A socially engineered attack is taking over WhatsApp accounts. In the scam that is now going round in Kenya, WhatsApp users receive an SMS from WhatsApp with a code, then a WhatsApp message from one of their contacts asking them to send them the code which they ‘sent to them by mistake.’

While the WhatsApp message is genuine and appears to come from one of your contacts, the contact has had their WhatsApp hacked and it is a scammer who is controlling the account. If you forward the code provided, you are doomed.

The verification code that the hacker wants you to send is a One Time Password that will be used to register your WhatsApp on another number, or even set up a WhatsApp Business account. Once they do this you will lose access to your WhatsApp and although they will not access previous chats and conversation, they will have access to your groups, from where they can target more people because they have the contact.

They will use those contacts in the groups to initiate more hacks and use your WhatsApp to contact the new hacks to request that they forward the attackers the WhatsApp code that was sent to them by mistake. This nets more victims who fall for the scam.

I am not sure what the hackers are after, but they could make use of the personal data that they collect, or request your contacts to send them money.

What do you if you have already Shared the Code?

If you have received a request to share a code, the best you can do is to ignore the message and alert the person who was hacked to take action.

If you have been hacked, you end up losing access to your WhatsApp. The next course of action is to reinstall WhatsApp on your phone. This will deny the hacker access to your account and restore your WhatsApp to you.

How can you prevent such an attack from happening? You can set up a two factor authentication for your WhatsApp. This was, some will need a PIN in order to set up your WhatsApp on another phone. To do this, go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Two-step Verification.