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WhatsApp 'secretly part of spy programme', Telegram founder claims

Anthony Cuthbertson
Several bugs have been discovered within WhatsApp that security experts warn could be exploited by spy agencies: Reuters

A major security flaw within WhatsApp is further proof that spy agencies are habitually using it as a surveillance tool, the founder of rival messaging app Telegram has claimed.

Pavel Durov supported this claim by pointing to a recent vulnerability that potentially exposed the private messages and photos of WhatsApp users – just months after a similar security bug was discoverd.

Earlier this year, the Russian entrepreneur joined mounting criticism against the Facebook-owned app by claiming that it would never be truly secure. He pointed to a succession of security flaws that had consistently put users’ private data at risk to hackers and government intelligence agencies.

Building on this criticism in his latest Telegram post, Mr Durov described WhatsApp as a “Trojan Horse” being used to spy on users’ photos and messages across other apps.

“Facebook has been part of surveillance programs long before it acquired WhatsApp,” he wrote. “It is naive to think the company would change its policies after the acquisition.”

He pointed to comments by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton’s remarks regarding the sale of the app to Facebook, when he said: “I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit.”

Facebook claimed that there was no evidence that the most recent flaw had been exploited by hackers, saying in a statement that “there is no reason to believe that users were impacted”.

Mr Durov described this lack of evidence as “convenient”, saying that the lack of data stored on servers meant it would be impossible to discover instances of it being exploited.

“Rest assured, a security vulnerability of this magnitude is bound to have been exploited,” he said.

The consistency of security vulnerabilities being discovered within WhatsApp pointed to Facebook’s complicit involvement with governments and intelligence agencies.

“It might be the case that WhatsApp just accidentally implements critical security vulnerabilities across all their apps every few months,” he wrote.

“I doubt that – Telegram, a similar app in its complexity, hasn’t had any issues of WhatsApp-level severity in the six years since its launch. It’s very unlikely that anyone can accidentally commit major security errors, conveniently suitable for surveillance, on a regular basis.”

Durov ended his post: “Unless you are cool wil all your photos and messages becoming public one day, you should delete WhatsApp from your phone”.

Facebook and WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest allegations.

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