WhatsApp Rolls Out Full Message encryption For Android Users
WhatsApp, the most popular instant messaging app in the world, has rolled out yet another new feature for its users. It now supports end-to-end data encryption for messages shared by users of this hugely popular 600 million strong platform. With encryption of messages, no one except the sender and the receiver of the messages will be able to see messages and chats shared over this app.
The encryption has already been rolled out by default for Android users across the world and though the company is working on rolling out the protocol for users across other platforms as well, no date has been specified for the same. Since encryption has been made available by default for Android users, they do not have to do anything to turn it on.
This comes after the popular messaging apps had rolled out read receipts last week, enabling the users to know when their messages were delivered and when they were read (if at all).
WhatsApp has joined hands with Open Whisper Systems, an open source development company which provides secure communications, to build a data encryption platform which will make it virtually impossible for anyone to intercept private text messages- be it spying networks, snooping government agencies or hackers.
WhatsApp data encryption will use TextSecure protocol which encrypts text messages over the air and on people’s phones. The integration has been in the works for the past six months, and the lessons learned along the way are likely make their way into other deployments, Whisper said.
Data encryption came into spotlight last year following disclosures about government surveillance by Edward Snowden, a NSA contractor last year. Following that and cyber attacks by hackers and other cyber criminals, internet companies have all together raised their voice about the need for security over the internet.
Snowden has also called end-to-end data encryption as the best form of ensuring that private data does not fall into wrong hands.
Data encryption for WhatsApp users comes after similar announcements made by Apple and Google. The only way a third party can now access private messages of WhatsApp users is by getting access to their personal devices.
“We have a ways to go until all mobile platforms are fully supported, but we are moving quickly towards a world where all WhatsApp users will get end-to-end encryption by default,” Open Whispers said in a blog post.
“From celebrity nudes to Iranian dissidents, private communication is valuable for everyone,” said Marlinspike, the founder of Open Whisper Systems.
Platforms like Redphone and Silent Circle which have offered encryption for user data for a long time now command great respect and confidence among users.
What it means?
Since no government agencies will now be able to intercept text messages, concerns are being raised that the chatting platform might become a haven for terrorists and other criminals. Not even a murder charge, an official warrant or felony charges will now be able to give ANY third party the right to access users’ chat messages exchanged over this platform.
However, that should not be taken to mean that a third party can access confidential data shared by users.
“We can’t begin to have effective cyber security unless we have wider use of encryption,” said Peter Swire, a former White House privacy official.
Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel echoed the popular sentiment saying network security issues are not the only consideration. “You also have law enforcement and national security issues,” he said. “There’s no perfect solution.” The issue, he said, is, “how can each side minimize the risk?”
This initiative by the now-Zuckerberg-owned-network is an important step forward towards ensuring confidentiality of data and privacy if users.
A move which will help further push the messaging app up over popularity charts.