WhatsApp today announced it is turning on end-to-end encryption to make it virtually impossible to eavesdrop on your communications.
Starting today, all text messages, photo and video attachments, documents, voice messages and VoIP calls are protected with full end-to-end encryption, developed in collaboration with Open Whisper Systems.
Similar to Apple’s iMessage and some other instant messaging platforms such as Telegram, end-to-end encryption makes the contents of WhatsApp chats unreadable to third-parties. And with the encryption keys stored on a user’s device, they cannot decrypt chats if served a valid government request.
After it started experimenting with end-to-end encryption a year and a half ago, this feature is now available across all mobile platforms for which WhatsApp offers apps.
“From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file and voice message you send is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats,” said WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who grew up in Russia during communist rule.
“The fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States,” he added.
If you’re using WhatsApp 2.16.1, the latest version available, you don’t have to do anything: end-to-end encryption is on by default and all the time. Both you and the people you message must use the latest versions of WhatsApp for encryption to work. Simply look for the lock indicator icon in contact info or group info to confirm that the calls you make and messages you send are end-to-end encrypted.
“Only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them,” explained the firm. For added protection, every message you send has its own unique lock and key. WhatsApp doesn’t store your messages on its servers once they’re delivered, which means neither them nor third parties can read them.
“All you need to know is that end-to-end encrypted messages can only be read by the recipients you intend,” said the Facebook-owned firm.
The company provides additional information about end-to-end encryption employed to protect your communications through a webpage at www.whatsapp.com/security.
“Recently there has been a lot of discussion about encrypted services and the work of law enforcement,” said WhatsApp, which has more than a billion active users.
“While we recognize the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people’s information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers and rogue states.”