WhatsApp originally started in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, both former employees of Yahoo! It is used to send text messages, documents, images, video, user location and audio media messages to other users using standard cellular mobile numbers with a data plan. Ever since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in Feb 2014, it has undergone significant changes and regular updates especially towards data protection and privacy features. This is much needed as WhatsApp has the incredible power of sharing any file, video, audio, text-based and so on in mere one click. The growing security concern has been around hackers, cybercriminals’ etc., their ability able to access user data and make users more prone to such easy attacks, the vulnerability has always been an area of concern. This also holds well with respect to recent clashes between FBI and Apple to unlock phones of the users under investigations. In this blog, I will talk about WhatsApp Encryption and What It Means to Users!
For WhatsApp, the most popular instant messaging app, encryption has always been a need for users. User base in WhatsApp has crossed a billion mark during Feb 2015, followed by Facebook with about 800 million messenger users, which makes it even more important to provide efficient data protection to its users.
What is Encryption?
Encryption is all about encoding a message or information in such a way that it can only be read by authorized users where the information was intended to be shared. In other words, all data is translated into secret code from the sender and send through a passkey, which only desired user can have access to. Traditionally, this has been used across organizations to increased security as well. Blackberry services with a data plan and emails, for instance, has been a big hit across enterprises over last decade, arguably the safest enterprise email server.
Encryption power to WhatsApp
Recently during Apr 2015, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koumhas stated that they have been working for bringing about this encryption since last 2 year. This is end to end encryption wherein “once the session is established, clients do not need to rebuild a new session with each other until the existing session state is lost through an external event such as an app reinstall or device change”. WhatsApp actually, had started encrypting the text messages in late 2014 itself. On April 5, it started encrypting all calls, photos, and videos as well.
This encryption, now, is enabled by default across all WhatsApp users if they are on latest update release which means if sender and receiver of messages have got the latest version of the app installed on their mobile devices, the encryption is bound to be enabled. However, the catch is that users don’t have any option for switching this feature on or off. Recently updated apps will show this message now
“Messages you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption. Tap for more info.”
WhatsApp even states that user info cannot be accessed by any 3rd party except the sender and the desired receiver even they don’t have access to it, this statement is building a lot of credibility in the market today.
What it means to users
No change as such in the way you have been using WhatsApp, Having said that, now, it will be much more difficult to ensure law enforcement or provide copies of any user-specific communication to government authorities even if they wish to do so.
Files are important, please backup if you need them in future, WhatsApp doesn’t save anything on their servers which means files ones deleted can never be recalled, neither one can read them as they are all encrypted now. Group chats, however, are not encrypted, for now, so files, in this case, are safe.
In a nutshell, your private chats are safer now and world chats are safer than ever before. Most likely, all other chat services providers should start following the encryption process soon, With this, WhatsApp has set a brand new benchmark for them to follow for now.