Can your WhatsApp be hacked? Here’s why you might be at risk

Ray Fernandez

Jul 17, 20238 min read

Can your WhatsApp be hacked? Here's why you might be at risk (Header image)

With over 2 billion active users worldwide and strong security features, WhatsApp is the world’s most used mobile messenger.  Users love it because it runs on both iPhone and Android and is fast, simple, and free. But can WhatsApp be hacked in 2022?

Can WhatsApp be hacked? What you need to know

The unfortunate truth is that WhatsApp can be hacked, and it can be hacked in many different ways. Hackers can break WhatsApp by tricking users into giving away verification codes, using spyware, sending malware as attachments, or even cloning your phone or your WhatsApp account.

Can someone hack your phone by texting you on WhatsApp?

It is highly unlikely that your phone or WhatsApp account will be hacked just from receiving a text message. Malware usually requires that users interact with the attacker, meaning you have to click on a link, download a file, or respond to a message. If you receive a suspicious message, the best thing to do is to report it, delete it, and forget about it. Unless you interact with the attacker, chances are you won’t be hacked.

That being said, a new trend of sophisticated attacks is becoming more common. In this case, a user can hack your phone just by sending an image, a GIF, a text, or a file. These types of attacks are known as zero-click attacks because the victim does not need to interact with the message to risk being hacked. A famous example of malware capable of breaching a phone just by sending a text message is Pegasus.

Can you get hacked by replying to a text on WhatsApp?

Anytime you take action on an attack, you risk being hacked by setting in motion a series of events that the attacker put in place. Experts recommend never interacting with unknown senders, clicking links, opening attachments, or giving away information. Even if the message wasn’t sent by hackers, it might be a WhatsApp scam.

Can someone hack your WhatsApp without your phone?

Yes. There are ways to hack a WhatsApp account even if the attacker doesn’t have your phone. While WhatsApp only allows one active phone line per account, attackers may use malware that redirects or forwards all your text messages and phone calls to a phone number they own. Then they log in to your WhatsApp with your phone number and ask for a verification code, which is automatically forwarded to their phone.

Another way of hacking an account without a phone is to hack the online service WhatsApp Web. This can be done by tricking an unsuspecting user into scanning a QR code which will give the hacker access.

The most common ways to hack WhatsApp in 2022

As of 2022, there are two common trends in WhatsApp hacks. The first involves close relatives, friends, or partners hacking accounts. The second involves cybercriminals targeting users to steal data, launch scams and ransomware, or spread malware.

1. WhatsApp number hack

This is one of the most common techniques for hacking WhatsApp. If a hacker has access to your phone, it becomes incredibly easy for them to hack your WhatsApp account.

The WhatsApp number hack involves a hacker registering your number on the WhatsApp application. They do this by simply downloading the app to their phone, entering your telephone number, and getting the verification code to access the account. As mentioned above, if the attacker has access to your phone, all they have to do is send the request for the verification code and read it from your phone.

If an attacker doesn’t have access to your phone, they can try to trick you into handing over the code. Be wary if you receive a text message with a WhatsApp verification code and one of your WhatsApp contacts immediately contacts you, asking you to share the verification code. If you reply with the verification code, your account will be hacked, as reported by IT Pro.

2. WhatsApp forward call

This method requires some technical knowledge but is still popular because it gives the attacker not only instant control of a WhatsApp account, but also access to all incoming calls the victim may receive. This attack can also shut a user out of their own WhatsApp account in just minutes.

In this type of attack, sent messages can hack the WhatsApp account. You will first receive a text message, an email, or a phone call tricking you into calling a phone number that has a Man Machine Interface (MMI) code. And if you fall for the trick and make the call, you will automatically forward all your calls to the attacker’s number.

After the attacker has forwarded your calls to their phone, they just need to install WhatsApp, register your number, and ask WhatsApp to send the verification code via a phone call.

3. WhatsApp Web hack

Another popular method of hacking WhatsApp is via its web version. WhatsApp Web allows users to use their account on any web browser. To access and log in to WhatsApp Web, users have to scan a QR code that appears on the web browser service.

How to add a device to WhatsappWeb: Screenshot

Then you should open the WhatsApp app, go to Menu or Settings, and select Linked Devices. This opens the camera to scan the QR code.

You can imagine how easy it is to hack a WhatsApp account with this method if the attacker has access to your phone. But even when they do not have access to your phone, they can still use QR techniques. Hackers can extract the QR code from WhatsApp Web and mount it on another malicious page. If you scan that QR code using WhatsApp — or sometimes even with your phone camera — they can steal your login credentials and use them to hack your account.

4. WhatsApp Spyware

In 2022, the most popular method for hacking WhatsApp is through spyware.

