WhatsApp announced it will allow users of the popular Facebook-owned messaging service to store end-to-end encrypted backup copies of their messages to the cloud, adding a new layer of protection from prying eyes.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new feature on Friday. A whitepaper published by WhatsApp ,, his social networking company that was bought for billions of dollars in 2014, stated that it would be available later in 2021..
WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption to secure messages exchanged by its users, effectively making that data indecipherable to anybody besides the intended recipient and sender, including the company itself.
Currently, WhatsApp can save copies of their data to third-party online storage accounts, but these messages and media aren’t protected with end-to–end encryption. However, this is expected to change in the near future.
” We’re adding an additional layer of privacy to WhatsApp : a end-to-end encryption option to protect backups that people store in Google drive or iCloud,” Mr. Zuckerberg announced via his Facebook page.
“WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems,” Mr. Zuckerberg added.
End to end encryption protects data from unauthorised third-parties by making it hard to decipher without a digital key held either by the sender, or recipient.
The WhatsApp whitepaper explained that users will soon be able create backup copies from their devices. These backup copies are encrypted with a locally generated key, and then uploaded to cloud.
” The key to encrypt the backup can be secured using a user-provided passcode. A portion of the technical documentation states that the password is not known to WhatsApp , any third parties or mobile device cloud partners.
“Because backups are encrypted using a key that is not known to Google , or Apple, the cloud provider cannot read them,” reads another excerpt.
Authorities who previously relied upon serving subpoenas for cloud providers to obtain unencrypted copies WhatsApp communications that might otherwise be impossible to access will likely be annoyed by the new feature.
One notable example is that a key figure in the federal investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S presidential election was charged of witness tampering following the government seeing his WhatsApp message.
Paul Manafort was the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. He was under house arrest in 2018 while he awaited trial for fraud charges. The government was able, however, to obtain his WhatsApp information.
In a February court filing, the U.S. Department of Justice listed several WhatsApp message that indicated that Manafort had used the service recently to contact two unidentified associates about foreign lobbying.
Although Manafort’s messages were encrypted at the end, he also stored an unencrypted copy of his data on iCloud, which the Justice Department could legally access through a court order.
Both persons contacted by Manafort WhatsApp and were able to decipher their encrypted communications. He also provided his messages, as the Justice Department explained.
” Our primary focus is to protect people’s messages,” stated Will Cathcart (head of WhatsApp .). He said, “Of course technologists will argue that giving more privacy is bad if that makes it harder for governments access that information.”
In a series of posts made from his verified account on the social media service Twitter, Mr. Cathcart stated WhatsApp‘s stance on security and acknowledged some of the conflicting views expressed by others.
” We believe that free societies require the highest security to protect their citizens. “Billions of people have sensitive digital information, such as their private messages. This information is at an increasing danger of being stolen or altered by criminals, hackers, or even hostile states,” stated Mr. Carthart.
“The main feedback that we hear is that people want WhatsApp to collect less data and provide more privacy,” he said. But we are far from reaching a consensus. Some governments are still suggesting that they can use their power to force companies to provide weaker security. This is backwards. We believe that we should require more security from companies to protect people’s sensitive information.