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  WhatsApp could be a potential security threat

WhatsApp could be a potential security threat

FRANCIS D'SA
Published : Oct 31, 2015, 4:05 pm IST
Updated : Oct 31, 2015, 4:05 pm IST

WhatsApp does not have a way to delete a number if it does not exist

whatsapp_1_0.jpg
 whatsapp_1_0.jpg

WhatsApp does not have a way to delete a number if it does not exist

WhatsApp, the most used social communication app for mobile phones, has been downloaded and used by a more than millions of users worldwide. The app is very simple and binds itself to a phone number, which is the identity of the person in concern. However, the developers at WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook, seem to still not have a simple authentication medium in place. You cannot login to any website and control the settings for your WhatsApp account, other than your smartphone itself. While you can permanently delete your WhatsApp account from your phone, there are many who are left stranded. This makes deleting your WhatsApp account a big issue, especially if you don’t have that mobile number active with you anymore.

 

In India, getting a new SIM card with a new number is very easy. Many tend to opt for more than one number and use it for different means of communication—work, play, personal, business, etc. However, since one smartphone can run only one WhatsApp account (tweaking with a few apps can enable up to three WhatsAppp numbers), you would officially need more than one handset to manage the three chat numbers.

Now let’s take a simple scenario — you had a mobile number ‘12345678’ and were using WhatsApp on that one. You included all your friends and were having your private chats with each of them on WhatsApp. Now you change your city for a job and opt for a new number ‘87654321’ and register your WhatsApp on the new one. Your old SIM card (number ‘12345678’ is not discontinued and disabled from your old telecom provider. You send out messages from your new mobile number to your friends telling them about your new obtained contact number. However, not all your friends were informed and some of them are still thinking your number is the same. They keep sending you WhatsApp messages on the older number, but you aren’t aware of it. The message could be casual and not as important. But what if they were What if they were confidential and important

 

Well, nothing to fear here (for now) since the number is deactivated and your message is not received by anyone—till after three months—that old number was recycled by the telecom company and lands into an unknown hand. Now this new person with your old number has registered himself with WhatsApp. So he starts getting ‘your’ personal and important messages from ‘your friend’. He starts getting messages from some ‘unknown person’, which could be casual jokes to unimportant one-liners. But what if some sensitive information went to him If he is a genuine person, he would reply back stating that the number is now obtained by another owner. But what if it is the other way around What if he uses this information against you

 

Shockingly, there is no way you can register a WhatsApp account as an authentic user. Since phone numbers get recycled to new owners every 3 – 6 months, not only your WhatsApp, but also a lot of other information can also be sent across to another person. Sensitive information such as banking, passwords, OTP, WhatsApp chats, and a lot others that are linked to a mobile number can get into wrong hands.

As far as this privacy issue is concerned, changing a phone number on records of every document is considered as the primary responsibility of the user/owner. And if he forgot about it, he can still do it later. But in the case of WhatsApp, what do you do

 

WhatsApp has no means of ownership as far as a number is concerned. If your old number is now owned by another user, he has the right to it. But you were the previous owner—right WhatsApp doesn’t know this WhatsApp still knows you by the ‘number’.

WhatsApp developers should introduce a way to manage your privacy settings online. They should have a page where you can authenticate your number and take control over it. If you want to discontinue the number, you should be given the option to log in online and delete it, even if your phone number is inactive. This option should enable you to delete the account permanently. WhatsApp should have an option to also discontinue a number (account) after one month (or so) if it hasn’t been actively sending out any messages. So if you have deactivated a number, your WhatsApp will also be discontinued after a month of non use.

 

For now, the only method for making sure that your privacy is safe is to send out a message to all the numbers in your list that you are discontinuing the same and also head to your app and discontinue the service for that number.

How do I delete my account

To delete your WhatsApp account:

Open WhatsApp.

Press the Menu Button > Settings > Account > Delete my account.

Enter your phone number in the full international format and tap Delete My Account.

Deleting your account will do the following:

Delete your account from WhatsApp.

Delete you from your friends' WhatsApp Contacts lists.

Delete you from all WhatsApp groups.

Erase your message history on your phone.

 

Delete your WhatsApp service payment information.

What’s worse:

Some users hang on to an old number for WhatsApp, but don’t use the SIM card anyways. You can use another WhatsApp number on a phone with a different number. But when the older number gets recycled and new user comes online, and wants to use WhatsApp on his phone, your WhatsApp gets disabled automatically. You will no longer have control over it. So make sure you don’t use a number that is disconnected with the telecom service provider. Your privacy can be at stake.