Demystifying the WhatsApp end to end encryption story

Given the prevalence of WhatsApp as a source of private messaging throughout the world; WhatsApp currently has 1.5 billion users in 180 countries, one billion daily active WhatsApp users. WhatsApp is used by journalists and media professionals to share information, connect with sources and disseminate their work–however doubt has been cast over whether it is safe?

WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, which means that while calls, messages, documents, photos, videos, voice messages and links on the messaging app are being transmitted, it cannot be intercepted by third parties. However this does not mean that once the message is received by the key holder it is decrypted and thus can be hacked into, screenshotted and recorded on the receiving devices.

If the contents of your WhatsApp chats are backed up on a cloud, like iCloud or Google Drive, those contents are not secured through encryption.

In 2019, WhatsApp accounts of 1,400 users around the world were hacked into through spyware injected into users’ phones through the app’s phone call function.

Furthermore, WhatsApp is not open-source. Given that the application was acquired by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp’s code is only available to Facebook and not the public. This means that we are not entirely sure if there are any ‘back-doors’ in application. While Facebook claims that there are none, it is not a verifiable guarantee.