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Watch out for WhatsApp, it knows more than you think

Popular instant messaging app WhatsApp has been found to be collecting several pieces of data on unaware users, such as call durations, phone numbers and more, according to new research from the University of New Haven.

The paper was authored by F. Karpisek of Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic, Ibrahim (Abe) Baggili and Frank Breitinger, co-directors of the Cyber Forensics Research & Education Group at the University of New Haven.

Through the analysis of signaling messages exchanged during a WhatsApp call using an Android device, the researchers were able to closely examine the authentication process of WhatsApp clients; discover what codec WhatsApp is using for voice media streams (Opus at 8 or 16 kHz sampling rates); understand how relay servers are announced and the relay election mechanism; and understand how clients announce their endpoint addresses for media streams.

They effectively decrypted the WhatApp client and were able to visualise messages sent through that protocol. The researchers were able to acquire a variety of artifacts from network traffic, including WhatsApp phone numbers, WhatsApp phone call establishment metadata and date-time stamps, and WhatsApp phone call duration metadata and date-time stamps. They also were able to acquire WhatsApp’s phone call voice codec (Opus) and WhatsApp’s relay server IP addresses used during the calls.

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