Some commonly used methods are parental spyware like FlexiSpy or mSpy. For example, KidsGuard is one of the best-ranking third-party apps used to hack WhatsApp. With these apps, users can remotely gain access to messages, audio, statuses, photos, videos, and much more. They can also hack several accounts at once and view your entire history.

5. WhatsApp DarkWeb and criminal attacks

DarkWeb malware is another source of WhatsApp hacking. In these types of attacks, hackers often target financial data or the confidential information of businesses or organizations. Today, amateur cyber criminals don’t even need to have technical knowledge. WhatsApp hacking tools and services are sold for cheap on the DarkWeb.

Additionally, cybercriminals release malware and mount attack campaigns when they find vulnerabilities in the app. Advanced cybercriminal malware can also execute a WhatsApp encryption hack. For example, as CheckPoint reports, malware disguised as a Netflix content enabler app named FlixOnline allowed attackers to distribute phishing attacks, spread false information, or steal credentials and data from users’ WhatsApp accounts.

How to know if your WhatsApp has been hacked

Fortunately, there are several ways to determine if someone has hacked your WhatsApp. Most of this advice falls into three categories.

1. Unfamiliar devices logged in to your account

WhatsApp Web makes it easy to tell if someone has accessed your WhatsApp account. All you have to do is open WhatsApp on your phone, click on the three dots on the top right, and select WhatsAppWeb. You will be able to see all the devices remotely accessing your account. Simply click “Log out of all devices” to shut down any remote connection.

2. Strange and suspicious activity

If you ever have a gut feeling that your WhatsApp is hacked, don’t ignore it. Because if you’re getting WhatsApp messages or calls with unsolicited verification codes, it’s likely that someone has hacked your account or is trying to access it.

You might notice strange messages from unknown contacts. Or perhaps your own account is sending messages to unknown contacts. Additionally, once hackers take control of an account, they will go after that account’s contacts. So if you receive suspicious messages from a “friend” asking you about verification codes, you are being targeted in an attack.

On the other hand, if you hear suspicious noises when making calls or sending audio clips, this might be caused by spyware installed on your phone without your knowledge.

3. Poor phone performance

Malware may be installed on your phone because you downloaded it without noticing or because someone got hold of your phone and installed it.

How your mobile phone performs can be a telltale sign. If you notice that your battery is draining much faster than usual, this could mean that hidden applications are running in the background.

When a cell phone works at total capacity, it will slow down, crash, freeze, and the temperature of your battery will be higher than usual. These are some easy-to-spot telltale signs that something is wrong. Plus, there are ways to determine which apps and processes are running on your mobile phone.

To check if you have been the victim of a WhatsApp iPhone hack, you can check the Running Services Developers option or Background App Refresh.

To check apps running through Background App Refresh:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select General.
  3. Click on Background App Refresh.
  4. You will now see a list of apps running in the background and can switch them off or on.

How to make your WhatsApp more secure

A few simple steps can do the trick to keep your WhatsApp and your phone safe.

1. Enable 2FA

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a must when it comes to WhatsApp security. To enable 2FA, open the WhatsApp app on your iPhone or Android device. Navigate to Settings > Account > Two-Step Verification, and tap Enable.

2. Block your screen

Many attacks today occur when a hacker physically grabs someone’s phone and steals information or installs malware. To avoid this, always enable a good screen lock security method. Whether using Face ID, fingerprint, or a strong pin code, never leave your phone unlocked and unattended.

3. Enable Touch ID or Face ID

Just like you can block your main mobile screen, you can also block your WhatsApp by enabling Face ID or Touch ID. To enable this security feature on your iPhone, open WhatsApp and go to Settings > Account > Privacy > Screen Lock. Here, toggle on the Require Face ID or Require Touch ID options.

4. Watch out for scams and phishing

Hackers are constantly evolving to bypass security measures. However, they will always require some interaction on the part of their victims. Be cautious about emails, voice calls, WhatsApp messages, or SMS. And never download attachments from, click on links from, or give away information to unknown sources.

5. Change your privacy settings

WhatsApp allows you to control who can view your information. Fortunately, you can hide your Profile photo, About, Status, and Last Seen data. The app gives you the choice to customize the information you want to be shared with everyone or with your contacts. This feature can prevent strangers from accessing your information. To change your privacy settings, go to Settings > Account > Privacy. 

The WhatsApp help center recommends that users block and report any contacts that engage in illegal, unethical, unsolicited, and suspicious activity in the app. And while there are many ways to hack a WhatsApp account, most of them can be prevented if you are well informed and take the necessary precautions.

Ray Fernandez Ray Fernandez
Ray has been covering tech and cybersecurity for over 15 years. His work has appeared on TechRepublic, VentureBeat, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Microsoft Blog, among others.