WhatsApp, Telegram account at risk for hack – Police

Criminals just need to press 'add account' to switch someone's account, enter the victim's number and choose SMS verification.

25 Jan 2024 05:01pm
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Account ownership in various applications are at risk of a takeover and having unauthorised access due to the easily compromisable security levels.

Federal Police Commercial Crime Investigation Department Property Crime Head Unit Superintendent Nur Asrul Ariff said that the hacking process, whether for WhatsApp or Telegram, could be done by anyone depending on the scam pattern used.

He added that when WhatsApp and Telegram accounts were hacked, a lot of crucial information would be exposed especially that the applications stored important documents, images and personal details.

"Criminals just need to press 'add account' to switch someone's account and enter the victim's number, then choose SMS verification. Subsequently, the application will send a 6-digit code to the victim's phone.

"The hacker needs to deceive the victim into surrendering the mentioned 6-digit code. Once the victim provides it, they lose access to the entire communication account," Asrul said during an awareness talk at the Edgenta Integrity Day recently.

Therefore, he said users need to be cautious and tighten security, whether using face ID or activate two-steps verification to prevent becoming victims of these cybercriminals.

Asrul emphasised that after the Covid-19 pandemic, our lifestyle increasingly relies on digital devices.

From communication and online shopping to asset management and global connectivity, the use of digital tools had become integral to our daily lives.

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The trend provided criminals with an advantage, making it easier for them to amass profits and assets compared to the higher risks associated with traditional theft or robbery.

He further mentioned that cybercrime involves various modus operandi including telecommunication crime, e-financial crime, love scams, e-commerce crime, non-existent loans and investments. including aspects of telecommunication crime (phone/SMS).

Asrul pointed out the number of victims and the money involved in these activities continue to rise annually.

He added phone call scams involve criminals posing as law enforcement agencies, like the central bank or police, to intimidate victims.

However, he also highlighted that since 2016, a collaborative effort between police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) successfully blocked the use of caller ID spoofing.

Despite this, Asrul urged the public not to be easily deceived by such phone calls and their modus operandi.

He added that if users become victims, report it to the police immediately through the number 997, which operates daily from 8am to 8pm.

In a statistic shared during the session, the online fraud cases and losses could be seen increasing yearly.

In 2023, the reported cases amounted to 34,495, involving online fraud crimes, compared to the previous year at 25,479 cases.

This can be observed from various modus operandi, including telecommunications crimes via phone or SMS, e-financial crimes, love scams, e-commerce crimes, non-existent loans, and non-existent investments.

The highest case reported was e-commerce crime with 11,473 cases reported in 2023, compared to 9,258 the previous year.

Following that is telecommunications crime with 10,346 cases reported in 2023, compared to 7,732 cases in 2022.

Following that, cases lodged over non-existent investments were 5,386 cases in 2023, while 2022 reported 3,266 cases.

For non-existent loans, 4,263 cases were reported in 2023 and 3,174 cases the previous year while e-financial crimes follow with 2,092 cases reported last year and 1,257 cases in 2022.

Lastly, love scams recorded a total of 935 cases in 2023 compared to 792 cases the previous year.