While WhatsApp is busy in trying to curb the circulation of fake news through its platform, a message specifying a "WhatsApp Gold" update has made a comeback. The message, which originally reached the masses on the instant messaging platform back in 2016, now warns users that a video titled 'Martinelli' will be posted on WhatsApp to hack the hardware. This is unlike the previous WhatsApp Gold hoax alerts that essentially pushed users to install a fake version of the instant messaging client called 'WhatsApp Gold', which was actually malware, through a given link. Several users on social media reported the delivery of the new WhatsApp Gold message.
Unlike the original scam that was aimed at convincing users to install malware in the form of 'WhatsApp Gold', the new message talks about a video titled Martinelli that will bring malware and hack the device within 10 seconds of viewing it. The message also warns users to don't install the WhatsApp Gold update.
According to a report by fact-checking website Snopes, the latest warning message spread on WhatsApp comes as a hoax and "appears to have originated in a Spanish-language version sometime in 2017". Spanish national police Policia Nacional even posted a tweet back in July 2017, quashing the hoax.
Cyber-security firm Sophos in a blog post last November highlighted that while users are safe from the 'martinelli' video - as no such video that hacks users' phones exists - they should definitely stay away from links to download WhatsApp Gold. Sophos also recommends to tell senders to stop forwarding the fake message and users should themselves refrain from forwarding such messages from their end. The blog post also confirmed that WhatsApp Gold scam messages have been in circulation for at least two and a half years, starting with the one that tells recipients a new version of WhatsApp for celebrities is now accessible by regular users, called WhatsApp Gold.
If it wasn't clear from what we've said above, we repeat, users should not attempt to install WhatsApp Gold, or any version of the app from an unverified source. Users are recommended to always install WhatsApp updates directly from a legitimate source, such as the App Store or Google Play. It should also be considered a social obligation to verify facts before forwarding any new message on the instant messaging app.
In the recent past, WhatsApp took a list of significant steps to put down the number forwarded messages to curb fake news circulation. The Facebook-owned company started labelling forwarded messages and of late kicked off some ad campaigns to combat misleading information. Nonetheless, the instant messaging app has so far been exploited for circulating fake news and spam.
We discussed what WhatsApp absolutely needs to do in 2019, on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.