WhatsApp begins beta testing of features to allow backup encryption on the cloud, but for Android users only. This feature is still in the testing phase, and whether it would be rolled out or not is undetermined yet.
At present, beta testing for the feature is ongoing. But as per our understanding of things, users would choose to use this feature, which is understandable because there would be a major risk attached to it.
WhatsApp is working for your security.
Instant messaging platform WhatsApp has put in place end-to-end encryption so that the chats can remain private between the sender and the receiver. But is that sufficient? Currently, when WhatsApp data is backed to Google Drive or iCloud by a user, the backup is not encrypted, meaning that a search warrant can be issued by authorities to ask these cloud companies to hand over data access.
They would have to, including these WhatsApp chats, which are not protected by encryption. However, rumor has it that the Facebook-owned company is now working on a technology to encrypt WhatsApp backups on the drive independently. Reports have further added that this system has been enabled in the most recent WhatsApp update on Android platforms – version 126.96.36.199 of the instant messaging platform.
Despite WhatsApp offering end-to-end encryption for chats, that doesn’t extend to messages (and other media) backed up to Google Drive or iCloud. Instead, they’re only protected by server-side encryption, and the respective cloud services can decrypt them if ever the need arose. If you’re a privacy-conscious individual, then that’s less than ideal.
A little while ago, it spotted that WhatsApp was working on a new feature to let you encrypt your chat backups with a password. The feature was recently rolled out for beta users a few days ago, though that pulled it in a subsequent update.
At present, beta testing for the feature is ongoing. But as per our understanding of things, users would choose to use this feature, which is understandable because there would be a major risk attached. For example, such encryption would require a password or a 64-digit recovery key that would help restore the password, and anytime a person wants to restore their backup from the cloud, they would need to use this password or recovery key.
As reported by WABetaInfo, the feature was rolling out as part of WhatsApp beta version 188.8.131.52. It worked by requiring you to choose a password for encrypting future backups, and it’s always needed to put the password in when restoring a backup. However, the password is entirely private and not shared with any of the services that it passes through, be it WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, or Apple. You can also use a 64-digit encryption key instead of a password if you want, though you’ll never be able to restore your chats if you lose it.
While that makes sense, a major point is it would know neither this password nor this key to WhatsApp, Facebook, Apple, or Google, which means that to restore this backup, the user would pretty much be on their own, and so, if they were to forget their password and lose the key, the backup would be lost forever, and not even WhatsApp would be able to help at all.
The Bottom Line
The encryption key only contains numeric digits and lowercase letters between a and f. You’ll want to store the encryption key safely, as WhatsApp will not be able to help you recover your chats if you lose it. It prevents unauthorized access to your chats and can work even on local backups so that you can store them safely wherever you want, without then running the risk of them being stolen and accessed by someone else.
As previously mentioned, the rollout of end-to-end encryption for cloud chat backups has been temporarily paused due to connection issues. Still, hopefully, it’ll begin to roll out again soon. So make sure to download the latest version of WhatsApp from Google Play or an APK hosting site so you’ll have access to the feature as soon as it becomes available.
While this feature is still in the testing phase, and whether it would be rolled out or not is undetermined yet, this feature would help users keep their WhatsApp chats and data private even when third parties like cloud companies are involved, and this would be a major step by WhatsApp at securing the user privacy after its end-to-end chat encryption.