WhatsApp already allows you to send photos or videos that disappear from the chats as soon as they are opened and seen by the contact who receives them, a function that increases privacy on the platform, but exposes them to risky situations such as extortion.
Ephemeral photos and videos that can only be seen once are already available on WhatsApp after making their appearance previously on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat or Telegram , and it focuses on the most sensitive content that the user wants to share with certain contacts, for For example, a photo of the DNI if necessary for a group reservation, or of the credentials (username and password) to connect to a WiFi network.
WhatsApp ensures that the ‘ Single View ‘, which is what this modality of temporary message is called, gives the user greater control over their privacy. But it also warns that the receiver can take screenshots, a function that is not restricted in this application.
‘Sextortion’ and ‘grooming’
This fact can put the user at risk, making him vulnerable, for example, to extortion for sexual reasons, as Panda Security has warned in a statement. According to data provided to the Secretary of State for Security by the State Security Forces and Bodies, this type of crime has increased by 46% since 2018.
Also to ‘grooming’, the sexual harassment and abuse of minors by adults, and that can begin when the cybercriminal goes to a social network such as TikTok , one of the most famous among adolescents, and gets in contact with the victim from a false profile from which they can pretend to be another minor or even an ‘influencer’, as explained from Panda.
This contact can generate a bond of trust, which can lead the minor to share their phone number with the adult to follow the conversation on WhatsApp, where the harassment begins, which can include requests for sexual content.
“The cybercriminal has all the facilities to capture the file that can only be seen once”
The cybersecurity company warns that “this is where the problem of this security flaw lies, the cybercriminal has all the facilities to capture the file that can only be seen once, something that not only affects minors.”
In the case of the so-called ‘sextortion’ between adults, in most cases it begins with a contact established through dating applications, in which in a similar way to ‘grooming’ in minors.
The victim may have a false sense of security when sending this content using functions such as WhatsApp, believing that the sensitive content disappears once the recipient opens and views it.
The foundation of the crime of sextortion is blackmail; the cybercriminal threatens the victim by sharing private files with their contacts or publicly and asks for money or favors in return, such as sending more intimate content.