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WhatsApp finally offers encrypted backups

Having unencrypted cloud backups had been a major privacy and security issue for WhatsApp. Thankfully, the latest version of the app will allow iOS and Android users to take advantage of end-to-end backup encryption.

First announced back in September, the long-awaited feature has been finally made available in the latest version of the encrypted messaging app.

Previously, you could periodically back up your WhatsApp message history to iCloud or Google Drive, which meant that you could still access them in case you lost or wiped your smartphone. However, even though your actual chats were being encrypted already, your backups were not.

"Starting today, we are making available an extra, optional layer of security to protect backups stored on Google Drive or iCloud with end-to-end encryption," WhatsApp announced in a blog post.

“We will be rolling this feature out slowly to those with the latest version of WhatsApp.”

- WhatsApp

While it’s WhatsApp didn’t specify what a ‘slow rollout’ means in this context, it’s highly recommended to update your app to the latest version and enable encrypted backups whenever the feature becomes available for you.

“You can now secure your end-to-end encrypted backup with either a password of your choice or a 64-digit encryption key that only you know.”

- WhatsApp

Sadly, the keyword here is “optional.” This means that until WhatsApp makes this feature a default, many of the app’s 2 billion users won’t be fully protected against unwanted snooping by Apple, Google, or their government.

Are unencrypted backups dangerous?

While WhatsApp couldn’t access your unencrypted backups, the cloud services that stored them could. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this made unencrypted backups “vulnerable to government requests, third-party hacking, and disclosure by Apple or Google employees.”

“This privacy win from Facebook-owned WhatsApp is striking in its contrast to Apple, which has been under fire recently for its plans for on-device scanning of photos that minors send on Messages, as well as of every photo that any Apple user uploads to iCloud,” said the EFF.

Having your backups encrypted will ensure that cloud service providers won’t be able to read your WhatsApp message history.

How to enable encrypted backups on WhatsApp?

Since WhatsApp encrypted backups are currently an opt-in feature, you’ll have to manually set up their app in order to enable the functionality for maximum privacy.

Thankfully, enabling encrypted backups on WhatsApp isn’t difficult. Here’s how:

  1. Open WhatsApp and tap Settings.
  2. Next, tap Chats > Chat Backup > End-to-end Encrypted Backup.
  3. Then, tap Continue, then follow the prompts to create a password or a 64-digit encryption key.
  4. Finally, tap Done.

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