German police nab a terror suspect by allegedly spying on his Whatsapp messages using Web.WhatsApp.com
German media has reported that the German Federal Criminal Agency (Bundeskriminalamt or BKA) can access any WhatsApp users’ messages without the help of any malware. The news reports state that BKA has found some kind of backdoor in WhatsApp which lets them access WhatsApp users’ contact list, chat history, the end-to-end encrypted messages, voice messages, videos, etc.
Deutsche Welle and many other newspapers and websites have reported about the BKA snooping on German citizen’s WhatsApp messages without any spyware. DW cited the state broadcasters Westdeutscher Rundfunk(WDR) and BR which aired a program about BKA snooping on a terror suspect’s WhatsApp without the use of surveillance software or other complex programs installed on the target person’s smartphone.
WDR and BR both broadcasted a news report on the arrest of a terrorist suspect, Magomed-Ali C. The report says that the prosecution reports show evidence of the WhatsApp surveillance process used by BKA. The German police had earlier arrested terror suspect, Magomed-Ali C. reportedly with the help of WhatsApp surveillance. Magomed is a Caucasian Islamist and a known acquaintance of the Breitscheidplatz assassin Anis Amri.
Have German police found a vulnerability in WhatsApp Web version?
Westdeutscher Rundfunk or the German WDR TV station said that Germany’s BKA gathers information about the suspects using “Whatsapp Web.” WhatsApp Web is a WhatsApp feature that allows users to use the desktop version of the cross-platform instant messenger by connecting through a QR code.
The WDR news report cites an internal BKA letter: “The BKA has a method that can enable text, video, image and short voice messages from a WhatsApp account to be tracked in real-time.” The internal report goes on to say that WhatsApp surveillance requires more efforts so the BKA hardly uses WhatsApp monitoring for regular investigations. The internal document adds that BKA and other German law enforcement agencies can read target WhatsApp contact lists, written and voice messages, and easily download them.
The BKA has declined to comment on the WhatsApp spying issue saying the procedures about tracking suspects cannot be shared with the public.