The Southwark Police in London have warned of a spike in WhatsApp phishing scams, according to Paul Ducklin at Naked Security. The station tweeted, “We have seen a surge in WhatsApp accounts being hacked, if you are sent a text from WhatsApp with a code on it, don’t share the code with ANYONE no matter who’s asking, or the reason why. “

Ducklin notes that users of WhatsApp and similar messaging services are more likely to view messages as trustworthy, since they appear to be coming from an acquaintance.

“Closed-group instant messaging and social media communities don’t suffer from spam in the same way that your email account does, because you can set up your account so that only approved contacts such as friends and family can message you in the first place,” Ducklin writes. “That means, however, that you’re more inclined to trust messages and web links that you do receive, because they generally come from someone you know.”

Ducklin adds that users should be suspicious of unsolicited or strange messages from contacts, especially if the messages sound urgent or try to get you to click on a link.

“Never trust messages simply because they come from a friend’s account,” he says. “Just as importantly, if a weird message from a friend’s account makes you think they’ve been hacked, don’t message them back via the same service to warn them. If you’re right, your real friend will never see the warning, and you will have tipped off the crooks that you are onto them. Contact your friend some other way instead.”

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an essential layer of defense, but Ducklin stresses that attackers can still bypass this measure via social engineering.

“If you’ve turned on 2FA on your various accounts, good for you,” he writes. “It’s not a silver bullet, so it can’t guarantee that your account won’t get hacked, but it does make things harder for the crooks. Don’t play the ball back into their court by sharing those secret codes with other people, no matter how convincing their story sounds.”

New-school security awareness training can teach your employees to follow security best practices so they can avoid falling for these attacks.