WhatsApp introduces end-to-end encryption

6 Apr 2016 | By Gaurav

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announced on his Facebook page that the company has now enabled end-to-end encryption for all its users.

The announcement comes in the backdrop of Apple's legal tussle with the US government over providing access to users' data.

The new encryption system purportedly ensures that a user's messages, videos and photos sent over WhatsApp, can't be read by anyone else.

In context: WhatsApp's new encryption system

Introduction What is encryption?

Encryption is the conversion of electronic data into another form, called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties.

The ciphertext can only be decoded if the authorized party possess a decryption key.

The primary purpose of encryption is to protect the confidentiality of digital data stored on computer systems or transmitted via the Internet or other networks.

WhatsApp What is end-to-end encryption?

Common forms of encryption in messenger services only encrypts data between the sender and the messenger, and the messenger and the receiver.

However, end-to-end encryption ensures that messages are encrypted at all levels between the sender and the receiver.

This way, messages cannot be accessed by WhatsApp employees even if they wanted to, effectively stonewalling government agencies who seek user information from these services

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No way for governments to access information?

By implementing end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp has no way of accessing any users data or information. Thus, there is no question of complying with court orders demanding access to the content of any message, phone call, photo, or video traveling through its service.

6 Apr 2016WhatsApp introduces end-to-end encryption

Why did WhatsApp introduce this feature?

Why? Why did WhatsApp introduce this feature?

The court case between Apple and the FBI over access to the San Bernardino shooters iPhone data, reignited public debate over data privacy issues.

WhatsApp says that while "they recognize the important work of law enforcement, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people's information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers, and rogue states."

They added that freedom of speech and information privacy are WhatsApp's priorities.

USSR taught me value of free speech: Koum

"The desire to protect people's private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp. I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn't speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the US." - Jan Koum, Co-founder, WhatsApp
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12 Apr 2016WhatsApp encryption may be illegal in India: Experts

Experts assessed that loopholes in Indian laws may compromise the legal standing of WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption system in India.

The government's draft policy on encryption was expected to place restrictions on what key sizes OTT players could use for encryption.

However, the draft has been revoked to be reworked upon.

It is likely that the new draft may render WhatsApp's 256-bit encryption key illegal.