New research has shown that the popular messaging service known as WhatsApp is collecting the personal information of its users. WhatsApp is able to obtain private information, such as phone calls that were placed by users and the duration of these phone calls and transmit the information to other parties.

During a network forensic examination that was conducted by computer scientists at the University of New Haven, scientists were able to hack into the important data that is used by the messaging service in order to allow for communications between users to take place.

By looking into the network traffic, researchers were able to determine what types of data the messaging service utilized when setting up a line for communication. The scientists found that the data includes phone numbers, date-time stamps and call durations.

The scientists said that after determining the protocol that was used by the network, examining the authentication process and analyzing network signals, they were able to access the critical data with relative ease. They also made the discovery that the WhatsApp service uses signaling messages in order to establish voice calls.

A new paper that discusses the study in great detail called WhatsApp Network Forensics: Decrypting and Understanding WhatsApp Call Signaling Messages was published in the academic journal Digital Investigation.

The innovative paper featured a collaboration between Filip Karpisek of Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic and University of New Haven Professors Ibrahim Baggili and Frank Breitinger.

Baggili said, “Our research demonstrates the type of data that can be gathered through the forensic study of WhatsApp and provides a path for others to conduct additional studies into the network forensics of messaging apps.”

Currently, more than 800 million people across the globe make use of the WhatsApp service. The mobile app was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion last year.

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