A database containing the phone numbers of one-quarter of all WhatsApp users was recently put up for sale on a hacking community forum. The seller claims that the database was recent and contained 487 million phone numbers belonging to active WhatsApp users in 84 countries.
WhatsApp has a user base of around 2 billion, which means that this database supposedly contains the phone numbers of one-quarter of WhatsApp users. According to the poster, the database contains the phone numbers of over 32 million users in the USA, 45 million from Egypt, 35 million from Italy, 29 million from Saudi Arabia, 20 million (each) from France and Turkey, 10 million phone numbers from Russian users, and over 11 million UK numbers.
One-quarter of active WhatsApp users are potentially exposed to spam and phishing attempts
The source (via Cybernews) didn’t reveal how they obtained half a billion phone numbers of active WhatsApp users but said that they “used their strategy.” Nevertheless, it is possible that the database was put together through a process known as “scraping,” which involves data gathering from websites. In other words, WhatsApp wasn’t hacked, but these bad actors may have gathered nearly 500 million phone numbers from web pages, confirmed that they are used for WhatsApp, and put them up for sale.
Such a database could be used for spam, phishing attempts, and other such activities. And there’s really no way of finding out if your phone number is in that database. But if you want to keep your WhatsApp profile picture and status safe from possible prying eyes who may have gotten a hold of your phone number, you can open the app, go to “Settings,” followed by “Privacy,” and change settings such as “Last seen and online,” “Profile photo,” and “About” to “Contacts only.”