A hacker claims to have the WhatsApp numbers of 500 million people and has put it on sale.
On November 16, an individual posted on well-known hacking forum BreachForums claiming to be selling a database of 487 million WhatsApp user cellphone numbers.
The individual, posting under the pseudonym “Agency123456”, claims that the data is recent and was acquired in 2022.
The individual claims that the phone numbers belong to citizens of 84 countries, including 45 million from Egypt, 11 million from the UK and 10 million from Russia.
It is impossible to determine how many of these numbers are from South Africa, as it seems that the majority of African countries (mostly from Southern Africa) have all been lumped under the label “Africa”.
Speaking to digital security outlet Cybernews, the hacker claims to be selling the US dataset for $7000, the UK dataset for $2500, and the German dataset for $2000.
These phone numbers can be valuable to marketers and bad actors looking to undertake ‘phishing’ – a tactic where individuals are sent fraudulent messages with the intent of having them reveal sensitive information.
While WhatsApp initially refuted these claims, cybersecurity firm Check Point Research has released a report which broadly backs up Cybernews’ story. The company has said the following in its statement:
“Each country has different records that have been exposed, ranging from 604 in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 35 million attributed to Italy. In the past four days, the files, which included international dial codes and were the first set for sale, are now being distributed freely amongst hackers.”
South Africans are reminded to be weary of messages or phone calls from those claiming to be official staff of any kind, be it your bank or your clothing store account.
Genuine staff from these companies will never need you to reveal your personal information. Never give out your details – even things that seem harmless could be used against you by bad actors.