After the recent Apple-FBI battle over unlocking a secure iPhone for a crime/terrorism investigation, WhatsApp enabled their end-to-end security, which involves 256-bit key encryption, for all its users. Using this encryption layer, WhatsApp claims that no one, including their own servers, can peep into the messages that are passed through it. What it means is that any messages that are sent to a contact can only be decrypted or read by the sender and his/her recipient. This encryption makes it even highly impossible for WhatsApp to handover the keys to the software’s backdoor to any investigating firm out there.
The new encryption creates a stubborn security and government firms too cannot tap into your conversations. No snooping anymore by any third party can give you a relief from privacy threats.
However, though your privacy is secure, your privacy could be at a higher risk.
Don’t get confused with the above sentence. What we mean here is that though the 256-bit end-to-end encryption will keep your messages private, it can allow spam messages and phishing links that encroach your smartphone and leak out sensitive data from your smartphone. So there goes your privacy.
Many chat apps and antivirus applications have their own spam filters. Each of the applications can screen message contents and detect if they are containing legit information, spam or malware/phishing links. If the message is detected with any of the above, it can be filtered to either report it as spam or completely block/delete it.
However, with the new encryption in place, spam filters and antivirus applications will be unable to screen messages that arrive on WhatsApp, allowing spam and/or malware and phishing website links within. If you accidentally click on the links, your smartphone could be compromised, leaking out sensitive data, putting your privacy at stake. These links could automatically download applications, execute commands in the background or connect with remote servers to send out data from your device.
So is this end-to-end encryption security by WhatsApp a boon? While in most cases it can be a great feature, but many-a-times it could be a ticking time bomb.