It is not often that WhatsApp suffers a major security risk, thanks mostly to the end-to-end encryption on the site. However, it seems hackers have been able to obtain the phone numbers of millions of users from the Meta-owned communications app.
A database was recently put up for sale with around 487 million WhatsApp user phone numbers across 84 countries. There are around 2 billion people who use WhatsApp around the world, so this leak involves around 25 percent of the company's entire user base.
Looking at those phone numbers, 32 million were from the United States, 11 million from the United Kingdom, 5 million from Italy, 29 million from Saudi Arabia, 10 million from Russia, and 20 million from both France and Turkey. Of course, other countries were also affected to lesser amounts.
Cybernews reports that the seller does not say how they got the phone numbers in the database. However, the hacker says they “used their strategy”. It is unclear if this means a threat actor was able to breach WhatsApp to steal the numbers.
It is more likely rather than hacking the app, the sellers were able to gather the data through web scraping. This involves using a script to match websites to confirm the numbers are in WhatsApp. Naturally, this violates the terms and conditions of the service.
The hacker is asking for $7,000 just the US phone numbers, and other various amounts for datasets from other countries. Unfortunately, there is no method for finding out if your phone number was used… unless you want to buy the datasets and check manually.
Tip of the day: If you need to track a cell phone location in the US, Number Tracker offers great plans for US phone numbers.