WhatsApp Messenger is the most popular messager in the world, with a membership of more than 1 billion people. The platform is an instant messaging client for smartphones. The app uses the Internet to send text messages, videos, images, documents, user locations and even audio media messages to other people. The app communicates with other people using their mobile telephone numbers.
WhatsApp Inc. was acquired by Facebook Inc. for approximately US$19.3 billion on February 19, 2014. Users have complained for quite some time that its messages are not encrypted. In May of 2011, there was a security hole reported which left many user accounts open for hacking and packet analysis. Although WhatsApp promised to fix the problem, hackers struck again. In January of 2010 a hacker put up a website with the ability to change the status of arbitrarily suggested WhatsApp users, so long as a user knew their phone number. This is just one of many security issues. The application was attacked again in 2014 and even in early 2016.
In April of 2016, WhatsApp released its newest statement on end-to-end encryption.
“WhatsApp has always prioritized making your data and communication as secure as possible. And today, we’re proud to announce that we’ve completed a technological development that makes WhatsApp a leader in protecting your private communication: full end-to-end encryption. From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats.”
How Does Encryption Work?
Encryption is a way of encoding information so that only the people you want to receive the information can read it. This does not mean someone can not intercept data, but they can’t view the data they capture. These messages are then kept only by those who have keys to access them. End-to-end encryption makes it possible for no one to have access to your conversations. This includes the people who run WhatsApp. This goes a long way to ensuring total privacy of your chats.
As of April 16, updated versions of WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption for all messages. That keeps third parties and developers from accessing and reading messages. Again, only the recipient can read your messages.
This includes all ways people communicate with WhatsApp – chats, groups chats, videos, images, voices messages and files. Each one of these are protected with end-to-end encryption. Importantly the WhatsApp servers also can’t get access to its users’ private encryption keys. However, they have the right to verify the keys to make sure the community integrity is intact, which was a major concern of the user base.
What’s Not Encrypted?
As with everything related to encryption, there is a caveat: the metadata about your communications is still available to be captured. This means a person or government can’t read the content of the message but can see when it was sent and who it was sent to. This is information valuable to security agencies and governments.
So in the end, the WhatsApp messengers is undoubtedly more secure. The availability of metadata will not affect the vast majority of users. Still, remember that there is no way to communicate that is 100 percent private. You have to be in person for that to be guaranteed.