A survey carried out by the dfndr lab, a PSafe laboratory specializing in digital security, projects that more than 473 thousand Brazilians were victims of the “WhatsApp Cloning” scam in September, an average of more than 15 thousand victims of the coup by day.
Compared to the previous month, the number of victims of the coup was 25% higher. In July the number of victims was estimated at 340 thousand, that is, a growth of 30% in two months. The study continues pointing to So Paulo as the epicenter of the attacks, with 107 thousand affected, followed by Rio de Janeiro, with 60 thousand, and Minas Gerais with 43 thousand.
A social engineering scam
Emilio Simoni, director of the dfndr lab, explains the strategy used by the scammers: “WhatsApp Cloning is a scam that starts with Social Engineering, a method of attack in which a malicious person makes use of psychological manipulation to induce someone to perform specific actions, such as sharing personal information, downloading fake apps, or opening malicious links “.
“In the case of Cloning, the cybercriminal specifically asks for the personal data, cell phone number and confirmation code that gives the victim access to WhatsApp,” warns the director. With the cell number and confirmation code in place, the cybercriminal can access the victim’s WhatsApp.
“When accessing the messaging app, the scammer initiates conversations with the victim’s contacts and, in possession of the account owner’s personal data, uses Social Engineering again to convince these people to do favors, aiming at financial gain”, he explains Simoni.
The cloning of WhatsApp is a type of Phishing, where the criminal convinces the victim to provide information that will enable the scam.
The expert also makes a recommendation for anyone who suspects scams like this: “when you see a change in number, call your contact or even make a video call, to ensure that that person really who he says he is and, if there is any doubt, not inform personal data, do not click on links sent and do not carry out financial transactions ”.
Harm to victims
Unlike other digital threats, WhatsApp Cloning and Counterfeiting scams almost never use sophisticated systems or state-of-the-art software. “The success of this technique depends on the relationship established between the scammer and the victim, who tries to gain his trust. Therefore, the best way to prevent these cyber attacks is to prevent them, ”says Simoni.
The director also points out that the risk is even greater for those who work using their cell phones: “Using a personal smartphone for personal and professional purposes facilitates access by cybercriminals to confidential information, including from companies. The corporate data is very valuable for cybercriminals and the losses caused by their leaks are countless, exceeding the financial damages and can affect the customers’ trust and even the company’s reputation ”.
How to protect yourself
To protect yourself, the first tip is never to share verification codes with third parties, whatever the pretext used. Scammers usually get in touch with victims posing as banks, e-commerce sites, research institutes or brands carrying out promotions, and ask for a “confirmation code”, which is precisely the code that will give access to the victim’s own WhatsApp.
Another tip is to activate two-factor authentication, also called two-step verification, which requires a second security code, in addition to the confirmation code, when configuring the app on a new device. This makes it difficult for scammers.