WhatsApp Backup feature for messages is now available to be used worldwide for its more than 2 billion users.
Mark Zuckerburg announced via a Facebook post that, finally, WhatsApp is introducing end-to-end encryption to your cloud backups on Android and iOS starting today.
WhatsApp End-to-End Encryption
Although WhatsApp has been end-to-end encrypted by default , WhatsApp still couldn't back up messages for the longest time.
However, the long wait is over.
It is recently announced that you can now backup your messages to Google Drive from the Android version of WhatsApp, or iCloud from the iOS version of WhatsApp.
According to the statement released by the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg: "WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems."
How the New WhatsApp Feature Works
As reported by The Verge, If someone generates a password that is linked to their account's encryption key, WhatsApp will store the key in a Facebook-managed physical hardware security module, or HSM, and unlock it only when the proper password is provided in WhatsApp.
For encrypting and decrypting digital keys, an HSM functions like a safe deposit box.
The HSM supplies the encryption key that decrypts the account's backup that is kept on either Apple or Google's servers once it is unlocked with its associated password in WhatsApp. Repeated password attempts will cause a key stored in one of WhatsApp's HSM vaults to be permanently unavailable.
To protect against internet outages, the hardware is housed in Facebook-owned data centers throughout the world.
According to Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp, the system is designed to ensure that no one other than the account owner has access to their backup. The purpose of allowing individuals to set simpler passwords, he explained, is to make encrypted backups easier to access.
WhatsApp will only be aware of the existence of a key in an HSM, not the key itself, or the password used to unlock it.
How to Enable Backup
According to its parent company Facebook, the end-to-end encrypted backup system is unfortunately not set in default. Users who desire to have their backup should implement it to activate it in their WhatsApp system.
With that, according to the WhatsApp FAQ, users could easily enable or disable the new feature by going to Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > End-to-end Encrypted Backup.
After enabling the feature, you'll need to use either a password or a 64-digit encryption key that only you know. Without your key or password, neither WhatsApp nor Google nor Apple will be able to read your backups.
WhatsApp is the only worldwide messaging service that offers such a high level of security at such a large scale, as Facebook correctly points out.
The new feature, which allows for end-to-end encryption of backups, will be gradually rolled out to users of WhatsApp's latest Android or iOS versions in the coming days.