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Bill Magee
Scots asking what's up with WhatsApp


Scots numbering at least one million, probably many more, have been put on high cyber alert following a series of fresh reports and research warning of a growing threat to their privacy when using WhatsApp for work or leisure.

All the talk is of a TikTok ban by the United States although it seems likely it will end up in the courts, such is the litigious-happy American way. The headline-grabbing issue can make it easy to overlook another popular social media platform.

DoubleTick reports an astonishing 140 billion messages are sent daily on WhatsApp, equivalent to 1.6 million each second representing a 53.8 per cent rise since 2018. Seven billion images are shared daily using chatbots. Cybercrew says latest statistics show 30 million users in the UK. It is mostly free to use.

It is, reputedly, the most popular social media platform on the planet and has been marketed as a secure alternative to texting and SMS, as a cross-platform messaging app for most smartphones allowing users to send-and-receive messages, photos and other data.

The site, with its end-to-end encryption, is utilised by governments, other institutions, innumerable organisations and companies plus the third sector, has somehow managed to be largely viewed as a digital safe haven, amidst all the online/mobile toxicity and ever-growing hostility where endless aggression, cyber bullying and deepfakes have become the norm.

However, a new Which? report has alerted the marketplace to a malicious verification code scam aimed specifically at WhatsApp. The product testing consumer choice website reveals the platform has been hit before but this time around it is far more sophisticated.

Trouble can rear itself when a user during their working day strays from the commercial to the personal and back again. It's here verification codes can be bandied about and during transmission of messaging the hacker strikes.

One moment the site is treated as a private "intranet" network within an enterprise often sharing company data and providing computing resources for employees. Then the user indulges in an external group chat.

Hands up those who, very much as second nature, have used the firm's account, switching from pressing work-related demands, to hurriedly check in on the children's nursery, confirming membership to the historical society, or swapping holiday snaps. There's the digital rub.

A harsh commercial reality is all social media sites are currently plumb centre in a global game with very serious consequences now generative artificial intelligent technologies are fast coming to the fore.

In such a hyper-connected world AI is unavoidable and Big Tech companies are bidding for the market to accept their version of a human-led assistant. Labelled a "cyber arms race" trillions of AI dollars are up for grabs with security issues threatening to languish far behind.

WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook a decade ago for around 15 billion. Now renamed Meta, the digital empire retains Facebook, along with WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. Each feeds into the others, as a matter of course, and all this means in terms of the harvesting of user data.

VPN.com zeroes in on WhatsApp privacy risks in this genAI era where backups not encrypted, WiFi and web sessions not private together with social engineering, data mining and malware, spyware and hacking risks. Verge.com warns of a cross-fertilization of data sources reaching unprecedented levels as genAI-grounded superapp search offerings are rolled lout this year.

Sophos security experts are staging a series of seminars describing a "fusing" of large language models (LLMs) and generative technologies that enable large-scale credential-stealing scamming campaigns.

Edinburgh's Pinsent Mason staged one seminar partnering with the University of Edinburgh, specifically for finance sector senior managers. An ONS report, analyzed by CX Network, reveals around two-thirds of businesses surveyed say they are dabbling with AI features.

An organisation still refusing to acknowledge any WhatsApp shortcomings should check author and journalist Madhumita Murgia, in her 2024 published book "Code Dependent - Living in the Shadow of AI".

The FT's first artificial intelligence editor claims the crux of the issue is how algorithm-based systems, like those employed in social media sites, are used in a "veiled and abstruse" manner to the detriment of you and me.

So, think again before sending that next WhatsApp message during a rushed coffee break, or responding to a post appearing genuine but turning out to be a cyber attack. That can all but bring a an entire organisation to its knees..

137,804 Whatsapp Stock Photos, High-Res ...  High Resolution Emoticons Whatsapp ...


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