Information Security and WhatsApp, A recent case of a WhatsApp security breach have reignited the discussion around user privacy and the information security technologies used by the app. How far does the encryption system guarantee the absolute privacy of the user? What can we do to protect ourselves even more?
WhatsApp Released The Discovery Of A Flaw
WhatsApp discovered a flaw in the application’s security system and asked all users to immediately update the version installed on their smartphones. The flaw that made the system vulnerable allowed the installation of spy software on the infected cell phone through a voice call. What does that mean? A group of hackers developed an application to make calls, and even if these were not answered, a malicious program was installed on the device.
Once the program was installed on the device’s operating system, they could have free access to everything done on the cell phone: a flaw and a considerable risk involving information security. From text messages, through audio and photos, even the cell phone camera could be monitored through the so-called “spy software.” Email, location, phone calls… The criminals’ goal was to monitor a small group of specific targets.
Information Security Point Of View
After analyzing the characteristics of the attack, WhatsApp issued a statement saying that the action would have been carried out by a private company that works with governments that want to use spy programs. What makes the attack even more severe, from the point of view of information security, is that the user himself would not need to execute any commands for the software to be installed.
The flaw goes beyond the leakage of messages protected by the encryption system and leaves users vulnerable by giving criminals full access to their devices.
Understand More About Information Security And WhatsApp Encryption
Do you know how an encryption system works? Does it protect the user? What are other information security-related technologies helpful to application users? Let’s go through all the points of the questions.
Encryption can be defined by mathematical algorithms that encode user data so that only the recipient can read it. It’s simple to understand, right?! WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption; it ensures that all messages exchanged through the app will only be seen by the person who sent it and the recipient in question. Want an example to visualize better how this technology works? We can illustrate by saying that encryption works as if you were to send a gift to someone inside a safe.
You and the recipient are the only people who know the correct combination to open this safe. If someone intercepts this gift on the way, he won’t be able to do anything since he can’t open the safe. Therefore, even if the message you sent via WhatsApp is intercepted, its contents will not be revealed since the interceptor will not be able to decode the encryption that protects it. So this goes for everything: messages, audio, photos, calls, videos, and so on because encryption is one of the most effective systems for information security today.
Okay, we know that no one else can read messages exchanged within the app, but where do they go? According to WhatsApp, all content generated in the application is in permanent transit within the servers because the company guarantees that the encrypted barrier is unbreakable. For this reason, WhatsApp is a frequent target of judges for not collaborating with the breach of confidentiality during investigations.
Encryption Is A Form Of Security
The app has already been taken down a few times because of this positioning. Despite encryption being a form of security, the user must take some care until then, completely compelling. Or at least be aware that certain attitudes can compromise your privacy and are not the responsibility of the application and its internal information security system.
Everything that goes through your app can be recorded on the sender’s and recipients’ cell phones. This happens when you configure the cloud backup option, for example. So if your cell phone is stolen and your lock password is weak, your data will be easily accessed. So, if your idea is to have your messages wholly private and secure, disable the backup option in the app’s settings.
Information Security: Protect Your Messages
One of the first recommendations in everything that concerns information security is: to keep your applications always up to date! Applications, operating systems, and everything in between. That way, whenever a possible failure is detected in some system. Developers apply an immediate fix, and it is made available to the user through the update. Therefore, if you do not perform this update in your application, it becomes obsolete and vulnerable.
Two-factor authentication works as an extra layer of information security and keeps your data safe. This feature is optional, and when you activate it, whenever you try to verify your phone number on WhatsApp, you will have to enter a PIN password with six numbers. So to activate it, go to the application settings. You enter your email address and receive a link to disable authentication if you forget your password.
Once 2-Step Verification is activated, you will not be able to re-verify your number on WhatsApp within 7 days of using WhatsApp without your PIN. So if you forget your PIN and have not provided an email to disable 2-step Verification, you will not be allowed to re-verify your number on WhatsApp within 7 days after you last used WhatsApp. So after 7 days, you will be allowed to re-verify your number on WhatsApp without the PIN. But you will lose all pending messages when rechecking because they will be deleted.
If the re-verification is done after 30 days since you last used WhatsApp and without your PIN, your account will be deleted, and a new one will be created once the process is completed. Because the most important thing is that you don’t lose your sleep, if you are a regular WhatsApp user, your information security is probably more than guaranteed. The target of hackers in major attacks is often politically motivated.
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