Whatsapp is an instant messaging platform which has made millions of people shift from SMS to Whatsapp. Recently the application included an “end-to-end encryption” feature. This feature has been available on alternative applications like Signal and proton mail for a long time. The real question you must ask yourself now is that, “Is it completely secure?”
Before we get technical on the details of how secure Whatsapp actually is, we must acknowledge the fact that no application is 100% secure. All of these instant messaging companies must take measures to make sure they aren’t supporting anything which is considered a crime.
#Whatsapp is now end-to-end encrypted. Only of the main reasons why I switched to Telegram in the past. Much welcomed addition.
— Bharadwaj Giridhar (@goforbg) April 5, 2016
What exactly is end-to-end encryption?
To ELI5, when you send a message “hi” to a person via any instant messaging service, it goes to the server. A copy is made and the same message without any modification is delivered to the person who receives the message. But with end-to-end encryption on board, no copies are made in the server. Thus, no external parties like ISPs or Telecom providers can read these messages. Although this is the technical definition, many apps including Whatsapp don’t follow this entirely.
What should I be knowing about Whatsapp’s encryption?
Although Whatsapp is now definitely more secure than what it was before, it is not completely secure as you think it would be. From an article over at Livemint, the Whatsapp’s terms and conditions (which we rarely read) states:
“WhatsApp may retain date and time stamp information associated with successfully delivered messages and the mobile phone numbers involved in the messages, as well as any other information which WhatsApp is legally compelled to collect.”
If you’re wondering what this actually means, you should know that Whatsapp still stores data like the date when the messages were sent and received, the numbers to which messages were sent.
Does this mean I shouldn’t trust Whatsapp and Whatsapp’s encryption?
As stated earlier, no application is completely secure (if you dig into their terms and conditions). We do have to acknowledge the fact that these companies can and will be questioned by the Government if they host criminal activities. Besides, on a daily basis of sending texts like “Hey, did you buy milk” or “Have you bought the tickets” on Whatsapp – you should have no problem using Whatsapp which is now better with end-to-end encryption.
You can just head over to https://www.whatsapp.com/legal/ to know more about Whatsapp’s terms and conditions.
A personal suggestion would be to use a more secure application like Signal (if you’re concerned about security- just as much as I am), which Edward Snowden uses.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
P.S: I was NOT sponsored by Signal to make this post, I just find them very interesting.
Over all it depends on your personal stance on security to decide if you would continue to use whatsapp.
Let me know what app you use for messaging your friends, and stay tuned for more!