Nearly 500 million WhatsApp accounts leaked online — what to do now

WhatsApp logo on iPhone
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Received a WhatsApp call or message from an unknown number? Your account could be at risk of spam or even scams as millions of WhatsApp account phone numbers are currently up for sale on a hacking forum. 

As reported by Cybernews (opens in new tab), someone is selling a 2022 database of 487 million WhatsApp mobile numbers. This includes accounts from 84 countries like the US, UK, Russia, Egypt and many others. There are apparently 32 million US records included as well as 11 million from the UK. WhatsApp has around two billion monthly active users worldwide and this leak puts nearly half a billion users at risk.

Cybernews also points out that the leaked accounts all belong to active WhatsApp users. The seller could have obtained the phone numbers by a process called scraping, which refers to harvesting information at scale — though this violates WhatsApp’s terms of service.

The seller also revealed they are selling the US data for $7,000. WhatsApp's parent company, Meta has not issued a statement on the leak just yet.

How to stay safe from WhatsApp attacks

The kind of information leaked in this case, phone numbers of WhatsApp users, is mainly used for phishing attacks, fraud or to send out spam. If you are an active WhatsApp user, beware of unknown numbers trying to message you or call you on the platform. 

The main thing to do to keep yourself safe from attackers who may have gotten your WhatsApp number is to change your privacy settings. Go to “Settings,” within WhatsApp, tap on “Privacy” and then change your “last seen and online” setting, “profile photo,” and “about” to “contacts only".

You can also enable two-step verification to further secure your WhatsApp account. Go into “Settings” in the app, tap on “Account” and then on “Two-step verification". This will ask you to create a PIN that adds another layer of security for your account. 

In case you get a suspicious message from an unknown WhatsApp number, don’t click or open any link they might send and block the number immediately. 

Also, be careful of what messaging apps you install as some WhatsApp clones have were found to be malware in disguise. Earlier this year, Meta sued multiple Chinese companies, which it accused of stealing over a million WhatsApp accounts (opens in new tab) via fake versions of the app.

Next: You will now be able to message yourself on WhatsApp — here’s everything you need to know.

Sanjana Prakash
News Editor

Sanjana loves all things tech. From the latest phones, to quirky gadgets and the best deals, she's in sync with it all. Based in Atlanta, she is the news editor at Tom's Guide. Previously, she produced India's top technology show for NDTV and has been a tech news reporter on TV. Outside work, you can find her on a tennis court or sipping her favorite latte in instagrammable coffee shops in the city. Her work has appeared on NDTV Gadgets 360 and CNBC.