New Delhi: Meta-owned messaging app WhatsApp data of nearly half a billion users from 84 countries across the globe, including India, could have been breached and put up for sale online, Cybernews reported.

According to the Cybernews report, the dataset allegedly contains WhatsApp user data from 84 countries and phone numbers of over 32 million users from the US, 11 million from the UK, and 10 million from Russia. From India, the report added, more than 6 million WhatsApp users could be at risk.

The news platform investigated a data sample — after a post on a “well-known hacking community forum” claimed to be selling an up-to-date database of 487 million WhatsApp users — and found that the claim was likely true, meaning 25% of the total 2 billion monthly active users worldwide could be at risk.

Leaked phone numbers could be used for any number of reasons, including marketing and phishing.

Cybernews said it received a sample of around 2,000 numbers to verify the data breach claims and found that they belonged to WhatsApp users.

The hacker claims to have a significant number of phone numbers belonging to the citizens of Egypt (45 million), Italy (35 million), Saudi Arabia (29 million), France (20 million), and Turkey (20 million).

The hacker was selling the US dataset for $7,000, the UK for $2,500, and Germany for $2,000, according to the report.

This isn’t the first time Meta and its online platforms have found themselves in the middle of a data security issue.

Last year, information about more than 500 million users of Facebook, another Meta-owned company, was offered online for free. In 2019, data of 419 million Facebook and 49 million Instagram users were exposed.

In the same year, it had faced another breach leaving the data of 267 million users exposed.

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