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WhatsApp Loophole Lets Anyone Figure Out Your Sleeping Patterns, Who You Talk To
By Mikelle Leow, 11 Oct 2017
Composite image by DesignTAXI. WhatsApp logo via Wikimedia Commons, background image by 422737 (CC0) via Everypixel
Watch out if you’re a person of many secrets. It turns out that WhatsApp can be easily exploited by your spouse, boss, or worse—a lurking stalker—to track your sleeping patterns and the people you speak to.
While this piece of news is startling enough, you might be appalled to learn that the loophole can be manipulated by anyone with minimal technical know-how.
Software engineer Robert Heaton first recorded the process in a blog post. The little flaw that lets you figure out if a partner might be telling you half-truths is unfortunately one of WhatsApp’s greatest qualities: the ‘last seen’ feature.
Granted, people are allowed to hide their ‘last seen’, but WhatsApp has yet to offer an option that lets you conceal your online status from others. It might sound trivial, but how often you’re online on the app could serve as invaluable data to someone with malicious intent.
Heaton imagines creating a Chrome extension that logs the online activity of WhatsApp users. Over time, the browser extension might be able to show you patterns of a person’s possible waking and sleeping intervals.
Image via Robert Heaton
“The plan is simple,” Heaton says. “Every 10 seconds, you check your target’s WhatsApp status, and note if they are online or not. For avid users… their first and last times on the app each day will be very close to when they wake up and go to sleep.”
What’s eerier is when someone cross-references your online activity with another person’s.
“You wonder what it is that she gets up to until 2am every Wednesday. You build some interesting graphs of the WhatsApp usage patterns of some of your exes. You wonder what it is that causes them to send so many messages during some weeks, but almost none during others… You’re dying to know whether your friends Lara and Tara are secretly dating. You can’t help but write multi-variate cross-correlation software that shows a striking alignment between their WhatsApp usage patterns.”
Heaton concludes with the worst case scenario: someone could start a business that exchanges phone numbers for WhatsApp activity. The records can then be sold to companies who might use the data against your knowledge and benefit. You can read more on his blog post.
[via The Next Web, images via various sources]
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