WhatsApp has indeed become a staple part of our lives. From simple pen pals to corporate discussions, and with one billion downloads, it’s hard to imagine a world without WhatsApp these days. However, one issue that has plagued the messaging platform has been the security of its messages. But not anymore. After taking around a year and a half to complete, WhatsApp is now successfully encrypted end-to-end on its mobile platform
What does End-to-end Encrypted Mean?
What does this mean to us commoners? Well, put simply, this means that those who use the latest versions of WhatsApp will have their communication and media end-to-end encrypted by default. This also includes securing cross-platform video communication, which according to a WhatsApp spokesperson, was the last piece of the puzzle. This includes chats, group chats, attachments, voice notes, and voice calls across Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Nokia S40, Nokia S60, Blackberry, and BB10.
So what does End-to-end encryption mean? Well, essentially, the content of communication is not stored via plaintext format on WhatsApp’s servers. Rather, it is scrambled and so that even if someone gets their hands on a person’s communication, they cannot decrypt it without an encryption key. This also means that the company cannot decrypt a user’s messages to access them as they do not have the encryption key either. So even if served with a warrant by authorities demanding access, WhatsApp will not be able to hand over any messaging data.
Once updated, the WhatsApp client will notify users of the encryption status of chats, including showing a notice in the messaging screen with options to learn more and verify that your communications are indeed encrypted. This can be done via scanning a QR code or reading a number string.
The news comes just in the middle of the battle between Apple and the FBI over an encrypted iPhone. In fact, WhatsApp has been implementing encryption since the year 2013, which is the same year the controversial whistle blower Edward Snowden came forward by revealing the depth of government mass surveillance programs.
WhatsApp then proceeded to partner with Open Whisper Systems in 2014, and since then has been integrating their end-to-end encryption Signal Protocol specifically since late 2014.
Despite the completion of default end-to-end encryption being a significant security milestone for the WhatsApp platform, that does not entail that every communication sent via the app is end-to-end encrypted. You will need to upgrade to the latest version of WhatsApp to do so.
From their point of view, Open Whisper Systems stated that they would be looking forward to additional rollouts of its tech and that they would continue to work with additional messengers over the next year.
Have you updated to the latest version of WhatsApp? What are your thoughts about this new feature? Leave a comment in the section below.