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Technology / Cybersecurity

John McAfee claims to have hacked WhatsApp encrypted messages on Android

Cybersecurity expert John McAfee and his team claim to have hacked an encrypted Whatsapp message, using their servers located in remote areas in the mountains of Colorado.

McAfee disclosed the hacking of the message and its details to research and market intelligence firm Cybersecurity Ventures.

Two researchers located at the New York City headquarters office of LIFARS, a cyber intelligence and digital forensics firm, exchanged the message that was claimed to be hacked by McAfee.

The message was sent on 14 May at 2:45pm EST in New York. McAfee and his hacking team in Colorado were able to read the message one minute after it was sent, a report on the Cybersecurity Ventures website said.

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But McAfee did not find Whatsapp responsible for its service to be vulnerable to hacking. Instead, he has found fault with Google’s operating system.

McAfee claims to have discovered a major design flaw in the Android operating system that enabled his team to gain access to many things within all Android devices.

A report by The Wall Street Journal said that McAfee would only disclose the identity of one of his hacking team, Chris Roberts, a former founder of One World Labs, a cybersecurity firm which has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Last year, Roberts told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about hacking of commercial jetliners on many occasions that he had conducted. He also revealed that he had managed to take control of an aircraft engine mid-flight.

The motivation behind the WhatsApp message hack was articulated by McAfee, saying: "I have been warning the world for years that we are teetering on the edge of an abyss, that our cyber security paradigms no longer function, and that chaos will descend if something is not done.

"The fundamental operating system (Android), used by 90% of the world, and that should be the first bulwark against malicious intrusion, is flawed. Should I not bring this to the world’s attention through a dramatic demonstration? Do I not owe it to the world?"

McAfee said that he is ready to have a discussion with Google and Whatsapp to fix the vulnerability issue without any fee.

McAfee said: "This in no way was done for financial gain. This was my obligation to my tribe."

But Gizmodo reports that McAfee apparently tried to convince the media that he has hacked the encrypted Whatsapp message.

The report said that he used malware installed phones to convince the reporters that he could read encrypted messages.

Cybersecurity expert Dan Guido was quoted by Gizmodo as saying: "John McAfee was offering to a different couple of news organisations to mail them some phones, have people show up, and then demonstrate with those two phones that [McAfee] in a remote location would be able to read the message as it was sent across the phones.

"I advised the reporter to go out and buy their own phones, because even though they come in a box it’s very easy to get some saran wrap and a hair dryer to rebox them."
This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.

CBR Staff Writer

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