Most mainstream messaging apps barely have any encryption at all, making users’ messages vulnerable to hackers, surveillance programs like the NSA, and other threats. WhatsApp is one of the first messaging services to take a stand. The company quietly rolled out an update to its Android app that features end-to-end encryption, the Verge reports. WhatsApp partnered with Open Whisper Systems to ensure that its users’ messages and personal info are as safe as can be.
Now that WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption, the company is unable to decrypt and pore over users’ messages, even if law enforcement demands to see them. The only two people in the entire world who will be able to see your WhatsApp messages, are the person with whom you are conversing, and others who have access to your phone. WhatsApp took a page out of TextSecure’s book and reworked the code developed by Open Whisper Systems to cover its millions of users.
It’s a huge step forward for WhatsApp and the company’s decision to add encryption could very well inspire others to follow suit. Although a handful of other messaging apps, such as Cryptocat, Silent Text, and Telegram offer end-to-end encryption, too, most of them have small user bases. WhatsApp has 600 million users, making it one of the most popular messaging apps around. Of course, WhatsApp users on iOS don’t get the full benefit of encryption — yet. WhatsApp didn’t reveal a timetable for the release of end-to-end encryption for iOS.
News of WhatsApp’s move toward full encryption comes hot of the heels of a recent report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), ProPublica, and the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy, which tested the most popular messaging apps and found the vast majority of them offer users little to no protection. The larger the apps, the worse the security, as Google Hangouts, BlackBerry Messenger, and Snapchat had some of the lowest scores. WhatsApp also scored poorly in the test, but it should fare better after this update.