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Researchers slurp unencrypted Viber messaging data with ease

Images, videos, location and other data easily exposed, they claim

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Popular Whatsapp-like messaging service Viber is exposing users to man-in-the-middle and other attacks because it isn’t encrypting various data at rest and in transit, security researchers have warned.

The mobile app allows users to send each other messages, videos, images and “doodles”, share GPS location details and make voice calls.

However, researchers at the University of New Haven Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group (UNHcFREG) found a “serious security flaw” in the way Viber receives videos, images and doodle files; the way it sends and receives location data; and the way it stores data on its Amazon servers.

The team’s experimental network created a rogue access point utilising a Windows 7 PC’s Virtual Wi-Fi Miniport Adapter and a first smartphone connected to the same network. It then connected a second smartphone outside the network via GSM and used it to exchange data with the first smartphone over Viber.

It said that with tools such as NetworkMiner, Wireshark, and NetWitness it was able to capture traffic sent over the test network.

Specifically, the team claimed that images, doodles and videos received are unencrypted; location data sent and received is unencrypted; and data is stored on the Viber Amazon servers in unencrypted format.

Further, it said user data stored on Viber's Amazon servers is not deleted immediately and that it can be easily accessed without any authentication mechanism – “simply visiting the intercepted link on a web browser gives us complete access to the data”.

The researchers added the following:

Anyone, including the service providers will be able to collect this information – and anyone that sets up a rogue AP, or any man-in-the middle attacks such as ARP poisoning will be able to capture this unencrypted traffic and view the images and videos received as well as the locations being sent or received by a phone.

UNHcFREG said it had already informed Viber of the security flaws but received no word back at the time of publishing. A video of the test (h/t The Hacker News) can be found here.

It recommended Viber ensure all data in transit is sent over an encrypted tunnel, that data is encrypted properly when saved and that it access to it must require authentication.

The Israeli-backed messaging service, based in Cyprus, was recently acquired for $900 million by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in a bid to take the firm “to a different level”.

For the record, the same team of New Haven uni testers last week published research claiming a bug in Whatsapp's "location sending" feature. ®

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