Can the new Approve New Participant feature in WhatsApp block hackers?!
Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : Turn On WhatsApp Approve New Participant To Block Hackers!
WhatsApp started introducing a new feature called Approve New Participant, on 11 March 2023.
This new feature was only available to WhatsApp Group administrators, and went pretty much unnoticed by most WhatsApp users, until this claim went viral on WhatsApp and social media platforms:
CYBER SECURITY ALERT
Let’s look sharp all admins*
WhatsApp has added a new security feature to prevent hackers from joining Groups.
I Hope Admins will take advantage of this feature.
*Admins* should go to group settings and
‘TURN ON’ Approve New Participant.
This will prevent unauthorized access for hackers.
WHATSAPP ADMINS ALERT!!!
That WhatsApp cybersecurity alert was unsigned, so we have no idea who created it. But once it went viral, WhatsApp users started asking their group administrator to turn it on to block hackers.
But does the new Approve New Participant feature really block hackers from attacking WhatsApp groups?
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Truth : WhatsApp Approve New Participant Does Not Block Hackers!
This is yet another example of FAKE NEWS circulating on WhatsApp, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : Approve New Participant Is Not A Cybersecurity Feature
First, let me just point out that Approve New Participant is not a cybersecurity feature. WhatsApp introduced the this feature to help group administrators “grow, moderate, and protect their groups“.
The Approve New Participants setting empowers admins to help grow, moderate, and protect their groups. Turning on the setting in Group Settings requires the admin to review every request to join the group before a participant is allowed to join. This feature enhances privacy and security for all participants in the group.
This feature is designed to protect private groups by preventing people from simply joining them using an invite link.
This is a major security concern for private groups, as it exposes the group chats to people who may not be authorised to view them. However, this is not a concern for open groups, as they are open to one and all.
Fact #2 : Approve New Participant Cannot Block Hackers
When a group turns on Approve New Participant, admin approval is required to join a group. People who attempt to join the group will see a Request to join button, with the message “An admin must approve your request”.
After clicking on Request to join, those who wish to join the group are allowed to share their Reason for the request, or Cancel Request.
Once the group administrators get the request, they can either approve or reject the request. Group administrators can also start a chat with the person to request more information.
All that is great for vetting people who want to join an exclusive WhatsApp group, but this new feature does not block hackers, as the group administrator will not know who is, or is not a hacker. It’s not like those WhatsApp accounts have a “hacker” or “not a hacker” label!
Hackers can use social engineering techniques to trick the group administrators into approving their requests, or they can simply use phishing attacks to take over the WhatsApp accounts of existing group participants!
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Fact #3 : Approve New Participant Is Disabled By Default
Cybersecurity features that are designed to block hackers will always be enabled by default – why would they be optional?
Yet, the new Approve New Participant feature is OPTIONAL in WhatsApp, and is DISABLED by default. That is because this is not a cybersecurity feature designed to block hackers.
Many WhatsApp groups are open for anyone to join, and turning on Approve New Participant would be pointless as group administrators would not know the identity of the people joining their groups.
This is why it is up to the WhatsApp group administrators to determine if it is suitable for them to use the new Approve New Participant feature, or not.
Private groups will want to turn this on, to vet people who request to join. But open groups will want this feature disabled, or their administrators will be overwhelmed with joining requests.
Fact #4 : Group Participants Can Always Be Removed
Here’s another reason why blocking new participants joining automatically does not block hackers – group participants can always be removed.
Let’s say a hacker, or an unauthorised person, gains access to your WhatsApp group. It doesn’t mean he/she can stay in your group forever. Any group administrator can remove that person.
This new feature only helps group administrators pre-vet people who want to join their group, instead of kicking them out after they have already joined.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.
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