WhatsApp messages will now have end-to-end encryption, thanks to an upgrade made possible by encryption techniques developed by Open Whisper Systems.
WhatsApp is undertaking a security boost on Android devices with upgraded encryption which will protect the data of its over 600 million users.
With such massive popularity and user base, the messaging app is likely to be an attractive prey for hackers out to steal personal information, private photos, and videos as well as chat history. WhatsApp messages will now be encrypted at both ends of the transmission process thanks to this upgrade made possible by encryption techniques harnessed by Open Whisper Systems. Encryption of other operating systems is expected to follow shortly.
The increased security is a boon for WhatsApp in light of security concerns over its use of plain text in sending messages to its servers prior to 2012. That created the possibility of messages being intercepted and read by anyone, especially when users are surfing on a public network. WhatsApp did get around to finally encrypting its messages while en route to WhatsApp’s servers from the sender. However, those messages were not encrypted at WhatsApp’s servers which meant that they remained susceptible to an array of privacy violations from hackers, government requests or the company itself.
End-to-end encryption, on the other hand, secures a message at all points in its journey. The message is only decrypted when it arrives at its intended target and remains encrypted on WhatsApp’s servers. This collaboration is a major success for Open Whisper Systems which started as an open-source project designed to create simpler encryption benchmarks that could be used by companies to achieve more secure private messaging. Its parent company, Whisper Systems, developed similar security encryptions for text messaging and voice call apps like TextSecure, RedPhone , Signal and Flock before its purchase by Twitter in 2011.
Co-founder of Open Whisper Systems, Moxie Marlinspike, said the upgraded encryption would be turned on by default and would prevent WhatsApp from reading its users’ messages and interception of messages would require a decryption key to which WhatsApp would also have no access. He added that although messages stored on a user’s phone could still be read if it were stolen without a password on the device, the new encryption makes it prohibitively difficult for private messages to be spied on.