End-to-End Encryption In Whatsapp
Chat Messages sent on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, the company announced today, completing an integration that has lasted for nearly a year and a half. The company began rolling out encrypting text messages in November 2014, as part of a partnership with Open Whisper Systems, but those protections now extend to voice calls, video, and multi-party chat rooms, for users on both iOS and Android.
WhatsApp, a global online messaging service with 1 billion users owned by Facebook, has added end-to-end encryption to its platform, meaning that even employees cannot read mesages sent through the app. All text messages, phone calls, videos and images sent on the service which is used by people worldwide, will be encrypted. “Building secure products actually makes for a safer world, (though) many people in law enforcement may not agree with that,” founder Brian Acton said, defending the decision. This comes shortly after a fight between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted iPhone belonging to San Bernadino shooter Syed Farook.
This means that if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moving among them. And that’s true on any phone that runs the app, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows phones to old school Nokia flip phones. With end-to-end encryption in place, not even WhatsApp’s employees can read the data that’s sent across its network. In other words, WhatsApp has no way of complying with a court order demanding access to the content of any message, phone call, photo, or video traveling through its service. Like Apple, WhatsApp is, in practice, stonewalling the federal government, but it’s doing so on a larger front—one that spans roughly a billion devices.
“Building secure products actually makes for a safer world, (though) many people in law enforcement may not agree with that,” says Acton, who was employee number forty-four at Internet giant Yahoo before co-founding WhatsApp in 2009 alongside Koum, one of his old Yahoo colleagues. With encryption, Acton explains, anyone can conduct business or talk to a doctor without worrying about eavesdroppers. With encryption, he says, you can even be a whistleblower—and not worry.
With Open Whisper’s technology, WhatsApp won’t be able to read its customers’ messages under any circumstances, a feature known as “end-to-end” encryption. That will make it more difficult for anyone—including criminals, intelligence agencies and law enforcement—to read WhatsApp messages without permission, said Moxie Marlinspike, founder of Open Whisper Systems.
“End-to-end encryption ensures that the messages you send can only be read by their intended recipients,” he said.
The encryption technology will be turned on by default, so WhatsApp users won’t have to change any settings to enable it, Mr. Marlinspike said.
Apple offers end-to-end encryption for its iMessage and FaceTime messaging services.