How safe is WhatsApp messaging? With its parent company Facebookfinding itself on the receiving end of data breaches and other fairly insidious allegations, it's reasonable to ask whether WhatsApp secure messaging is actually secure and private.
WhatsApp was founded in 2009, and purchased by Facebook in 2014. And since then, Facebook has been keen to capture as much user data as it can from the messaging app. But just how does this impact the security of WhatsApp?
How Safe Is WhatsApp Messaging?
In overall terms, WhatsApp is very secure. It uses a process called end-to-end encryption. As their own security page states:
When end-to-end encrypted, your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands
In summary, end-to-end encryption means only the person sending the message, and the person receiving the message can read it. Additionally, your device stores your data, rather than on a WhatsApp server. Unless you choose to automatically back it up. This can reduce the information held remotely, which might be vulnerable were those servers to be compromised.
End-to-end decryption is available automatically on WhatsApp. And it applies to messages, images, and calls as well. But given its links to Facebook, how secure and private is WhatsApp?
Is WhatsApp Secure And Private?
In comparison to many other messaging services, WhatsApp is still extremely secure. Discord, for example, another popular chat service, does not use end-to-end encryption. Snapchat, as another popular WhatsApp rival, stores much of your data on its servers. Overall, WhatsApp is about as private and secure as it gets in terms of popular messaging apps.
But, there's always a but. Even though WhatsApp is encrypted, you still have to permit them to access your contacts when creating an account. So there is a small risk to your personal data in that respect. And WhatsApp has been previously targeted by hackers. In 2019 hackers used spyware named Pegasus to infect people's phones, and were able to gain access to everything on that handset. While these hacks are mercifully infrequent, it is a risk you always need to be mindful of.
The Facebook Question
We can't finish without dealing with the elephant in the room, ridden by Mark Zuckerberg. Nick Clegg is walking behind, cleaning up the mess. Facebook has been trying repeatedly to gain access to more of the Metadata from WhatsApp. That data is hugely valuable to Facebook, as it can then monetise it by selling it to businesses.
While they won't have access to your messages and photos, they will still be able to use the data to build up a profile, that can then be used to try to sell you things. They explain this in detail in a blog post. So while this isn't necessarily undermining your privacy, it's a personal judgment about your feelings towards Facebook using your data for profit.
Ultimately, WhatsApp is safe for most people to use with confidence. But nothing online is completely impenetrable. There will always be an element of risk, and there are always malicious actors who want to steal your information. As always, being sensible and cautious will always help.