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WhatsApp Gets Snowden Approved Encryption

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

In a move that is likely to be appreciated by millions of its users and privacy advocates alike, WhatsApp has decided to enhance the security of messages sent through its network. The Facebook owned messaging giant, which is used by more than 600 million users around the world, has recently partnered with Open Whisper Systems to encrypt messages and calls that are routed through its servers. The new end-to-end encryption system that is being implemented by WhatsApp would guarantee that messages can now only be read by the intended parties plus it would also ensure that messages and media files sent through the messaging platform would remain safe from unauthorized surveillance and man-in-the-middle type of attacks.

Although WhatsApp is an extremely popular messaging system, its security record is far from perfect. In the very beginning, messages sent through the app were not encrypted at all which meant that anyone connected to the same network could sniff them out. Even when WhatsApp embraced encryption, the company initially used a common key to secure all the messages so it was possible for hackers to crack the encryption and access private messages of the users. Last year, security experts discovered that the company was not securing information while communicating with payment sites like PayPal and Google Wallet. Then in March’ 2014, it was revealed that it was possible for third party Android apps to access WhatsApp messages and media files stored on SD cards without the consent of the users.

Considering the checkered security history of WhatsApp, its partnership with Open Whisper Systems definitely makes sense. Open Whisper Systems is a non-profit organization which is responsible for development of security and encryption protocols. The standards and protocols developed by the company are used by many security and technology organizations throughout the world. Open Whisper Systems is also behind apps such as RedPhone and TextSecure, which were recently cited by Edward Snowden as the most secure channels available for securing phone calls and text messages.

Thanks to the company’s partnership with Open Whisper Systems, WhatsApp users can now look forward to the same level of privacy that is behind the TextSecure app. That’s because messages sent through the messaging platform would now use the same protocol (as well as the same level of encryption) that is being used by Whisper to secure its messaging apps. According to a blog post published by Whisper, the integration with WhatsApp messaging system has been in works for over six months and has even contributed to the enhancement of its security standards. The company has promised to incorporate the lessons learned through the WhatsApp integration in its future design and development decisions.

WhatsApp has already rolled out its enhanced privacy system for the Android platform. Android users can now protect their private messages simply by downloading the latest version of the app. And since the new encryption system is enabled by default, users don’t have to configure anything or modify any settings. The company is also planning to launch the system for other platforms in the near future so you can experience enhanced security regardless of your device or OS.

December 25, 2014

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