4 Devices Can Access Same WhatsApp Account; These New Features Being Tested By WhatsApp
Another powerful new WhatsApp update has just been revealed, as the world’s leading secure messaging platform continues to build out its functionality. With an expansion to 8-party video calls, QR contact codes, encrypted cloud backups and multi-device access are in beta or test. Now more features have been added to the latest update.
For quite some time now, WhatsApp has been testing multiple-device support and the company might be getting ready to reveal the feature, at least in the beta version.
But it’s not all good news—there’s a problem under the surface that looks set to become more of an issue this year.
Read to find out more…
WhatsApp’s New Feature!
Since the launch of the instant messaging platform, WhatsApp has been limited to usage on a single device.
The website WABetaInfo claimed in a post that users will be able to use WhatsApp on up to 4 devices for the same account. The new post also shared a screenshot of the feature suggesting that the device will use WiFi in order to synchronize data between multiple devices. WhatsApp is also expected to provide a similar option for users working on just cellular networks.
The company later released WhatsApp Web support but the feature is only available when the primary device is connected to the internet and also needs authentication from the device.The support for multiple devices might extend to different form factors including iPads. The feature will first be made available to the beta version of the application.
WhatsApp has also been reported to release a new feature where the user will be able to conduct searches on the basis of dates.
WhatsApp is also making changes to the recently launched dark mode. In order to make the experience better, the instant messaging application is planning to change the colour of the chat bubble to a new shade of green.
As disclosed by the WABetaInfo, the latest betas for iOS and Android include compelling options to search messages by date, to identify large files so as to better manage device storage, and to delete old messages and files, with an option to keep ‘starred’ messages. There is also a new feature to send forwarded images to the web, to help identify fake news.
With the exception of multi-device support and encrypted backups, both of which are crucial, none of the rest seem out of the box.
What is WhatsApp’s Security Achilles Heel?
WhatsApp messages are secured by end-to-end encrypted and there are no backdoors in that security. The stories you occasionally read about hackers attempting to access WhatsApp accounts relate to endpoint compromise, the vulnerability is your phone where you store your decrypted messages, not WhatsApp itself or the transportation as your messages are sent across the network.
However, what is not encrypted, though, is the data around those messages: Who you message, when, how often. This data can be recorded and can, in principle, be provided to law enforcement.
Now that is not the same as your messages or attached media. Until it’s decrypted on a recipient device, that can’t be accessed. Only you and the recipient hold the encryption keys, WhatsApp doesn’t hold a copy.
However, that metadata is a powerful data source, enabling patterns to be drawn, joining links, mapping networks. In contrast to WhatsApp, the security-first alternative Signal does not store this data. Other than registering when you first installed and last accessed its platform, Signal doesn’t know anything about you or your contacts.
WhatsApp provides information on how law enforcement can request access to this metadata, saying it will ‘review, validate and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and policy’. But that it ‘does not store messages once they are delivered or transaction logs of such delivered messages’.
Protestors Don’t Trust WhatsApp!
The above mentioned issues might be the primary reason those now protesting in cities across America and around the world have been advised to skip WhatsApp and use a competing platform instead. Metadata—WhatsApp’s security weakness.
The subject of metadata will make headlines this year—for 2 different reasons.
First, protesters are increasingly taking to Signal because they don’t trust WhatsApp owner Facebook with the data around their messages. While the concern has been that this might be used commercially, the stakes are now higher.
However, the second reason is peculiar and different. Starting with Messenger, Facebook is looking at metadata as a possible defense against mandated backdoors in its encryption to flag child endangerment—adults messaging minors. For instance. Facebook has said its new protections are designed to work with encryption, this leaves plenty of open questions—such as what is known about both sides of a message exchange.
Facebook’s encrypted message metadata initiative is a response to the proposed EARN-IT bill, the greatest threat yet to unimpaired end-to-end encryption. This proposes to make the messaging platforms responsible for the content sent—if they can’t flag criminal or dangerous content, they can be punished. And that threatens the integrity of encryption. That same legislation, if passed, would impact Signal even more, forcing a rethink.
Until the recent raft of feature disclosures, WhatsApp’s primary security hole was its lack of end-to-end encrypted backups. That now seems to be getting fixed. But this metadata issue is unlikely to be fixed—at least there are no current signs. And the continued suggestion that Facebook will eventually monetize WhatsApp with some form of advertising means utilizing metadata.
Messaging encryption was under the microscope before the protests—now it’s even more so. With Facebook confirming plans to end-to-end encryption Messenger, and Google reportedly planning end-to-end encryption for the SMS replacement RCS, the details of how various systems work are likely to become much more of a focus.
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