People send literally millions of messages each month through popular services such as WhatsApp. They do so while thinking their messages are safe from the gaze of unwanted reader. While that is usually true thanks to message encrypting, a recent vulnerability discovered in WhatsApp’s message encryption makes it so texts could potentially be intercepted and read by others against your will. This discovery comes from the University of California-Berkeley, where a cryptography researcher observed the issue.
He communicated the problem to Facebook, which is the owner behind WhatsApp. Facebook however has responded after a while with a baffling statement, saying that they were aware of the issue but aren’t working on solving it. While the issue is not a secret anymore, it still persists as reported even by the media, specifically the Guardian newspaper.
Speaking about the newspaper, it has been the subject of some backlash after its statements about the WhatsApp vulnerability. Although they were correct, they went as far as to call it a backdoor, which didn’t go well with some security researchers. This term being used to describe WhatsApp’s vulnerability wasn’t condoned by WhatsApp either, as a representative claimed it wasn’t true.
Many of you might also be wondering how this vulnerability works. The process behind it can be boiled down to this: Messages that are sent from one WhatsApp user to another are usually encrypted. However, due to this encryption vulnerability, if that message isn’t delivered someone can intercept it and use an encryption key to unlock and read the message.
There’s also a catch to this that supposedly WhatsApp devised. Both the company’s statements and other information uncovered by researchers’ points towards a deliberate “vulnerability” in WhatsApp’s design. This structuring will allegedly help users keep their data and not lose “millions” of messages.
More should be clarified in days to come, but for the moment it looks like Facebook and WhatsApp have no intention in “fixing” the issue that has led many WhatsApp users to being displeased with the service. While there’s no imminent threat that could benefit from this, you never know when one such threat can emerge and give you a headache you don’t need.
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