Security & Fraud

WhatsApp Flips Encryption Switch

Yet another big name in tech has leveled up its encrypted products.

Facebook announced on Tuesday (April 5) that the default encryption settings for the more than 1 billion users of its messaging service, WhatsApp, are now turned on, ensuring that messages sent between a sender and recipient are only accessible by those two parties.

“The idea is simple: When you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message,” WhatsApp said in a blog post. “Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us.”

The debate over encryption has quickly escalated to a global discussion over the access governmental agencies should have to the private data of citizens, fueled by the recent faceoff between Apple and the FBI.

While the FBI has since been able to gain access to the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist and no longer needs to push for Apple’s assistance, the ramifications of a government entity taking legal action to force a technology company to provide “backdoor” access to encrypted data has subsequently opened the door to many tense public conversations about the issue.

Last week, The Guardian reported that Facebook, Google, Snapchat and WhatsApp were all looking at increasing the encryption put in place to protect the data of its users.

WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum was one of the first techheads to publicly stand with Apple in its encryption fight. “Our freedom and our liberty are at stake,” he wrote on his public Facebook page. Koum grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine.

“We live in a world where more of our data is digitized than ever before. Every day, we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen. And if nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come. Fortunately, end-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities,” the WhatsApp blog post continued.

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