After Facebook-owned WhatsApp rolled out end-to-end encryption, the popular messaging platform ensured users that their chats are secured from any unwanted third-party attention. In fact, WhatsApp joined the league of very few chat apps that offer complete end-to-end encryption. However, a new revelation by security expert has again put a question mark on WhatsApp privacy.Apple’s iOS security expert Jonathan Zdziarski has claimed that the chats on WhatsApp are never removed even after users have hit the delete button. “The latest version of the app tested leaves forensic trace of all of your chats, even after you’ve deleted, cleared, or archived them… even if you ‘Clear All Chats’, he said in a post.Zdziarski suggests that the only way to completely remove all traces of chats is to remove the WhatsApp entirely from the phone.”To test, I installed the app and started a few different threads. I then archived some, cleared, some, and deleted some threads. I made a second backup after running the “Clear All Chats” function in WhatsApp. None of these deletion or archival options made any difference in how deleted records were preserved. In all cases, the deleted SQLite records remained intact in the database,” he explained.If you are thinking that WhatsApp does this purposely then you are wrong. “Just to be clear, WhatsApp is deleting the record (they don’t appear to be trying to intentionally preserve data),” he saidThe expert highlighted that WhatsApp leaves a trail of forensic trace which can be recovered and is a common problem among any application that uses SQLite.”This is because SQLite by default does not vacuum databases on iOS (likely in an effort to prevent wear). When a record is deleted, it is simply added to a “free list”, but free records do not get overwritten until later on when the database needs the extra storage (usually after many more records are created),” he added.The issue seems to affect the iOS app only. There is no reason to panic over this issue. “But you should be aware of WhatsApp’s footprint,” he mentioned.
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