WhatsApp uncovered a security flaw which allowed hackers to install and use software on phones, the company has confirmed to Euronews.
The company identified and fixed the security flaw, but said that some users were targeted.
WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging program owned by Facebook, began rolling out an upgrade for its estimated 1.5 billion users on Friday.
The flaw allowed attackers to install commercial Israeli surveillance spyware on phones through the app’s phone call function, according to the Financial Times (FT).
A WhatsApp spokesperson told Euronews that this type of attack “would be highly selective in nature and would be available to only advanced and highly motivated actors.”
The “advanced actor” in this case used code developed by Israeli company NSO Group, according to FT. The spyware manufacturer is known to sell surveillance software to countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty International says that the “Pegasus” software has been used to target “at least 24 human rights defenders.” The software also reportedly helped Saudi Arabia to spy on journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
The human rights organisation plans to file a petition Tuesday at the District Court of Tel Aviv to stop NSO Group from exporting its products.