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WhatsApp’s online status feature allows cyberstalking, researchers found

In a major flaw, the online status feature of WhatsApp, one of the most used messaging app, has allowed third parties to stalk users, researchers have found.

Cybersecurity firm Traced has discovered apps and services that could be used by cyber-stalkers to track when a user becomes active on WhatsApp. “You can enter any mobile phone number, and if that person uses WhatsApp, the status tracker will provide the exact date and time that person opened WhatsApp,” the company explained in a blog post.

WhatsApp has provided the online status feature to let people know when you’re online. However, unlike features such as Last Seen and Status messages, you don’t have the option to disable or change your online status. This is what could be exploited by third parties.

Traced found that many WhatsApp online status trackers market themselves as a solution to help people know when their contacts come online on the app. However, they could simply be used by cyber-stalkers to constantly monitor others.

Some online status trackers are also found to allow users to enter the phone numbers of two individuals. This helps to presume whether both users are chatting with each other on the app at a particular time.

Read More: You may not send or receive WhatsApp messages from May 15 onwards. Here’s why

Google doesn’t allow cyberstalking apps to be published on its Play store. However, WhatsApp online tracking apps on Google Play pretend as solutions to let parents and spouses know when their loved ones are online on WhatsApp.

Having said that, the way the messaging app has designed its online status feature appears to be the prime cause to allow this form of cyber-stalking through third-party solutions.

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