WhatsApp secures messages for its 1 billion users

WhatsApp has just flicked on a switch and all the messages, photos, videos and voice notes are now instantly secure. According to the latest security announcement just made by WhatsApp, only you and the receiving party may view the messages.  Since the security is “end to end security” it means that no one in between can eaves drop on your messages – not even WhatsApp.

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is available when you and the people you message use the latest versions of our app. Many messaging apps only encrypt messages between you and them, but WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. This is because your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them. For added protection, every message you send has its own unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically: no need to turn on settings or set up special secret chats to secure your messages.

The technical White-paper shows that the Signal Protocol which is designed by Open Whisper Systems is the basis for WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. “This end-to-end encryption protocol is designed to prevent third parties and WhatsApp from having plaintext access to messages or calls. What’s more, even if encryption keys from a user’s device are ever physically compromised, they cannot be used to go back in time to decrypt previously transmitted messages.

The Signal Protocol library used by WhatsApp is Open Source and is freely available online  but knowing how the system work of course does not mean that anyone can decrypt the messages.

What does this WhatsApp security mean for me and you ?

In reality – not much has changed. If we want to ensure our communication are secure we need to follow the steps and scan the QR code between the parties. However, most people are not that interested in security and just settle for a  messaging platform that works. I would hazard to guess but if one had to ask WhatsApp customers to prioritize a better voice call or better security, most would opt for the former.

Security seems to be a big concern if you are into something you shouldn’t be – anything from Terrorist, down to cheating boyfriends/ girlfriends.

So I wonder, if instantly around the world government monitoring stations, hackers and Private Investigators’ screen all just went blank…

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