If your WhatsApp account gets hacked, it can quickly turn your world upside down. Read on to learn how to tell if your WhatsApp account’s been hacked and what you can do about it — as well as how you can make your smartphone more secure, including with the help of Avira Antivirus Security.
How can I tell if my WhatsApp account’s been hacked?
It’s quite likely that your WhatsApp account’s going to get hacked at some point. It is, after all, a highly popular messaging service — making it a prime target for hackers to launch their cyberattacks.
Let’s look at the potential tell-tale signs that your account’s been hacked.
Suddenly find yourself receiving ever more WhatsApp messages from people you don’t know or from former contacts who are no longer on your contacts list? This could be a giveaway that your WhatsApp account’s been hacked.
Another tip: Take a look at the messages you’ve sent. If, for instance, you see one (or more) message(s) and you’re certain it wasn’t you who sent it/them, your account may have been hacked.
Watch out if you’re text an unexpected verification code
Has WhatsApp text you a verification code, but you didn’t request it? This could be a sign that someone’s trying to seize control of your account, as you only need this type of code if someone’s trying to register a WhatsApp account using your phone number. Without this six-digit code, however, nobody but you can complete the verification process. As such, never respond to such notifications and never share this code.
If you have lost access to your WhatsApp account, such as by giving the code to someone else who is now using your account, you can restore it.
Unknown devices are linked to your WhatsApp account
It’s easy to tell if other unknown devices are linked to your account. Here’s how (to keep things simple, the instructions in this post relate to Android devices — although you can also follow them for iOS):
- Open WhatsApp on your smartphone.
- On Android, tap the kebab icon (the three vertical dots) on the top right; on an iPhone, tap the gear icon in the bottom right corner. Now select Linked devices.
- If, in addition to the devices you use yourself, other devices are listed that you’ve no clue about, this is a sure sign that your account’s been hacked.
- Delete these links right away!
Follow these steps if your WhatsApp account’s been hacked
f your WhatsApp account’s been hacked, it’s best to delete your account immediately using your smartphone and disconnect everything connected to it, like WhatsApp Web.
You should also tell your contacts, as hackers may well impersonate you in chats and groups.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to deleting your WhatsApp account if you suspect it’s been hacked:
- Open WhatsApp on your smartphone — not via your browser.
- Tap the Settings icon (top right on an Android smartphone; bottom right on an iPhone) and then Account.
- Select Delete my account, then enter your mobile number using the full international format.
- Now tap Delete my account. All your messaging history as well as your Google Drive/iCloud backup will be deleted and you’ll be removed from all WhatsApp groups.
Now, run a malware scan on your smartphone — such as by using an antivirus app like Avira Antivirus Security for Android.
How can I protect myself from future hacker attacks?
You can protect yourself from a hacker attack on your WhatsApp account. It may sound pretty obvious, but your first step should be to never leave your smartphone just lying around so anyone can get their hands on it. If a hacker gets hold of your smartphone, they can theoretically create another WhatsApp account very quickly, change the cell phone number for it, and authenticate themselves using the verification code or even install spyware. Once a hacker has managed to install spyware on your smartphone, they could also hack much more than just your WhatsApp account.
Besides this, updating your WhatsApp app can also help to increase your protection against a hacker attack, because such updates often also fix recently discovered security flaws.
Be wary of forwarded links
Forwarded messages with links in them can quickly turn out to be pure spam. Apparent prize notifications, dubious reminders, or amazingly cheap offers have no business being on a messenger service.
So be especially careful when you receive such messages via your WhatsApp account — even if you receive them from one of your contacts, a WhatsApp hacking attack might be lurking behind them.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
You’ve probably already heard about two-factor authentication as it’s recommended or even mandatory for many types of accounts, including for online banking. Even for WhatsApp, which already includes end-to-end chat encryption, two-factor authentication offers a great level of additional protection against possible hacker attacks.
In this case, however, the additional authentication step is not performed like usual by generating a one-time code using a corresponding app or transaction authentication number (TAN), but using a PIN that you can set yourself — and which you should remember and never share. This makes the PIN the second factor after your telephone number.
Here’s how to set up two-factor authentication for your WhatsApp account on Android (if you use an iPhone, you’ll find the Settings menu (gear icon) at the bottom right of the screen):
- Tap the kebab icon (the three vertical dots) menu to access the settings menu.
