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WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular messaging applications. With over 2 billion users, WhatsApp is known for its relative security, as it is one of the few messaging applications that offers end-to-end encryption. A modified version of WhatsApp, called YoWhatsApp, has been reportedly deploying malware.
YoWhatsApp is an unofficial version of WhatsApp that users can download and install on their smartphones. The developers claim it offers the ability for users to lock chats, send messages to unsaved numbers, and customize the look and feel of the application with various theme options. There are other unofficial WhatsApp versions out there with similar enhancements.
This sort of thing isn’t new. Ever since the early days of instant messaging software, developers have been building “enhanced” versions of popular messaging applications. Back in the early 2000s when AOL Instant Messenger was popular, there were several unofficial versions that offered additional features that removed ads, allowed more anonymity, and offered more features than the source material. However, using these third-party versions often came with some risk—sometimes they contained malware or made your account less secure.
This definitely appears to be the case with YoWhatsApp.
According to a recent Kaspersky Report, YoWhatsApp distributes Android malware known as the Triada Trojan. The same was discovered last year with FMWhatsApp, another modified unofficial version of the application.
Triada gains control over your SMS messages, and can enroll its victims in paid subscriptions without their knowledge and impersonate them, sending spam and malicious content to others from their phone number.
This, in turn, can then affect users who actually use the official versions of WhatsApp.
While, as far as we know, WhatsApp is generally a safe application to use, the various third-party versions are not.
The concept of third-party developers creating unofficial “enhanced” versions of popular software isn’t anything new. It isn’t always a risk either, but you need to consider that unofficial versions aren’t usually as supported or secure as the official ones. If someone made a variation of Microsoft Outlook that offered some new features that the original didn’t have, and then Microsoft found and patched some vulnerabilities in their original version of Microsoft Outlook, it would be up to the third-party developer to also patch and update their version. You can’t really rely on that. You also need to consider that cybercriminals will go to great lengths to extort money from a wide set of users, and that includes building a “better” version of a popular app and paying to run ads to get users to download it and install their ransomware.
Whenever you install anything on your PC or smartphone, be sure to check to see if you are getting it from the official developer. If you aren’t sure, take some time to do a Google search, or reach out to Digital Seattle to have us help you. It’s better to be safe than sorry.