Researchers at BYU have learned that most users of popular messaging apps Facebook Messenger, What’sApp and Viber are leaving themselves exposed to fraud or other hacking because they don’t know about or aren’t using important security options.
“We wanted to understand how typical users are protecting their privacy,” said BYU computer science Ph.D. student Elham Vaziripour, who led the recent study. Short answer: they’re generally not.
Even though What’sApp and Viber encrypt messages by default, all three messaging apps also require what’s called an authentication ceremony to ensure true security. But because most users are unaware of the ceremony and its importance, “it is possible that a malicious third party or man-in-the middle attacker can eavesdrop on their conversations,” said Vaziripour, who was joined on the study by computer science professors Daniel Zappala and Kent Seamons and five other student researchers.
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