One of the greatest inventions in the world of communication was seamless messaging between two people who are worlds apart. The invention, revolutionized by WhatsApp, now has more than 2 billion people worldwide actively connected and in constant communication.
So, what makes WhatsApp more special than other messaging Apps available? While most people would argue it’s an easy user interface, one special feature is that WhatsApp excels above other messaging platforms in security and privacy.
By default, it provides end-to-end encryption for all billion-plus people using it. This makes it the world’s largest encrypted messenger and one of the safest platforms for communication without the constant fear of being monitored.
However, for better security, there are easy ways you can protect your WhatsApp privacy, irrespective of its other security features. Read on to learn how to make your WhatsApp communication more secure and private.
- Understanding WhatsApp and its security features
- Does WhatsApp collect your data?
- Managing WhatsApp privacy settings for better security
- Final thoughts
Understanding WhatsApp and its security features
WhatsApp is a Meta-owned mobile messaging app that allows you to communicate with your friends and family, irrespective of geographical location. You can send texts and call others in different countries without paying international fees.
The App has default-specific privacy settings in place for the safety and security of each user. For instance, basic privacy settings such as last seen allow people to know when you were last active on the App.
However, WhatsApp’s most important security and privacy feature is End-to-end encryption. This feature goes a long way to protect user data privacy by ensuring no one hacks or gains access to your conversations.
End-to-end encryption on WhatsApp
The End-to-End technology works so that when someone sends you a message, the information is encrypted on their device before being transmitted.
Any person to hack into your conversations won’t succeed as the encryption process converts the message into an unreadable format. This involves using complex algorithms and a unique encryption key.
The intended recipient is the only person who can understand what’s in the message due to their access to this decryption key. End-to-end encryption is a vital feature for your WhatsApp security for many reasons, including:
- Securing your Privacy: Due to constant threats of hackers taking hold of data transfer over Wi-Fi, End-to-End encryption provides a higher standard for making messages more secure.
- Limits spying: It makes it difficult for governments and any malicious people to access your communications when they want to.
- No man-in-the-middle attacks: The technology prevents hackers from intercepting the content of the messages, further eliminating the threat of man-in-the-middle attacks.
However, even with the End-to-End encryption, you should take preventive measures for better security on WhatsApp. For instance, the technology doesn’t protect against cybersecurity risks like malware or phishing attacks.
You may still inadvertently click on a malicious link and face an attack, even if the message is encrypted. Other risks may arise when you back up your chats on Google or iCloud—backed-up chats are often not encrypted, and anyone accessing your accounts can easily view them.
Does WhatsApp collect your data?
Have you ever wondered, “Is my ex stalking me on WhatsApp?” While that might be an empty concern, what you should be worried about is whether WhatsApp is stalking you. The bad news is that WhatsApp collects much more information about you than you think.
The data WhatsApp collects is clearly stated in its privacy policies, which you must accept before using its services. Your consent allows WhatsApp to collect information about how you use them. But there should never be overstepping.
The company still needs to fully comply with what’s required to collect user data. This explains why, a few years back, WhatsApp was slapped on the wrist for processing data without a lawful basis for certain types of personal data under the EU’s GDPR.
It’s worth noting that WhatsApp’s privacy policies do not allow them to view the content of your messages. Your private communications are still safe from third-party interference.
However, there’s more you can do to safeguard your security and privacy, preventing other people from invading your WhatsApp world.
Managing WhatsApp privacy settings for better security
Safeguarding your Privacy on WhatsApp is not just about messaging; it’s about securing what goes on in your digital world. Here is a look into what you can do to fortify your privacy and keep your sensitive information away from prying eyes.
Two-factor authentication is a widely used security measure for important accounts with sensitive personal information. It involves adding an extra step to the login process when accessing an account.
When you set up 2FA for any of your accounts, you’ll be required to use a code or a physical security key. WhatsApp also elevates your security and privacy by enabling two-factor authentication.
Found in the Settings menu under Account, this feature adds a PIN to your WhatsApp access. You’ll be prompted to enter this six-digit PIN intermittently for an extra security layer without becoming a daily hassle. Additionally, consider adding an email address for PIN reset options.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Go to WhatsApp Settings and click Account.
- Select Two-step verification.
- Click on it, set a PIN, and activate it.
Activate disappearing messages and view them once
You can improve your WhatsApp chats’ privacy using the disappearing messages feature. This feature allows every text or media you send to disappear or be deleted from the recipient’s App automatically.
You can set this to happen immediately or after a while. One of the benefits of the disappearing messages feature is to prevent anyone from keeping a copy of the content you send. This way, you can be sure they won’t use it for any other malicious intent.