- In the window that appears, tap Account and then Two-step verification.
- Tap Turn on and choose a six-digit PIN, which you’ll need to reenter and confirm in the next step.
- Now you can enter an email address to reset your PIN should you ever forget it.
Use a lock feature to take your WhatsApp account’s protection to a new level
Turn on the screen lock (iPhone) or app lock (Android) in WhatsApp’s privacy settings so only you can access the app. Depending on your device, you can then unlock the app using your fingerprint or via facial recognition.
With Avira Antivirus Security, you can also use the included AppLock feature to PIN-lock other sensitive apps which don’t have a lock function, protecting them from unauthorized access.
How can cybercriminals hack your WhatsApp account?
In May 2019 WhatsApp discovered a system vulnerability thanks to which hackers could access not only a user’s profile but their entire phone too. Fortunately, the developers responded with an update that eliminated this vulnerability and made WhatsApp more secure to use.
Despite the constant stream of security updates, cybercriminals can hack your WhatsApp account and, among other things, end friendships, spread fake news, scrounge money, distribute offensive images, or flood WhatsApp groups with hate speech — all supposedly in your name. After all, the recipients of the messages won’t have a clue that they’re not from you, but from a hacker.
Your WhatsApp account could be hacked via WhatsHack
Performing what’s known as a WhatsHack attack might be a bit more involved, but a hacker with the right motivation could definitely pull it off.
As you know, WhatsApp messages are encrypted automatically. This means a motivated hacker must first reconstruct the algorithm so that they can decrypt the data. To do this, they need to tap into the various information exchanged between the app and the browser version of the messenger — something that experts unanimously agree is entirely possible.
Once that’s done, all the parameters that are sent back and forth can be viewed, allowing cybercriminals to find security flaws and modify content.
Spyware apps can be used in hacking attacks on WhatsApp accounts
We needn’t remind you that malware of any kind is dangerous. This can include spyware that’s used to snoop on and record what you get up to on your computer and/or smartphone without your knowledge or consent. Your WhatsApp verification code can also fall into the wrong hands — and you can get locked out of your account if the attacker also knows your phone number and uses it to open a new account.
Check out this blogpost to learn how WhatsApp can be snooped on without any hacking knowledge whatsoever.
With the right antivirus program, like Avira Antivirus Security for Android, you can banish the risk of a spyware attack and also strengthen the protection of your WhatsApp account in the process. This solution helps you to check your mobile device for malware and offers many other protection, privacy, and performance features. Among them, thanks to the included VPN, you can encrypt all the data you send and receive online over public Wi-Fi hotspots and reduce the risk of a WhatsApp hack via these typically insecure networks.
With the Pro version’s Web Protection feature, which is also available for iOS devices, you can also protect yourself against phishing links, which are now particularly widespread on messaging services such as WhatsApp.
Incidentally, you can get a free all-in-one solution for your Windows or Mac computer in the form of Avira Free Security, so you can also strengthen the protection of these devices against hacker attacks and check them for malware.
Third-party data leaks
WhatsApp is restrictive when it comes to the use of third-party apps, and it won’t hold back from deleting your account if you use unauthorized apps.
Nevertheless, even third-party apps accepted by WhatsApp, which you might want to use for your messaging, can pose a risk because they’re often quite lax when it comes to security — which is why you should be especially careful.
The upshot is that if you use unsecured third-party apps, you may endanger not only your own online security but that of your contacts too.
How can I tell who hacked my WhatsApp account?
Although you can request account information via the WhatsApp help center, these reports — which you’ll receive within three days of the request — don’t contain any information about who’s logged in to your WhatsApp account or hacked it.
You can, however, go to Linked devices (check out our instructions above) to see if there are any signs that your account may have been hacked. If you see an unknown device listed, you can almost say for sure that someone’s hacked your WhatsApp account.
Can hackers see deleted messages on WhatsApp?
Because WhatsApp includes end-to-end encryption and messages are stored on your device, it’s not that easy to access your account from another device and read your previously deleted chats.
However, if someone who has no business using your smartphone does get their hands on it, it’s quite possible that they’ll get hold of your backups. If this person provides your mobile number to restore your messaging history, you’ll be text a verification code — which is all this unauthorized person needs to enter on their smartphone to download a complete backup of your history. That said, once you log in to your WhatsApp account again yourself, the other person will get logged out — stopping them in their tracks.