion as of 2019YesNoYes

Your Turn:
Are you a WhatsApp addict, or do you prefer Viber? A dark horse third option, perhaps? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
pcmag.com
webwise.ie
whatsapp.com
viber.com

What’s Up With WhatsApp?

WhatsApp Logo on green backgroundA cybersecurity breach in Facebook’s WhatsApp app last month left users vulnerable to spyware attacks via voice calls. An undetermined number of the 1.5 billion users of the popular messaging app may have had malicious spyware installed on their devices.

Let’s take a closer look at the security breach and the steps you can take to protect yourself, both now and in the future.

What happened?
Security breaches are old news in the app world, but a breach of extremely high magnitude and reach is something new and fairly frightening. The fact that the breach hit WhatsApp is especially alarming. WhatsApp utilizes strong encryption for both voice and text messaging and is used as a communication platform for government and security officials around the world.

Here’s how it went down:
A government-grade intelligence collection tool was employed to target WhatsApp users via voice calls. The spyware has been endowed with the ability to seize control of the affected smartphones and to access any private information stored on the device.

The spyware utilized in the attack was allegedly created by the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber surveillance company that has developed this advanced technology for the express purpose of allowing government agencies to infiltrate terrorist groups and to fight crime. Unfortunately, when the spyware fell into the wrong hands, it helped scammers pull off one of the greatest cybersecurity breaches of all time.

The Financial Times reported that the WhatsApp breach was made possible because of a loophole in the app’s code that allowed hackers to transmit spyware onto smartphones by calling targets through the app. The malicious code could be injected into the device whether the user picked up the call or ignored it.

According to WhatsApp, the cyber breach was first discovered in early May and had been used to target an undisclosed number of WhatsApp users. The Facebook-owned messaging company claimed it briefed human rights organizations about the breach and also asked U.S. law enforcement agencies to assist it in conducting an investigation. When WhatsApp had more definite information, it notified the public about the breach.

Who was affected?
It doesn’t matter what kind of phone you have; the security vulnerability affects both iPhone and Android devices. The good news is that not every version of WhatsApp was affected. To check whether the version you have on your phone was part of those impacted by the breach, check out Facebook’s official advisory confirming the vulnerability, which outlines which versions were affected.

The messaging giant has not confirmed a specific number of targeted victims. Rather, it has only shared that a “select number of users were targeted through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.”

What do I need to do now?
Since the vulnerability that caused the breach lies in the makeup of the app and not in an unsafe or negligent practice in the hands of a user, there is no way you could have prevented your device from being affected. However, now that the facts are on the table, you can take the recommended steps to keep your device safe from this vulnerability.

Since the breach was discovered, WhatsApp engineers have been working hard to close the app’s security vulnerability. The company has started installing a fix to servers and to private customers. It has also created an updated, safer version of the app that it has urged all users to employ on their devices as soon as possible.

Here’s a quick guide for updating your WhatsApp.

  • For iPhone users: Open the App Store, choose updates, select WhatsApp and then click Update.
  • For Android users: Open the Play Store, click the three lines in the upper left-hand corner, choose My Apps & Games, select WhatsApp and then hit Update.

If you haven’t yet updated your device, do it now. It only takes a few seconds of your time to make sure your WhatsApp is operating at its safest level.

You never know when those scammers are going to hit next. Practice safe measures by always using the latest version of any application or operating system, keeping yourself in the know about recent security breaches and never sharing sensitive information online.

Stay safe!

Your Turn:
How do you keep yourself safe from security breaches? Share your tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/consumerwatch-what-you-should-know-about-whatsapp-breach-23607175

https://www.people.com/human-interest/whatsapp-security-breach-update-app/amp/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/05/14/whatsapps-cybersecurity-breach-phones-hit-with-israeli-spyware-over-voice-calls/amp/