Brian Acton and Jan Koum are probably two of the most important names you’ve never heard of.
Yet their importance in today’s world by far eclipses their individual fame . The two who are the founders of global messaging giant WhatsApp, have always tended to shy away from the limelight, but just yesterday they made an announcement that can no longer afford them this comfort.
“ Today, we're proud to announce that we've completed a technological development that makes WhatsApp a leader in protecting your private communication: full end-to-end encryption...From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats. ”
Although Acton and Koum started adding encryption to WhatsApp back in 2013, it took nearly a year and a half for them to complete it .
Coming at a time when clashes between Silicon Valley executives and federal agencies are rife, the launch of this security update has been met with mixed reactions from a number of individuals, institutions and organizations .
But first we shall have a closer look at what end-to-end encryption really means.
WHAT DOES END-TO-END ENCRYPTION MEAN ?
The main purpose of encryption is to ensure that messages are not intercepted as they move across a channel.
End-to-end encryption basically means that messages are scrambled (encrypted) as they leave the sender's device and can only be read (decrypted) by the recipient's device.
Leaving no room whatsoever for possible interception from third parties who may want to tap into the communication stream.
WhatsApp wrote. "No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation."
(Well, unless you’re shouting ).
With the use of end-to-end encryption, not even WhatsApp employees can read your messages. Which means that ( even if they wanted to ) they have no way of complying to court orders that would require them to tap a client’s device/conversation.
End to end encryption uses a system of keys to encrypt and decrypt a message. The first time users establish a communication session, they exchange the respective keys that will be used to decrypt messages received on both ends.
Once the session is established, clients do not need to rebuild a new session with each other until the existing session state is lost through an external event such as an app reinstall or device change.
Users will need to be on the same versions of WhatsApp to ensure that their chats are encrypted. And are likely to see a message saying "Messages you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption. when they begin a new session."
Users can verify if the encryption is working well by tapping on this message, after which they will be redirected to a page with a QR code, followed by a string of 60 numbers. If the person you are communicating with is nearby, you can take their phone scan the code from your phone and if the QR code matches, then the chat is encrypted.
The encryption will be available on all devices that can run WhatsApp, whether you’re using an old flip Nokia or the latest iPhone, Android phone, Windows phone or Blackberry etc.
NOTE: The encryption is by default and will occur at all times.
ALL THOSE IN FAVOUR SAY AYE ?
The news has been received particularly well by human rights organizations, journalists, activists and whistelblowers who can now use WhatsApp without fear that their correspondence may be intercepted.
This is a huge victory for privacy and free speech, especially for activists and journalists who depend on strong and trustworthy communications to carry out their work without putting their lives at greater risk." - Amnesty International
ALL THOSE AGAINST SAY NAY ?
Governments, law enforcement agencies and federal institutions have also been quick to show their disapproval of the move, saying that it only creates an environment that emboldens hackers, terrorists and cyber criminals.
BACKDOORS AS A SOLUTION ?
Lawmakers are pushing for legislations that will require companies like WhatsApp to equip their encryption schemes with backdoors that will only be available to law enforcement.
In computing , a backdoor is a technique that allows a security mechanism to be bypassed undetectably in order to access a computer or its data.
However, developers and silicon valley associates say this would only defeat the purpose of encryption in the first place, because, if there’s a backdoor anyone can find a way to use it for malicious intent.
ANY NOTICEABLE CHANGES:
According to WhatsApp’s white paper, the changing of message keys can cause a slight delay in some messages getting delivered, but nothing too significant.
The encryption also means that it is not possible for WhatsApp to access your messages and in turn use that information to display ads or third party information.
WILL THIS AFFECT YOUR ONGAIR WHATSAPP ACCOUNT ?
No it won’t, all text messages sent to and from Ongair already use the end-to-end encryption scheme and we are working on encrypting the media files such as images, videos, locations.
Curious about using WhatsApp on Ongair ? Sign up today and try our service for 14 FREE days. Let us know what you think in the comment section below or hit us up on firstname.lastname@example.org . Oh and don't forget to subscribe to our blog in the section below this post.
Yours in Instant Messaging,
The Ongair Team.