Apparently this had been going on for several years. As a result, there were hundreds of thousands of indexed chat group links on the web, all of which were a simple Google search away.
Your WhatsApp groups may not be as secure as you think they are.
The "Invite to Group via Link" feature allows groups to be indexed by Google and they are generally available across the internet. With some wildcard search terms you can easily find some… interesting… groups. pic.twitter.com/hbDlyN6g3q
— Jordan Wildon (@JordanWildon) February 21, 2020
"Your WhatsApp groups may not be as secure as you think they are.
The 'Invite to Group via Link' feature allows groups to be indexed by Google and they are generally available across the internet. With some wildcard search terms you can easily find some… interesting… groups," journalist Jordan Wildon stated in a Twitter post.
"It should've been 'disallowed with robots.txt or with the 'noindex' mega tag," Wong wrote.
For example, one of the groups the site found by way of a Google search was one described as being for NGOs accredited by the United Nations. The site joined the group chat and was immediately able to spy a list of dozens of participants, including their phone numbers. Yikes!
WhatsApp's developers know about this, but downplayed the situation.
"Group admins in WhatsApp groups are able to invite any WhatsApp user to join that group by sharing a link that they have generated. Like all content that is shared in searchable, public channels, invite links that are posted publicly on the internet can be found by other WhatsApp users. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website," WhatsApp said in a statement.
"I can’t see a beneficial reason as to why any party would see this as a good idea. If anything, it just makes WhatsApp appear less secure. It may be encrypted in the middle, but if you are accepted into a group chat, you have the encryption key to read on," security firm ESET told Forbes in a statement.