WhatsApp is the most used instant messaging apps with a bunch of great, easy-to-use features. While we will explore some of these features, here we focus on the security of WhatsApp. We will go through different security and privacy measures of WhatsApp and compare the security of WhatsApp with the security of other widely used instant messaging apps including Signal, Telegram, Line, and Viber.
WhatsApp has been around since 2009. The WhatsApp instant messaging app was developed by WhatsApp LLC. At the time, WhatsApp was only intended to iOS users while today, the app can be downloaded to iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS devices. As previously mentioned, WhatsApp provides its users with a bunch of different functionalities including voice and video calling, text messaging, file sharing, and much more.
The users can also send self-destruct or disappearing messages, share their location, and send a bunch of different stickers. WhatsApp users can create text messages in group chats so the app makes it rather easy to connect with different people sharing similar interests. Now, moving to the security of WhatsApp. The main question is whether WhatsApp protects private, sensitive data the right way.
Security of WhatsApp – Is WhatsApp Secure and Safe?
If you are one of the millions of WhatsApp users, you have probably heard numerous stories regarding the security of WhatsApp. Many of these stories are alarming as they suggest that WhatsApp steals personal information shared by its users. Many of these stories also suggest that WhatsApp shares data with its owner Facebook Inc. Needless to say, these stories about WhatsApp sharing data with Facebook have prompted a major backlash and many WhatsApp users decided to turn to its alternatives.
Even though there is some truth to these stories, the security of WhatsApp is no less fragile than the security of other popular instant messaging options or WhatsApp rivals. The most sensitive and private data you share on WhatsApp including all of your text messages remain one hundred percent private to you and the intended recipients of those messages. More specifically, your WhatsApp messages are always end-to-end encrypted.
End-to-end encryption is the most advanced technology of this kind. When an instant messaging platform uses end-to-end encryption technology, only the communicating parties can access and read private messages. Powerful as it is, end-to-end encryption technology prevents any potential intruders and third parties such as your internet provider, telecom provider, and cybercriminals from being able to get ahold of the cryptographic keys that are required in order to decrypt end-to-end encrypted messages.
This means that the security of WhatsApp is not concerning. With end-to-end encryption technology in place, text messages you send via WhatsApp cannot be read, accessed, or modified by anyone other than you, the sender, and the intended recipient. When messages are end-to-end encrypted, third parties do not have any option or tool required to decrypt such messages. Only the intended recipient or recipients of such messages have the cryptographic keys required to access and retrieve the data that has been encrypted and decrypt it successfully.
WhatsApp and End-to-End Encryption
To protect your and every other user’s private information, WhatsApp employed the best end-to-end encryption technology in its app. In addition to end-to-end encrypting your text messages, WhatsApp also end-to-end encrypts your voice messages, videos, images, status updates, documents and files you share using the app. As mentioned on the official website in the security of WhatsApp section, end-to-end encryption employed ensures that only the sender and the intended recipient of WhatsApp messages can access, read, or listen to what has been sent.
This means that no third parties or nobody in between including WhatsApp cannot intercept, access, and go through those private messages. With the most advanced end-to-end encryption technology in place, all WhatsApp messages are one hundred percent secured with a key or lock, and only the sender and the intended recipient have the lock required to decrypt, unlock, and go through encrypted messages. The process of encryption occurs automatically, so WhatsApp users do not have to do anything as everything is already done for them.
Security of WhatsApp – Which Encryption Algorithm is Used?
When discussing the security of WhatsApp, we have to take a look at its encryption algorithm. As mentioned on the official WhatsApp website, WhatsApp relies on an open-source E2E Signal Protocol that was crafted by Open Whisper Systems and this is the same company that owns and operates the Signal instant messaging app. Signal E2E encryption protocol uses:
Triple Diffie Hellman also known as Triple Diffie Hellman Handshake provides mutual authentication of all the parties and established a secret key that is shared between all of the communicating parties. Double Ratchet encryption algorithms as suggested rely on two cryptographic Ratchets that derive new cryptographic keys always derived from the cryptographic keys currently used. The Ratchets used are Hashing and Diffie Hellman ratchet.
When a Diffie Hellman ratchet moves, a cryptographic secret is formed between the sender and the intended recipient. The secret is then used to form a chain and root key. Once the two new keys are formed, Hashing ratchet moves by relying on the chain key to generate a new message key which encrypts a message that is about to be sent. A chain key is used for the following ratchet movement.
AES or Advanced Encryption Standard is a symmetric encryption technology that is today used by the Government of the United States to protect all of the highly classified data. Advanced Encryption Standard is also used by numerous hardware and software across the globe to encrypt private, confidential data. AES relies on three ciphers AES-256 used in WhatsApp, AES-192, and AES-128.AES-256 encryption that enhances the security of WhatsApp uses a 256-bit key used to both encrypt and decrypt messages.
Curve25519 is part of the previously mentioned Diffie Hellman Key Exchange algorithm while HMAC SHA256 is keyed cryptography with has functions. Unlike other has functions, in HMAC SHA256, keyed hash functions need knowledge of the secret key. With such a powerful end-to-end encryption technology including AES-256 encryption combined with Curve25519, HMAC SHA256, Triple Diffie Hellman, and Double Ratchet Algorithm, the security of WhatsApp and the technology behind that is unbreakable, should not be questioned.