Facebook’s WhatsApp expands encryption

Facebook-owned WhatsApp said Tuesday that it was encrypting every call, message, photo, video, file and voicemail on the messaging service in a move to beef up security.

The “end-to-end encryption” will happen automatically for those who download the latest version of the app. The tech firm, which has 1 billion users, said on its website that every WhatsApp messages is secured by a unique lock and key that only the user and recipient of the message can open.

“People deserve security. It makes it possible for us to connect with our loved ones. It gives us the confidence to speak our minds,” wrote WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum in a post on Facebook.  “It allows us to communicate sensitive information with colleagues, friends, and others. We’re glad to do our part in keeping people’s information out of the hands of hackers and cyber-criminals.”

In 2014, WhatsApp said it was encrypting text messages, but the security feature didn’t apply to group messages, photos or videos.

Encryption, privacy and security have become hot topics in Silicon Valley since February after a federal magistrate judge in Los Angeles ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack that killed 14 people and injured 22. In March, the FBI said that it successfully cracked into the phone without the help of the tech firm, which opposed the order because of security concerns.

“Recently there has been a lot of discussion about encrypted services and the work of law enforcement,” Koum and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton said in a blog post.  “While we recognize the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people’s information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers, and rogue states.”

As columnist Troy Wolverton noted, some security experts say Apple needs to rethink security in the wake of the FBI dispute.

Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion.

Photo Credit: MCT archives


Tags: , , ,


Share this Post

  • tjwolf

    I think you’re doing your readers a disservice by mentioning that the government “cracked” an iPhone – but neglecting to also mention that Apple’s iMessage service has had end-to-end encryption since its inception in 2011 – and that wasn’t “cracked” by the federal government.

    To be clear: nobody except the recipient can read iMessages….the caveat is that you can’t store the conversation history in iCloud. If it’s there, I think Apple has access or can at least crack it.

    • sharpe123

      Jobs really liked his privacy. And he used encryption to prevent the theft of intellectual property.

  • sharpe123

    Whats their response if the UK bans encryption?