WhatsApp messages stored in the iOS and Android cloud will now be encrypted, just like when we send them to other people.
WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption by default for sending messages; this implies that only the participants of the conversation can read its content. Despite all the controversies over its relationship with Facebook, WhatsApp has maintained this function as its greatest commitment to privacy.
Now, the company takes a step further, one that other instant messaging applications have not yet taken: the encryption of messages saved in the cloud. Since each chat is encrypted with a unique key, if we simply made a backup, then we could not recover our messages on another mobile, since we would not have that key stored. This means that storing chats in the cloud can be an attack vector if someone wants to read our messages.
Today WhatsApp has presented its solution, which it will implement on iOS and Android over the next few weeks. It consists of backup copies encrypted with a 64-digit key, generated from a password that we put; WhatsApp messages stored in iCloud or Google Drive will be encrypted with that key that each user will generate separately.
Therefore, to retrieve our messages we will only have to enter that password; so it is important not to forget it, and at the same time create a safe one that is not easy to find out. In this way, neither WhatsApp, nor Apple nor Google will be able to read the stored messages, nor will anyone who has access to our account.
The encryption key will be stored by Facebook in a physical module, but it can only be obtained with the correct password; In addition, the data will be erased automatically if there are several unsuccessful attempts to enter the password. It is somewhat similar to the physical USB keys that some companies and professionals use to protect the most important data.
This announcement comes at a time when WhatsApp needs to improve its public image because of its association with Facebook. An investigation was published this week that accused Facebook of weakening WhatsApp’s protection , but it appeared to be a misunderstanding due to the way the reporting system works, and messages are not decrypted by WhatsApp.
WhatsApp also expects to receive criticism for this launch, but from some governments, which in recent years have pushed for the implementation of ‘back doors’ in encryption, which allow access to messages in the name of national security and in the fight against The terrorism.