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WhatsApp discloses 6 vulnerabilities on new webpage for security advisories

WhatsApp, Threema

WhatsApp listed six previously undisclosed vulnerabilities that the company has already patched on its new webpage where it will list all its security advisories. As per WhatsApp, two-thirds of these vulnerabilities were found internally, through code review or automated dynamic analysis, and one third were reported through the bug bounty programme. Most were patched the same day they were found.

This new webpage will list all WhatsApp security updates and associated Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) that the company cannot give out within app release notes due to the policies of different app stores. Facebook has a common bug bounty programme for all its apps that includes WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Free Basics, etc.

The most (in)famous WhatsApp vulnerability is perhaps CVE-2019-3568 which was exploited to plant the highly intrusive Pegasus spyware, developed by the NSO Group, into victims’ phones to monitor all communication and interactions on the phone. The malware was injected on to targeted users’ phones through WhatsApp calls and could be transmitted even if the users did not answer the calls. This vulnerability’s severity rating, as per CERT-In, was “high”. Through this malware, about 1,400 users were affected including at least 22 Indians.

Facebook also announced its vulnerability disclosure policy.

Policy on discovering vulnerabilities in third-party code: Since Facebook, like most digital services, uses third party code in addition to in-house code, under the new policy, if Facebook discovers or is informed of a security vulnerability, it will inform the third party as soon as possible. The third-party will then have 21 days to respond to Facebook after which Facebook may disclose the vulnerability. If within 90 days of reporting, no action is taken by the third party, Facebook will make the disclosure after notifying the third party. However, Facebook can decide to make the disclosure sooner if it “determines” that it “serves to benefit the public or the potentially impacted people”.

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Exceptions: Facebook will make a public disclosure before 90 days lapse to inform people of an actively exploited bug or when the fix is ready and has been validated by the project owner “unnecessarily delays rolling out the fix”. On the other hand, the company may agree to more than 90 days if the fix’s release cycle dictates a longer window.

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