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How to update WhatsApp on iPhone and Android and protect your phone from security flaw

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 6 days ago Amelia Heathman
a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

The world’s biggest messaging app WhatsApp has been hit by a major security problem as a vulnerability enabled hackers to install spyware on smartphones via WhatsApp calls.

According to reports by the Financial Times, the surveillance code could be transmitted even if users didn’t answer their phones and the log of the call would often disappear. Once installed, the spyware can scan emails and messages, turn on a phone’s camera and mic and collect location data.


Given the scale of WhatsApp, with 1.5 billion users around the world, there are concerns about who was targeted - and why - in the hack. WhatsApp cannot confirm how many people were affected but it is thought the spyware was used in attempt to access the phones of human rights campaigners.

Here’s what you need to do to ensure you’re not at risk.

How to update WhatsApp

The first thing you should do is update your WhatsApp app. The Facebook-owned company says it is releasing a security update to protect its users against the threat.

  1. Open up your WhatsApp app first and make sure to back up any chats or images, you don’t want them to disappear in the update.
  2. Go to the App Store on an iPhone or Google Play Store on an Android device and search for WhatsApp.
  3. If you have the most up to date version of the app, you won’t need to do anything. However, if you don’t have automatic updates turned on, you can update the app now.

Update your smartphone software

As well as updating WhatsApp, the company also recommends users to update their phone’s software to ensure they have the latest security updates.

First of all, make sure to back up your phone, either to iCloud on Apple or Google Drive on Android.

For iPhone, go to Settings > iCloud (in the box at the top) > Backup.

Once the back up is complete, go to General > Software update and download and install the latest software.

For Android, go to Settings > Google > Back up, and select Back up now.

In the Google menu in Settings, there is a section called “Google Account” at the top. Be sure to check this to run a security scan and resolve any security issues. You can also take a Privacy Check-Up too to ensure you are using the right security settings for your device.

Use a secure messaging app

If you’re really concerned about your data being accessed via the WhatsApp flaw, then you can always move to a different messaging app.

Signal is celebrated as the top encrypted messaging app and is used by security figures such as Edward Snowden. It’s free, available to use on all mobile platforms and very easy to navigate. (Signal on Android and Apple)

Or, there’s Wire, which encrypts all voice calls, video calls and messaging. There’s also a business version to ensure all your business communications are securely protected. (Wire on Android and Apple)

MSN UK are Empowering Happiness for mental health awareness month. Find out more about our campaign and the charities working to stop people falling into crisis here.

Gallery: WhatsApp tricks you should know (Pictures)


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