WhatsApp data of nearly half a billion users from 84 countries around the world, including India, could have been breached and put up for sale online, according to a report by Cybernews. The report said it investigated a data sample — after a post on a “well-known hacking community forum” claimed to be selling an up-to-date database of 487 million WhatsApp users — and found that the claim was likely true, meaning 25% of the total 2 billion monthly active users worldwide could be at risk.
Leaked phone numbers could be used for any number of reasons, including marketing and phishing. The report said more than 32 million of the leaked records are said to be from users in the US, followed by the UK (11 mn). Other nations with the most number of affected users include Egypt (45 mn), Italy (35 mn), Saudi Arabia (29 mn), France (20 mn), Turkey (20 mn), and Russia (10 mn). From India, the report added, more than 6 million WhatsApp users could be at risk.
Cybernews said it received a sample of around 2,000 numbers to verify the data breach claims and found that they belonged to WhatsApp users. This isn’t the first time Meta and its online platforms have found itself in the middle of a data security issue. Last year, information about more than 500 million users of Facebook, another Meta-owned company, was offered online for free. In 2019, data of 419 million Facebook and 49 million Instagram users were exposed. In the same year, it had faced another breach leaving data of 267 million users exposed.