WhatsApp Enables End-to-End Encryption for Backup Messages

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WhatsApp announced on Friday that it would add an end-to-end encryption option to users’ backup messages. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement with a Facebook post, saying the end-to-end encryption option will store your backup messages in either Google Drive or iCloud. 

WhatsApp logo

Getty Images/Chesnot

"WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook post.

A whitepaper detailing the new feature published on Friday notes that WhatsApp users will have to save a 64-digit encryption key or make a password when saving their encrypted backup messages. In addition, end-to-end encrypted backups will only be supported on a user’s device. 

"Once the end-to-end encrypted backups feature is enabled in the WhatsApp application, the client uses a built-in cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator to generate a unique encryption key K," the whitepaper details. "The cryptographic strength of K in terms of length is 256 bits, i.e., 32 bytes. That key K is only known to the client and is never transmitted outside of the client unencrypted."

Group calls with end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp


The Verge notes that WhatsApp’s announcement puts its encryption capabilities ahead of Apple's. While Apple has end-to-end encryption of its iMessages, it does not encrypt backup messages, even though it initially had plans to do so. 

Aside from encrypting your backup messages, WhatsApp also is developing a way to hide your active status from specific contacts. These would be new privacy tools that give you more control over who sees your status; you can choose "Everyone," "Nobody," "My Contacts," and now, "My Contacts Except" for your Last Seen.

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