Last Updated on September 10, 2021 by Calvin C.
WhatsApp CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media giant, Facebook, has completed building end-to-end encrypted cloud backups.
When the feature is live, your WhatsApp chats will be secured even whey they are backups on Apple iCloud or Google Drive. This is a project developed by Facebook from the ground up to enhance privacy and security for its users.
This means the days of storing unencrypted chat backups are coming to an end with this new upgrade.
In the face of increased privacy awareness by users, tech companies are taking strides to address any potential gaps in their products. A good example is Apple, which is releasing iOS 15 soon, packed with game-changing privacy features.
End-to-end encryption has been available on WhatsApp since 2016, but it was limited to the chat platform, so this development is a step in the right direction.
Law enforcement agencies are known to tap into unencrypted chat backups in-order to nab suspected criminals. In addition, the chats can also be accessed by interested parties with malicious intentions.
On the flip side, concerns have been raised by authorities because criminal activities on messaging platforms go unnoticed as chats are encrypted.
As a privacy advocate, I applaud WhatsApp because everyone has a right to privacy and this is a loose end that had to be tied.
Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook:
“We’re adding another layer of privacy and security to WhatsApp: an end-to-end encryption option for the backups people choose to store in Google Drive or iCloud. 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.”
The feature will be optional on both Android and iOS, so users have to manually enable it on their devices.
How it works
There are two ways to encrypt the chat backups on Google Drive or iCloud.
Facebook shared details with TechCrunch on how this works:
“In the “coming weeks,” users on WhatsApp will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to lock their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known by WhatsApp. “
One thing to note is that when you create a new backup, previous copies are automatically deleted.
Facebook published a security whitepaper with all the details about end-to-end encrypted backups and you can access it here.
Possible resistance by authorities
As I highlighted in a previous article, law enforcement agencies frown at the idea of increased privacy for users on messaging platforms.
Rolling out a feature like end-to-end chat backups completely seals off a user from interested parties as there is no “backdoor” to hack into chats.
This means the next coming months may be interesting so subscribe to our newsletter because we never miss the latest cybersecurity news.
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