WhatsApp turns on end-to-end encryption

Messages sent with the popular app may be much harder for law enforcement to access now

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has strengthened the encryption of its widely used instant messaging app, a development that in theory makes it harder for law enforcement to gain access to communications.

WhatsApp's founders said Tuesday that the application now implements end-to-end encryption, which means only authorized users can decrypt messages.

"The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to," Jan Koum and Brian Acton wrote in a blog post. "No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us."

The move by WhatsApp comes after fierce debate over the increasing use of encryption and how it affects law enforcement investigations. WhatsApp said in February it had 1 billion users.

In February, a federal magistrate judge ordered Apple to create a special version of its mobile operating system that would help the FBI get into a phone used by one of the San Bernardino mass shooters. Apple objected, setting off a widespread debate.

The order was vacated after the FBI said it had found a way to unlock the phone with the help of a third party. But there are several similar cases outstanding.

Devices using WhatsApp hold the encryption and decryption keys to messages sent over the service. That means law enforcement could not go to WhatsApp or another service provider to obtain the keys.

Alternatively, law enforcement could get access to WhatsApp messages if a suspect divulged their phone's passcode or the passcode could be obtained another way.

It is also possible that a software vulnerability in the app could allow law enforcement access. Experts believe that may have been how the FBI unlocked the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone.

WhatsApp's encryption uses an open-source protocol called Signal, which is also used in an encrypted messaging app of the same name, according to a technical white paper published on Tuesday. Signal was developed by Open Whisper Systems.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags appsWhatsApp

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?