How does WhatsApp end-to-end encryption work?

 WhatsApp encrypting
WhatsApp encrypting

 WhatsApp encrypting messages
‘end-to-end’ is a big deal because it means that the company itself has decided
to run a system in which even it cannot intercept and read messages sent on its
own platform. 

 

When you send a message, it can only
be ‘unlocked’ by the intended recipient, thanks to a very complex code that
took WhatsApp several years to develop. It’s no mean feat to achieve,
particularly given that 1 billion people use the service. 

 

This differs to many messaging apps,
which only encrypt messages between you and them. This means that your messages
are stored on the services servers, usually not permanently, so hypothetically
could be accessed and read.

 

Why has WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption? 

Now that WhatsApp has end-to-end
encryption, it means that they and no party – governments, police, hackers,
other users – can intercept and read your messages.

WhatsApp has done this because as a
company they believe in your right to have private conversations when you use
their service. 

 

Why is end-to-end encryption important? 

The reason the decision is getting a
lot of attention is because of high profile cases in which communications
service providers like Facebook are put upon by authorities to release
sensitive personal data.

A high profile case is the FBI
asking Apple to unlock an iPhone 5C that was used by one of the San Bernardino
shooters, a move which Apple refused, underlining the integral values many large
communications companies hold when it comes to personal data, security and
encryption.

 

 WhatsApp encrypting
WhatsApp encrypting

Does
every app have end-to-end encryption?

The short answer is no – but also
this is not something to be alarmed about.

WhatsApp’s decision is one of the
first of its kind, and is particularly interesting because traditionally
smartphone messaging services have played down the importance of security.

Facebook Messenger only encrypts
messages between your device and their servers. This means, by law, Facebook
could be obliged to divulge private messages. The same applies to Instagram,
which Facebook owns, though interestingly, it also owns WhatsApp.

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