To set default disappearing message timers:
- Go to Settings, select Privacy, and choose Default Message Timer.
- For individual chats, tap the person’s name, select Disappearing Messages, and choose the duration.
Remember, though, that recipients can still screenshot or photograph your messages. Take it further by using the View Once feature for photos and videos, ensuring they can only be opened once.
Use Encrypted backups
WhatsApp’s backup feature is handy when switching phones, but not all backups are equal. Opt for the end-to-end encrypted version that allows you to add the same protection to your phone’s WhatsApp database, Google Drive backup, or iCloud.
An end-to-end encrypted backup will ensure that the content shared on your WhatsApp is stored and secured by an encryption key or password.
To set this up on your WhatsApp:
- Navigate to Settings.
- Click Chats.
- Select Chat Backup and toggle on End-to-end Encrypted Backup.
This extra layer of security requires a separate password, so craft one wisely and store it in your Password Manager for safekeeping. If you lose the password, you’ll no longer have access to your encrypted backup.
Lockdown WhatsApp messages
In most cases, some of the privacy breaches that happen come down to one moment of carelessness. For example, you may innocently hand over your phone to someone else—so they can view something or make a call.
What you don’t know is that they may be tempted to go further and dig deep into your call logs, WhatsApp messages, and even emails. Thankfully, WhatsApp provides two features that can help protect your messages in cases where you need to share your phone.
One security solution is to activate the Screen Lock. You can access this from Settings under Privacy to keep WhatsApp locked until unlocked with biometrics. For added privacy, lock individual chats by tapping on a chat, selecting Chat lock, and choosing the lock option.
You can also manage notifications and control how much information appears on your screen. Go to Settings, select Notifications, and click on popup notification or Show Preview. This will ensure you completely control your device, even if it’s in someone else’s hands.
Activate security code change notifications
Ensure you verify your chats with other people are end-to-end encrypted using security codes. These codes are one of the ways to ensure the integrity of your communication and exist either as a QR code or a 60-digit number.
When a new device accesses an old chat, new security codes will be generated for both devices. WhatsApp always informs you through a notification when this happens. You can also keep yourself informed when these codes change.
- Access WhatsApp Settings and select Account.
- Click on Security and select Security notifications.
- Toggle the switch to stay promptly informed.
This adds a layer of security and allows you to cross-verify encryption with your friend through another messenger.
Beware of common WhatsApp scams
WhatsApp has become a common target for scams as the preference for text messaging over phone calls gains traction. Scammers always want to take advantage and find a way to steal your data. They’ll do this through impersonation, gifts, or even upgrades.
For example, a scammer might flaunt a tempting WhatsApp Gold or claim your Account is on the brink of expiration. Meta has always reiterated that using WhatsApp remains free, and any payment request should ring alarm bells.
Control personal information sharing.
Despite WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, additional steps can enhance your overall privacy. Remember that you cannot control what someone does with the information you send them. If you send someone a message or a voice note, they’ll have a copy of this content.
They can choose to forward or share it with others without your consent. So, the only logical solution is to control what you share. In Settings, under Privacy, turn off read receipts to prevent the two blue ticks from revealing when your message is read.
You should also adjust group settings to limit who can add you by navigating to Groups in Privacy. Further tweak settings to control the visibility of your last seen status, profile photo, About section, WhatsApp Status, and live location sharing.
Use official WhatsApp apps
Google Play and App Store are highly regulated, but not to an extent where you’re entirely safe from fake applications. You’ll still find other WhatsApp versions on Google Play promising advanced features and themes.
While some of these features might be too appealing to ignore, compromising security for a few extra features is like choosing style over substance. Your security is paramount, and such fake WhatsApp apps are a path to jeopardizing your Privacy.
Besides, to use WhatsApp on your computer, you must log in to a WhatsApp Web link on your phone. The internet has its fair share of tricksters, and getting tricked into logging into the wrong WhatsApp Web is easy. Remain vigilant and get the official desktop app.
Embrace blocking and reporting
As you would avoid an unknown caller, WhatsApp empowers you to block and report. Blocking ensures a peaceful sanctuary—no calls, no messages, and no updates from that contact. If your Ex has become a stalker or someone’s stepping out of line, report them.
To get started, navigate to a chat and tap on the sender’s name. Select More and Choose Report. Remember that the power to decide who will be part of your WhatsApp world is in your hands.
As a WhatsApp user, you must recognize that while you’ll enjoy robust security features such as End-to-End encryption, your digital fortress isn’t entirely impervious. You need to explore an extra layer of security from WhatsApp’s security protocols and other human-centered measures.
Your WhatsApp security is a shared journey between you and Meta. As such, you contribute to a safer, more personalized digital space by taking proactive steps and measures.