By Bhavya Malhotra
WhatsApp announced the most important and awaited update today on their Facebook page: end-to-end encryption. Jan Koum, CEO and founder of WhatsApp, made the update of encryption, which they had been working on over two years now, live today.
Here’s all you need to know about the latest and most talked about update from this messaging application.
What is end-to-end encryption?
Encryption traditionally means coding the messages and processes in such a way that no party other than the intended ones can have an access to them. An end-to-end encryption update by WhatsApp will enable the sender and receiver of the messages, images, calls, voice notes and documents to be the only users to have a right of access to them. No third party (in case of personal chat) will be able to reach the chats, media and calls shared by the two ends. In case of a group chat, the right to access will be restricted to all the members of the group.
How to encrypt your chat?
If you are using the latest version of the messenger, there isn’t much that you will have to protect your chats from being hacked by any third party (including WhatsApp itself). All the chats will be automatically put outside the preview of any agencies or outside-hackers using the ‘lock’ or ‘QR Code’ system. Every message in (personal and group) chat will have a unique lock and and key.
And this key will be accessible only to the sender and receiver. In case of a group chat, if a participant is using an older version of WhatsApp that does not support encryption, all the other members of the group will be able to identify the user who is restricting the encryption of the messages. All these changes and updates will occur automatically, hints the WhatsApp Blog.
The latest version of WhatsApp is available on Play Store, App Store and Windows too. As soon as you update the available version, you can see a message that says “Messages you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption. Tap more for info.” Once you click on this message you will reach a page with a unique QR code and a 60-digit code. All you need to do now is to reach you mate’s phone and scan their QR code and get yours scanned by them. And there, all your messages are safe now!
Is Encryption legal? Basically Is The Indian Government Worried Over This?
Encryption by WhatsApp would mean, no messages, media or calls could be extracted even if legal circumstances of an event demand it. This will mean more lack of transparency for legal authorities to examine cases of cyber crimes and other case that might involve the role of this application. The next question that arises in one’s mind, “ Is it legal for WhatsApp to provide this level of security?” An encryption of higher than 40-bit requires legal permits and licences to operate with, and what WhatsApp has come up with is a 256-bit encryption.
Recent law enforcements has encouraged WhatsApp to announce this new update without any legal complications at any level.
However, as far as Indian users of the application are concerned, they might be left in a state of confusion since the guidelines issued by the Depart of Technology aren’t clear and to the point about the same.
Let us all hope to receive some piece of news in our favour soon by the DoT!
Till then, update WhatsApp and let all your messages stay a secret with you and your receiving end!
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.