With the rise of online communication and the Covid-19 pandemic forcing companies to operate remotely, messaging apps like WhatsApp have become increasingly popular for business purposes.
The convenience of being able to communicate quickly and easily from anywhere in the world is unprecedented.
However, the question of how secure these apps are when it comes to personal data cannot be overlooked. Is WhatsApp safe? Here’s what you need to know.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular communication apps, with over 2 billion active users worldwide sending over 65 billion messages a day! It has become a critical tool for people of all ages to communicate.
It’s no surprise that the platform is frequently faced with malware threats, and spam. So the question is how secure is WhatsApp when it comes to personal data?
WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to ensure that your messages and calls cannot be intercepted by a third party. This means that only the sender and receiver of the message can see or hear the content of the message or call.
WhatsApp uses Signal Protocol, which is considered to be one of the most secure encryption protocols available. WhatsApp itself cannot read the contents of your messages or calls.
However, it’s also owned by Meta (formerly Facebook) – a company which has historically monetised personal information (principally for advertising).
It’s also worth noting that businesses often allow their employees to use WhatsApp on unmanaged devices without endpoint protection – and the platform has been the victim to malicious malware attacks in the past.
Hoaxes and Fake News
Phishing and social media attacks can come from anywhere and convince users to provide their sensitive data in exchange for something they think benefits them.
Email, chat and social media scams have increased eight-fold since the war between Russian and the Ukraine began.
To prevent wide-scale scams, WhatsApp has implemented a few changes – like limiting the number of text forwards to five recipients rather than the previous limit of 250.
Storage of User Data
WhatsApp stores user data on their servers, which are located in several countries worldwide.
WhatsApp says it takes various measures to protect the security of their servers, such as encryption methods and firewalls. WhatsApp also claims that data is also stored in an encrypted format, so even if someone were to access the server, they would not be able to read the contents of the data.
If you’ve recently got a new phone, it’s likely that you’ll have taken advantage of the WhatsApp backup to ensure you don’t lose your chat history. This essential feature also allows you to recover accidentally deleted WhatsApp messages.
Critically, your data, including chat and voice calls, are only secure and encrypted within the WhatsApp chat ecosystem.
By default, this backup is not encrypted. If your backup on iCloud or Google Drive is hacked, your WhatsApp data is vulnerable. There is a solution, though. You can encrypt your backups by going to Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > End-to-end Encrypted Backup and select Turn On to secure your WhatsApp backups. You’ll need to create a password to protect your backups.
However, remember that you won’t be able to access your backups if you forget the password—WhatsApp can’t restore it for you.
Consent and Control over Personal Data
WhatsApp gives users some control over their personal data through various settings. For example, users can decide whether they want to share their information with Facebook, which owns WhatsApp.
Users can choose to enable two-step verification for added security.
WhatsApp also requires the user’s explicit consent before collecting and processing any personal data – but be honest, do you read the small print when faced with the terms and conditions and cookie collection notices on site and app that you use?
Although WhatsApp makes small incremental changes to protect its users, it will never be completely ‘safe’. Any social media platform has security risks, and every platform has hackers attempting to break through its security measures.
If you are concerned about data security in your business, consider using additional measures such as VPN encryption, audit logs, and access control lists.