The data of nearly 500 million WhatsApp users has been sold to scammers around the world. In Luxembourg, 188,201 people are affected by the hack.
In Belgium, 3,188,584 numbers were hacked, in France 19,848,559, and in Portugal 2,277,361. For the time being, it is unknown how the data was obtained, but it is currently for sale.
In an interview with RTL Info (Belgium), cybersecurity expert Olivier Bogaert provided the following analysis: "Considering the large amount of phone numbers concerned, I think this is an attempt at fraud," he said.
"Scammers will try to steal the identities of our contacts: I have a friend on Whatsapp; I receive a message from him; it's his number because he's in my contact list, so no worries, I'll follow up," Bogaert adds. "Obviously, the goal here is to make money."
The leaked phone numbers could be used for marketing, phishing, identity theft, and fraud.
What you can do to protect your data
Users should follow conventional data security practises to avoid personal data leaks.
"In WhatsApp settings, there is a privacy setting to limit the visibility of certain content," the expert explains.
Bogaert suggests calling your close contacts and using only your first name in your profile.
Other tips include using a high-quality Virtual Private Network (VPN) and purchasing reliable antivirus software.
"Because the contacts we have are people we know, just listing our first name should be enough."
Almost a quarter of the app's users are affected. For the time being, Meta, the parent company, has yet to comment on the hack.