Billions of WhatsApp users warned to secure accounts after Christmas or risk losing them

CYBER experts have warned that billions of WhatsApp users are at high risk of getting hacked this post-Christmas period.

A rise in WhatsApp hacking attempts and scams is expected to occur over several days after Christmas– make sure your account is secure.

WhatsApp has been a real game-changer for giving its users a highly-encrypted way to communicate around the world, especially during the holidays.

However, the app has also become a breeding ground for clever hackers who use social engineering around the holiday season to take over accounts.

Some of these threat actors even pose as family members to enter an unsuspecting user's WhatsApp account.

Once the hackers have gained access to a user's account, they can then impersonate them to gain access to the accounts of their friends and family.

"It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that hackers become more daring and sneakier over the holiday period," Steven Hope, co-founder of Authlogics, told The Sun.

"It makes sense – organizations and consumers alike tend to let their guard down to celebrate with family and friends, often leaving their accounts unsecured and vulnerable to breach," he added.

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The Sun spoke with several privacy experts who revealed how you can keep your account safe this holiday season.

How to keep your WhatsApp account secure

The best advice to secure your WhatsApp account is to first make sure you have two-step verification enabled, and then to create a PIN for your account, according to Chris Hauk, a consumer privacy champion at Pixel Privacy.

"Keep your registration code or two-step verification PIN secret, never share it with anyone else," Hauk told The Sun.

"Keep your device in your possession always, along with locking your device, this keeps others from using your WhatsApp account," he added.

Jamie Akhtar, CEO at CyberSmart, seconded both pieces of advice.

"[An extra 6-digit PIN] is very simple to set up, just click a button in your account privacy settings, but it will make it considerably harder for cybercriminals to hack your account," Akhtar told The Sun.

Another important measure you can take to keep your account safe is to keep your guard up and be wary of any suspicious or unsolicited messages.

"Additionally, everyone should be vigilant for phishing scams where people become targets resetting passwords when revisiting old accounts for Christmas shopping and Boxing Day sales," Steven Hope explained.

"As impersonators are aiming to steal login credentials or find out personal details they can use to perform credential stuffing attacks, always be aware of who you share your information with and don’t trust anyone who wants to offer you money out of the blue over the holiday period," he added.

What to do if your Whatsapp account gets hacked

While WhatsApp often instructs users to never share their SMS verification codes with anyone (not even friends or family), sometimes people get tricked into doing so.

"If you're tricked into sharing your code and lose access to your WhatsApp account, read the instructions below to recover your account," the instant messaging platform stated on their website.

"If you suspect someone else is using your WhatsApp account, you should notify family and friends as this individual could impersonate you in chats and groups," the statement said.

To retrieve your stolen WhatsApp account, sign in to the app with your phone number and verify it over SMS.

Once you sign in, you'll automatically log the hacker out.

You might also be asked for a two-step verification code, however, if the hacker has set this up, you'll need to wait seven days to be able to sign in.

In any case, the hacker will still be booted off your account.

If you're logged in but you think someone is using your account via WhatsApp Web/Desktop, follow this guide to log out on all computers.

In other news, a researcher has hacked a common at-home Covid-19 test and changed his results to prove the tests can be exploited.

You should quit Facebook Messenger and use two other apps instead, a cyber expert has warned.

And, older phones might stop working in 2022 as 3G networks will be retired.

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