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Data of 500 million-plus WhatsApp users at risk: Countries affected and other details


WhatsApp is the most-popular instant messaging service in the world. The app can also be used for voice/video calls, document storage and making payments. The Meta-owned platform is used by two billion-plus users across the world. Now, a recent report claims that a database containing the phone numbers of nearly 500 million WhatsApp users was put on sale on a hacking community forum by an unknown seller. According to a report by Cybernews, the seller has claimed that the database contains 487 million phone numbers which belong to active WhatsApp users in 84 different countries, including India.
Regions where WhatsApp users are at risk
As per the report, the database claims to have stolen information from about a quarter of all WhatsApp users across the world. The poster shared by the seller notes that the phone numbers of users in several countries including the US (32 million users), the UK (11 million users), Russia (10 million users), Italy (35 million users), Saudi Arabia (29 million users) and India (over 6 million users) are at the risk of a data leak.
How did the hackers get hold of this data
The report does not clearly tell how the phone numbers of so many active WhatsApp users were procured. The seller is expected to have put together the whole database using a process known as “scraping,” the report notes. In such a process, the data is gathered from different websites and not through a hack or any other cyber attack.
This means that the hacker might not have deployed a cyber attack against WhatsApp to collect all that data, but may have gathered these phone numbers from web pages. The seller also reportedly has confirmed that these numbers are used for WhatsApp and that the whole database was put on sale.
Why the database is a risk for WhatsApp users
Hackers can use this database for spamming, phishing attempts, identity theft and other cybercriminal activities. The report cites that users won’t be able to know if their number is in the database but can follow some steps to evade scamming attempts.
WhatsApp offers multiple privacy settings like hiding status and profile pictures which users can enable to keep themselves safe from prying eyes.

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