Thursday, 20 November 2014

Whatsapp Just Switched on End-to-End Encryption

Jan Koum, founder of Whatsapp who grew up in Soviet Ukraine in the 80s, learned to distrust the governments. detesting its surveillance. When he emigrated to the U.S; decades later, he developed his ultra-popular messaging system and vowed that Whatsapp would never make eavesdropping easy for anybody.

Presently this app is following on that anti snooping promise at an unprecedented scale. Whatsapp currently the most popular instant messaging platform has started encrypting all data by default, which privacy advocates state would be aiding dissidents as well as human rights activists seeking communication protection from governments as well as hackers.

A privacy person not wanting the possibility of others reading the chat conversations, here is some good news from this quarter. A recent announcement has been made that it is implementing end-to-end encryption, which is an upgrade to privacy protection making it impossible for any to read users’ messages which includes the company itself.

The app will integrate the open source software messages with a cryptographic key which the user only can access. It is an uncrackable encryption for hundreds of millions of phones and tablets which have installed Whatsapp, the worlds’ largest ever implementation of this standard of encryption in messaging services.

End-To-End Encryption

End to end encryption mean that only the sender and receiver can read the text. The encryption feature is available in the latest build of the Android app which currently supports only one-on-one text messaging.Open Whisper System’s creator as well as a well-known software developer in the cryptography community, Moxie Marlinspike states that he thinks this is the largest deployment of end-to-end encryption ever’.

For a week, Textsecure had already been quietly encrypting Whatsapp messages between Android devices and the new encryption indicates that Whatsapp messages would now travel to the recipient’s device before being decrypted instead of being encrypted between the Whatsapp’s server and the users’ device.

Though the change is invisible, Marlinspike states that Whatsapp will add a feature soon to enable users to verify other identities depending on their cryptographic key which is a defence against the middle man’s attack that may intercept conversations. He states further that `ordinary users would not know the difference and it is totally frictionless’.

Not Applicable to Group Messages/Video/Photo Messages

Whatsapps’ messaging encryption, in its initial stage  is limited to Android and does not apply to group messages, video or photo messages. Marlinspike also adds that Whatsapp plans to expand its Textsecure to other features and platforms which includes Apple’s iOS, though he did not specify the details of the time frame and staffers of Whatsapp refrained from commenting on the latest encryption features.

He further stated that the Textsecure implementation has been progressing for six months, shortly after Whatsapp had been acquired by Facebook in February last. Massive user base for end-to-end encrypted messaging is from Whatsapp’s Android users alone and Whatsapp’s page in Google Play store portrays over 500 million downloads.

Textsecure had earlier been installed on only about 100 million devices running the Cyanogen mod variant of Android and about 500,000 other devices. This rollout of strong encryption to hundreds of millions of users could be unfavourable among governments across the world where surveillance could make it a difficult task.

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