Hackers would love to get their hands on your personal information, especially email, social media and other types of communication. You never know what they'll find in there that helps them steal your identity, trick you into giving up more information, blackmail you, or trick your friends.
That's why it's scary that the most popular text message app is so easy to hack. It doesn't even take a skilled hacker. Anyone with your phone number, your phone and a few seconds can do it.
The app in question is WhatsApp, which as we speak is approaching 800 million users. It's no wonder Facebook bought it last year for $19 billion.
Unfortunately, WhatsApp has had its fair share of privacy problems, and now you can add another one to the list. Here's how it works.
The hacker installs WhatsApp on their phone and then tells it to authenticate using your phone number. WhatsApp will send a text with a secret PIN number to your phone.
On many phones, the first part of a text message shows up on the lock screen, which in this case includes the WhatsApp PIN. If the hacker has access to your phone for just a second they can read the PIN and punch it into their phone. Just like they, they have full access to your WhatsApp account, including past conversations.
On iPhones with Siri enabled on the lock screen, a hacker doesn't even need to know your phone number, because Siri will tell them. It's a good idea to go to Settings>>Touch ID and Passcode settings and under "Allow access when locked," turn Siri to "Off."
Fortunately, spotting the hack is easy. You'll know something is wrong when you fire up WhatsApp and it says it's no longer connected on your phone. To fix this, you'll have to go into your settings and reenter your phone number and then the PIN from the verification text.
If you're really worried, you can remove WhatsApp now before that happens. However, if you use WhatsApp a lot with your friends, you can stay just about as safe if you never let your phone out of your sight while other people are around, and turn off messages on your lock screen.
There are a number of ways snoops and hackers can get information from your phone. Learn the 7 essential steps to secure your smartphone or tablet.