November 30, 2020 4:04:44 pm
WhatsApp has become the preferred mode of communication of many of us, especially in India, where the service has close to 400 million users. So the idea of losing access to one’s WhatsApp account can be terrifying. But increasingly there have been scams where cybercriminals have managed to get access to WhatsApp accounts of users using some clever tricks.
One common method is by claiming to be the user’s friend or family member and sending them a WhatsApp message saying they have lost access to their account. The message adds that the friend or family member is trying to reactivate their account by sending the verification code to the user’s mobile number. Yes, a verification code will come to the user’s number, but if they decide to share it with the hacker, they end up losing access to the account because the verification code which has come is actually for their account.
There are also reports of criminals posing as members of the WhatsApp team and warning the user that someone is trying to hack their account. The hackers claim that in order to secure the account a user needs to confirm their account via an OTP which will be sent via SMS. If the user decides to share this OTP, then once again these hackers take over the account.
We explain exactly how you can keep your WhatsApp account secure and what to do in case it does get stolen.
Don’t share verification codes
The way hackers are taking over the WhatsApp account is actually quite simple. They are hoping users will fall for their story, which can vary and share the OTP or verification code that WhatsApp sends when you are trying to set up the account on a new phone. The verification code is what grants access to your account.
The simplest way to avoid losing access to your account is to keep that verification code with you. If you get a message from anyone else claiming that they have sent a WhatsApp verification code to your number, just ignore it. Yes, you might notice a WhatsApp verification code has come in your SMS app, but do not share that code.
What happens when you get a verification code without requesting it?
According to WhatsApp’s own page, when you receive the code without requesting it, this “means that someone has entered your phone number and requested the registration code.” WhatsApp says this can happen if someone mistyped the number, or when they are trying to take over your account.
Can WhatsApp tell me who is taking over my account? What if I lose access to my account?
WhatsApp says they don’t have “sufficient information to identify the individual who is attempting to verify your WhatsApp account.” If you do lose access to your account, WhatsApp says that because the service end-to-end encrypted, the other party cannot access your messages or past conversations on another device.
Even if you have backed up messages to your Google Drive or iCloud, unless the hacker gets access to either of these as well, they will not be able to restore access to past messages.
How to ensure the account stays safe, even if you do lose access
One way to ensure this is by enabling two-step verification to enhance the security of your account. Two step verification works on apps like Google Pay. You are required to create a pin, which you will be required to enter every time you set up the WhatsApp account on a new phone. So if you have this pin activated, the hacker will have trouble setting up the account on the new phone.
You lost the account, how to get it back
You open your phone, and find you have been signed out of WhatsApp as the account is now registered on some other device. WhatsApp says in order to recover the account, one needs to quickly sign in with their phone and verify the phone number by entering their six-digit code they get via SMS.
WhatsApp says once you enter the 6-digit SMS code, the individual using your account is automatically logged out.
But there could be one problem. The hacker might have set up a two-step verification code, if you had not done so already. Then WhatsApp will ask to enter this code.
If you don’t know the code, then WhatsApp says “you must wait 7 days before you can sign in without the two-step verification code” The FAQ page also notes that “regardless of whether you know this verification code, the other individual was logged out of your account once you entered the 6-digit SMS code.”
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