Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last month that WhatsApp end-to-end encrypted backups are on the way for those who like to store backups on cloud services like iCloud and Google Drive. This privacy feature is now being “slowly” introduced for both iOS and Android users.
Actual WhatsApp chats are always end-to-end encrypted, but this new feature means that all backups you choose get the same level of protection …
Zuckerberg posted this on his Facebook page.
While the end-to-end encrypted messages you send and receive are stored on your device, many people also want a way to back up their conversations in case they lose their phone. As of today, we are making available an additional, optional security layer to protect backups stored on Google Drive or iCloud with end-to-end encryption. No other global messaging service at this level provides this level of security for user messages, media, voice messages, video calls, and chat backups.
You can now secure your end-to-end encrypted backup with a password of your choice or a 64-digit encryption key that only you know. Neither WhatsApp nor your backup provider will be able to read the backups or access the key required to unlock.
With more than 2 billion users, we are excited to give people more choices to protect their privacy. We will slowly introduce this feature to those with the latest version of WhatsApp. More information on how you can protect your chat backups with end-to-end encryption on iOS and Android can be found here, and more information on how we built them can be found here.
The company did not say what “slow” presentation means, but said it wanted to do so carefully “to ensure a consistent and reliable user experience for people on iOS and Android around the world.”
The most common reason for backing up is to ensure the security of the conversation if your devices are lost or stolen. Facebook issues an obvious warning that E2E encrypted backups cannot be restored if you forget your password, as neither WhatsApp nor your cloud service will be able to decrypt the file.
Once the feature appears, open WhatsApp, go to Settings> Chats> Chat backups> End-to-End encrypted backup, and follow the instructions. If you do not see the E2E option, the feature has not yet been introduced to you.
If you want to learn more about how the feature works, here’s a white paper, and here’s an engineering blog.
The move could increase pressure on Apple to introduce end-to-end encryption for iCloud iPhone backups. Currently, the backups are encrypted, but Apple has the key. This is only used if a valid court order is served on him, but it creates three vulnerabilities. First, not all governments respect human rights, so they can issue court orders against political opponents. Second, someone from Apple with the necessary authority could sniff. Third, a hacker could potentially gain access.
Many of us wondered if Apple’s CSAM plans might have been a precursor to end-to-end encryption of iCloud backups because scanning on the device would ensure they were detected before backing up. Delaying the launch of CSAM means we are still waiting to find out if this could be the case.
Meanwhile, a company with a Facebook cube reputation that has a higher standard of privacy than Apple when it comes to cloud backups needs a bit of a tickle.
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