WhatsApp is starting to roll out a new feature that will give its two billion users the option to encrypt their chat history backups in iCloud or Google Drive, plugging a major loophole that is used by governments for private communications between individuals. received and reviewed.
WhatsApp has long encrypted chats between users on its app. But users had no way to keep backups of those chats stored in the cloud. (For iPhone users, chat history is stored in iCloud, and Android users rely on Google Drive.)
this is done widely reported That law enforcement agencies around the world have been able to take advantage of this loophole to access private communications between suspicious individuals on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp, which processes more than 100 billion messages a day, is closing that weak link, and tells Nerdshala that it is offering this new feature to users in every market where the app is operational. The feature is optional, the company said. (It is not uncommon for companies to withhold privacy features for legal and regulatory reasons. Apple’s new encrypted browsing feature is not available to users in some authoritarian regimes, such as China, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.)
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp is the first global messaging service of this scale to provide end-to-end encrypted messaging and backup. “Proud to have the team continue to lead the security for your private conversations,” he wrote In a post on his Facebook page.
WhatsApp started testing the feature last month with a small group of users. The company devised a system to enable WhatsApp users on Android and iOS to lock their chat backups with an encryption key. WhatsApp says it will offer users two ways to encrypt their cloud backups.
On WhatsApp, users will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to protect their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” developed by WhatsApp. The cloud-stored encryption key cannot be used without the user’s password, which is not known to WhatsApp.
“The end-to-end encrypted messages you send and receive are stored on your device, but many people also want a way to back up their chats in case they lose their phone,” the company wrote in a blog post. Huh.”
As we wrote last month, the move to introduce this additional layer of privacy is significant and could have far-reaching implications.
End-to-end encryption remains a thorny topic of discussion as governments around the world continue to lobby for the backdoor. Apple was pressured not to add encryption to iCloud backups after the FBI complained, according to Reuters, and while Google has offered users the ability to encrypt their data stored in Google Drive, the company reportedly didn’t tell governments before rolling out the feature.
India, WhatsApp’s largest market by users, has introduced a new law that requires the company to devise a way to make possible the “traceability” of suspicious messages. WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over this new mandate, saying such a requirement effectively mandates “a new form of mass surveillance”.
The UK government – which isn’t exactly a fan of encryption – recently asked messaging apps not to use end-to-end encryption for kids’ accounts. Elsewhere in the world, Australia controversial law passed It was designed three years ago to force tech companies to provide access to encrypted chats to police and security agencies.
WhatsApp declined to discuss whether it has consulted lawmakers or government agencies about the new feature.
Privacy-focused organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation have applauded WhatsApp’s move.
“This privacy win from Facebook-owned WhatsApp is striking in contrast to Apple, which recently came under fire for its plans of on-device scanning of photos that minors send over messages, as well as every photo that Any Apple user uploads to iCloud. While Apple has paused to consider more backlash on its plans, there’s still no indication they’ll include fixing one of its longstanding privacy pitfalls : There is no effective encryption in iCloud backup. the organization wrote.
“WhatsApp is raising the bar, and Apple and others should follow suit.”