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Is WhatsApp Safe and Secure? Major WhatsApp Security Threats Users Need to Know About

It’s no amazement then that security apprehensions, malware threats, and spam have commenced to seem. Here’s everything you need to know about WhatsApp’s security matters.

WhatsApp, in fact, the Facebook-owned messaging platform, is one of the world’s furthermost widespread messaging application. It is assessed that over one billion individuals use the app, sending over 65 billion messages per day.

WhatsApp Web Malware

WhatsApp’s giant user base make it an apparent target for cybercriminals, many of which center around WhatsApp Web. For years, WhatsApp has allowed you to open a website, or download a desktop version, scan a code with the app on your cell phone, and use WhatsApp on your personal computer.

The app store on your windows phone—the App Store on iOS and Google Play on Android—are more cautiously regulated than the internet at large. When you search for WhatsApp on those stores, it’s generally clear which app is the official one. That isn’t true of the wider internet.

Criminals, hackers, and scammers have all taken benefit of this. There have been instances of attackers passing off malevolent software as WhatsApp desktop applications. If you are luckless enough to have downloaded one of these, the installation can dispense malware or otherwise compromise your computer.

Others tried a diverse tactic, fashioning phishing websites to trick you into handing over personal information. Some of these websites masquerade as WhatsApp Web, inquiring for you to enter your phone number to connect to the service. However, they actually use that number to barrage you with spam or correlate with other leaked or hacked data on the internet.

To be on the safe side, the best way to stay secure is to use only apps and services from official sources. WhatsApp offers a web client for you to use on any computer, known as WhatsApp Web. There are also official apps for Android, iPhone, macOS, and Windows devices.

Unencrypted Backups

The messages you send on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted. This means that only your device, and that of the recipient, can decode them. The feature prevents your messages from being intercepted during transmission, even by Facebook themselves. However, this doesn’t secure them once they are decrypted on your device.

WhatsApp allows you to back up your messages and media on Android and iOS. This is an essential feature as it allows you to recover accidentally deleted WhatsApp messages. There is a local backup on your device in addition to a cloud-based backup. On Android, you can back up your WhatsApp data to Google Drive. If you are using an iPhone, then your backup destination is iCloud. These backups contain the decrypted messages from your device.

The backup file stored on iCloud or Google Drive is not encrypted. As this file contains decrypted versions of all your messages, it is theoretically vulnerable and undermines WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption.

As you have no choice in backup location, you are at the mercy of the cloud providers to keep your data secure. Although no large-scale hacks have affected iCloud or Google Drive to date, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. There are other means that attackers could use to gain access to your cloud storage accounts too.

One of the supposed benefits of encryption is, for better or worse, being able to prevent government and law enforcement from accessing your data. As the unencrypted backup is stored on one of two U.S.-based cloud storage providers, all it would take is a warrant, and they would have unfettered access to your messages. If you do choose to back up your WhatsApp data to the cloud, it largely undermines the service’s end-to-end encryption.

Facebook Data Sharing

Facebook has been the subject of much criticism in recent years. One of those criticisms is of Facebook’s effective market monopoly and anti-competitive actions. Regulators attempt to minimize anti-competitive behavior by evaluating any takeover attempts.

So, when Facebook decided that it wanted to add WhatsApp to the ‘Facebook Family,’ the European Union (EU) only approved the deal after Facebook assured them that the two companies, and their data, would be kept separate.

It didn’t take long for Facebook to go back on this agreement. In 2016, WhatsApp updated its Privacy Policy to allow sharing of data from WhatsApp to Facebook. Although they didn’t reveal the full extent of this data transfer, it included your phone number and your usage data, like when you last used the service. Your WhatsApp messages could be at risk because of this.

They also stated that none of your information would publicly visible on Facebook, implying that it would instead be hidden in Facebook’s inaccessible profile of you. Following the backlash to this announcement, WhatsApp allowed users to opt-out of this data sharing arrangement. However, in the intervening years, they quietly removed this option.

This is likely in preparation for Facebook’s future plans. According to a January 2019 report in the New York Times, Facebook is starting to create one unified infrastructure for all of their messaging platforms. This would incorporate Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. So, while each service would continue as a standalone app, the messages would all be sent on the same network.

Is WhatsApp Safe?

Now, is WhatsApp safe to use? WhatsApp is a confusing platform. On the one hand, the company implemented end-to-end encryption in one of the world’s most popular apps; a definite security upside. However, there are many WhatsApp security concerns. One of the primary issues is that it is owned by Facebook, and suffers many of the same privacy dangers and misinformation campaigns as their parent company.

If these reasons, along with media file jacking on Android, challenge your messaging app allegiance, there are WhatsApp alternatives that guard your privacy. However, if you decide to stick with WhatsApp, check out these tips to chat efficiently on WhatsApp Desktop.

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