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vCard Vulnerability Exposes WhatsApp Users

8/09/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


A vulnerability discovered in WhatsApp Web, the web-based extension of the WhatsApp mobile application, can be exploited by attackers to trick users into executing arbitrary code on their machines.

Discovered by Check Point security researcher Kasif Dekel, the vulnerability can be exploited by simply sending a vCard contact card containing malicious code to a WhatsApp user. As soon as the seemingly innocent vCard is opened in WhatsApp Web, the malicious code in it can run on the target machine.

This vulnerability allows cybercriminals to compromise the affected computer by distributing all types of malware, including ransomware, bots, and remote access tools (RATs), Check Point’s researcher explains.

The underlying issue lies in the improper filtering of contact cards that are sent using the popular ‘vCard’ format. “By manually intercepting and crafting XMPP requests to the WhatsApp servers, it was possible to control the file extension of the contact card file,” the Check Point researcher explained in a blog post.

An attacker can inject a command in the name attribute of the vCard file, separated by the ‘&’ character. Windows automatically tries to run all lines in the file, including the injection line, when the vCard is opened.

This attack does not require XMPP interception of crafting, due to the fact that anyone can create such a contact with an injected payload, directly on the phone, Check Point notes. As soon as the contact is ready, the attacker only needs to share it through the WhatsApp client to unsuspicious users.

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