Meta's WhatsApp messaging company says that forwarded messages stoking fears about potential cyberattacks targeting Jewish people have no basis in reality.
The warnings appear to have begun circulating Saturday on numerous online platforms.
On Saturday evening, crypto influencer Scott Melker, who has almost 1 million followers on X, posted the warning asking that people share it. The warning says that hackers will try to get people to download a file through WhatsApp called "Seismic Waves CARD" that can quickly enable phone hacking. It's been viewed almost 250,000 times. Melker has a verified account which is eligible for monetization on the platform.
Since then, the warning has been posted by more than a dozen other users on the platform, and spread to other social media and messaging platforms.
WhatsApp communications manager Emily Westcott said this kind of rumor has circulated before and pointed to the company’s previous statement that the “seismic waves” hacking messages were false.
The message copies elements of a previous hoax warning from just several weeks ago, warning of a “Seismic Waves CARD” download related to the Moroccan earthquakes.
In September, WhatsApp told Snopes that those messages were also false.
The hoax appears to play off of fears of software used to spy on victims’ phones, known as spyware. Instances in which a WhatsApp message could lead to a user's phone being taken over have happened, but they're rare.
In one high-profile case in 2019, researchers discovered that Israeli company NSO Group, the most infamous spyware developer on the market, had found a vulnerability in WhatsApp's code that allowed it to deploy spy software. WhatsApp quickly pushed out an update that fixed the vulnerability.
The hoax threat adds to a quickly growing collection of misinformation and disinformation that have been spread around the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Beginning Saturday, old and repackaged videos were quickly spread and portrayed as from the most recent attack, bringing in hundreds of thousands of views on X, along with potential ad dollars for users.
The same day, a fake White House press release circulated on X falsely claiming that the Biden administration had allocated $8 billion of emergency aid to Israel.
X, under the leadership of Elon Musk, has relaxed its efforts around content moderation and is primarily relying on its "community notes" feature to fact-check misinformation, but those notes are only applied to a fraction of the misinformation on the platform.