Many governments are having sleepless nights over the end-to-end encryption technology employed by WhatsApp in keeping its more than a billion users’ conversations private and secure.
The tech giant, which is now owned by Facebook, started using end-to-end encryption in early 2016, a technology that ensures no third party, including the company itself, can access any of the conversations that you have with your friend (s) on the app. This technology works for both individual and group chats held on WhatsApp.
When you are enjoying a conversation on WhatsApp, it’s only you and the recipient that can see the actual message. Anyone who comes in-between you and the recipient will not be able to see the message as it is, instead, it appears as a combination of characters that have no meaning to the intruder. The decryption key lives on the two devices involved in the conversation, which means that in order for a third party to see what you are actually talking about, they need to gain access to these devices, which requires your personal permission.
According to the UK, WhatsApp is a place where terror gangs have found safety in communicating their extremist activities. Since they know that no one can come in the middle of the chats and intercept, they freely exchange messages over the platform without fear. This, in fact, is what many governments are afraid of and as such, they have been pushing for a way to counter this end-to-end encryption technology used by the company.
It gets even more interesting as this technology does not just apply to messages sent over WhatsApp, but also calls made using the same platform. This means that regardless of how smart a hacker, cybercriminal or oppressive regimes get in trying to access your communications on the app, they won’t succeed in doing it without your help.
Governments are known for snooping or rather monitoring their citizens’ conversations in the name of identifying and neutralizing early security threats. With WhatsApp communications scrambled and requiring only the conversation’s participants to decrypt them, these governments are getting more and more nervous.
Unlike in the past where security agencies would simply get a warranty and immediately start listening to phone calls made by people, such tactics no longer work in the case of WhatsApp. This is because even if the agencies have these warranties, the company itself won’t have much to do in order to help them. As noted, it’s only the sender and recipient of the said messages that can help – if they are willing to.
Once messages are delivered to their intended recipients, you won’t find them on WhatsApp servers. The company says that these messages are deleted immediately the intended recipient gets them, something that further complicates the government’s attempts to snoop on these conversations.
Of course, WhatsApp is not the only messaging app that offers encryption services as a way of ensuring users’ data privacy. However, the company notes that while a host of other apps do so, they only encrypt these messages between you and them. As for the Facebook-owned app, the messages are encrypted between the sender and recipient.
As a way of dealing with this, governments are ganging up to attack technology companies and demand that they create backdoors to allow them access the messages people share on the app in case of any suspicions. Still, these companies, including WhatsApp, are adamant that such an arrangement would defeat the meaning of having end-to-end encryption. Apparently, tech giants believe that having backdoors will be the beginning of more trouble as not only would governments access these communications, but also cybercriminals.
These companies, which include the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and many others, argue that creating a backdoor will open the door for these criminals to attack millions of other innocent people.
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