What WhatsApp’s new end-to-end encryption means to us and our government
From today onwards, all your communications on WhatsApp will be as secure as the Vatican Secret Archives. The company announced today, completing an integration that has lasted for a several as we speak most WhatsApp users have already seen the encryption message in their WhatsApp chats. By the way apps like Telegram have had this from day one. It should be noted that Whatsapp began rolling out encrypting text messages in November 2014, as part of a partnership with Open Whisper Systems, but those protections now extend to voice calls, video, and multi-party chat rooms, for users on both iOS and Android. The question to ask is, how Spy organizations especially ours here in Uganda will be able to operate without the necessary keys required to “unlock” or tap into our conversations on WhatsApp.
Big crime groups like Kifeesi here in Kampala should be celebrating as well as people whose spouses are tech-savvy and were able to hack into their WhatsApp text messages should be smiling all the way to their “side dishes”. Let’s not forget the Alshabab terrorists that also now have yet another safe avenue to communicate. For WhatsApp as a company, that was not their angle of thought when they decided to launch this type of encryption. The deployment of universal encryption by the company was to allow for a number of new protections. Once communications with a user are encrypted, the WhatsApp client will now notify the user and refuse to send any unencrypted messages, but the aim was to reduce on system downgrade attack vulnerability.
So apart from blocking WhatApp like the government did during the recent presidential elections, what else can they do? It’s still hard to say for sure, Will they have to send warrant request to the compnay? Your guess is a good as mine. New attacks and vulnerabilities are common in the security world, and governments world over have been known to purchase and stockpile such attacks for law enforcement purposes. According to the Verge, WhatsApp’s system still manages messages centrally, coordinates key exchanges, and has significant control over the code that runs on both servers and phones, so any attacker with WhatsApp’s cooperation would be well-placed to execute any newly devised attacks. So as our government still struggles to figure out a way forward on how they will now intercept our messages on WhatsApp that have just been secure. Here is food for thought, we should also think on how safe we shall be given that this gives an opportune moment for the ‘bad’ guys to take advantage of this new-found secure place for them to communicate as well.