Whatsapp: End-to-end encryption feature

Lynn Prins

Whatsapp, one of the most popular online communication services announced their new feature, end-to-end encryption.

This was announced recently and promises to keep all users messages secured who have upgraded to the latest version.

The service promises to encrypt any phone that runs the app, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows’ phones even the old school Nokia flip phones messages would be encrypted.

“We are proud to announce that we’ve completed a technological development that makes Whatsapp a leader in your private communication: full end-to-end encryption”, said Whatsapp.

According to Whatsapp the project has been in progress for two years in partnership with a high-minded coder and cryptographer who goes by the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, who runs an open source software project called Open Whisper System.

So what does this new feature end-to-end encryption mean?

The new feature end-to-end encryption means that engineers at the Facebook-owned chat app wouldn’t be able to read messages or watch video calls sent by its users even if ordered to do so by a court.

With end-to-end encryption not even the FBI or any law agencies along with cyber criminals, hackers, and oppressive regimes,  would be able to retrieve messages.

This is because the messages being exchanged are encrypted both ways.

“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,” according to an explanation on the app’s website.

Here’s how you know your messages are encrypted:

A text bubble will now appear at the top of every new chat confirming that messages and calls are now end-to-end encrypted.

This will only apply if everyone participating in that conversation has the latest version of the app.

Users can also manually verify that a chat is encrypted by scanning a unique QR code or comparing a 60-digit string of numbers that is generated for each chat.

The latest version of WhatsApp on iOS was available on April 1, while the latest Android version was available on March 29.

In 2014, WhatsApp encrypted a portion of its network and in the months since, its service has apparently been used to facilitate criminal acts, including the terrorist attacks on Paris last year.

The reason this works is somewhat complicated, but for those who are interested in the process, WhatsApp has released a whitepaper detailing the process.

The project is an important one as it shows WhatsApps commitment to users’ security and privacy.

“We live in a world where more of our data is digitised than ever before. Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen. And if nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come,” added Whatsapp.

“End-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities … [it is] is one of the most important tools governments, companies, and individuals have to promote safety and security in the new digital age. WhatsApp is among the few communication platforms to build full end-to-end encryption that is on by default for everything you do, but we expect that it will ultimately represent the future of personal communication.”

Users can now chat freely without having to worry about messages being hacked.

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