Jeremy Herold

WhatsApp Exposed Users’ Private Numbers

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WhatsApp was showing private user data in Google search

WhatsApp has finally resolved an issue that caused the phone numbers of some of their users to appear in Google search results.

Click to Chat, a feature that WhatsApp designed to help users communicate more readily, was at the base of the issue.

This communication feature allows users to create a short URL – wa.me/<Phone Number> – that is then sharable to friends and customers in order to initiate quick conversations without having to save their phone number to their contacts list first.

It’s these wa.me links that show the phone number of the users that were showing up in Google search results because WhatsApp did not direct Google to ignore indexing these links.

WhatsApp initially ignored reports of the issue and released a statement that said, “All WhatsApp users, including businesses, can block unwanted messages with the tap of a button.” The spokesperson also stated that users whose information was public had chosen to publically advertise their phone numbers.

While this issue was brought to light in February 2020, another researcher brought the issue back in focus since the company had yet to fix the issue. Athul Jayaram calls this issue a privacy lapse and claims that as many as 900,000 phone numbers appeared in Google search results.

He contacted several WhatsApp users whose numbers appeared in Google search results and many were surprised to learn that this sensitive information was accessible on the public internet.

Thankfully WhatsApp has finally begun to take the issue serious. Jayaram noted that on June 9, 2020 WhatsApp had made some changes to inform web crawlers to not index certain links.

Hopefully, WhatsApp will take action on future security issues when initially reported.

As always, if we can be of help with your network or computer, give us a call here at RHYNO Networks. (855) 749-6648

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