Undoubtedly, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform around the world. Over 1 billion people from different countries use WhatsApp to send and receive messages. This vast popularity of messaging apps is a sign of how our means of conversation have changed. It is beyond doubt that these messaging apps such as WhatsApp have made our lives a lot easier, but we definitely need to consider how secure these apps are. We share almost any sort of personal data via our messaging apps and it is absolutely essential to make sure that our data are safe. So is WhatsApp as safe as we think? Is WhatsApp encryption really reliable? If you are looking for an answer to these questions, you are in the right place.
What is encryption for messaging apps?
In 2016, WhatsApp rolled out its end-to-end encryption mechanism for all messages by default. Encryption does not actually create any change in the functionality of the application. So is encryption really worth it? Encryption might not bring any changes to the user experience, but it actually makes your words safe and secure. End-to-end encryption makes sure that the messages in a conversation are only viewable by the two ends of the conversation. This WhatsApp encryption method means that no in-between person would be able to spy on WhatsApp messages. But how reliable is this encryption? Is WhatsApp really as secure as it claims to be?
WhatsApp encryption issues
When you send or receive a message by WhatsApp or when you make a call, your communication is encrypted by default. However, this WhatsApp encryption make not work in some cases.
If you are communicating with someone who is using an old version of WhatsApp in which end-to-end encryption is not supported, your messages with that person will not be encrypted. Also, if you are communicating via WhatsApp in a group chat, if only one of the users is not running the latest version of WhatsApp which supports end-to-end encryption, your messages will not be encrypted.
In addition, even if the two ends of the conversation are running the latest version of WhatsApp, there is still a slight chance that the messages are not encrypted. When you send a message to someone for the first time, you will see a message saying that your chats and calls are secured with end-to-end encryption. But if the encryption key is tampered with, your messages and calls might be intercepted.
WhatsApp encryption and metadata
Simply put, metadata is any data that accompanies the main data to help the transmission. It is in fact the supporting that goes alongside the real data. For example, if you are sending a letter with post, your letter is your data and the envelope along with the addresses and the stamp is the metadata. You messages and calls on whatsApp are encrypted, but the meta data is not. This unencrypted metadata can be gathered by third-parties and information such as information like who is talking to who, when and for how long can be gathered from them.
WhatsApp implements Signal encryption protocol. Signal is an application which most of trust but part of the WhatsApp encryption mechanism is closed which creates obscurities and uncertainties about how secure WhatsApp is.
Considering all the questions surrounding WhatsApp encryption, should we abandon WhatsApp if we worry about security of our personal data? The truth is, there might some issues with regard to WhatsApp security, but it is still one of the most secure options if we want to use messaging apps to communicate with one another. So, if you think you have nothing to hide and you are not that paranoid about security, WhatsApp can be considered as a secure option.