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Is WhatsApp safe? Main security issues

WhatsApp, the Meta-owned messaging app, is used by more than two billion people. It claims to be a secure service, offering users to end-to-end encryption, but how safe is WhatsApp really? In this article, we will look at WhatsApp’s security, the risks users face, and how you can message safely with the app.

Is WhatsApp safe? Main security issues

Is WhatsApp secure?

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption to keep data safe while it is transferred from sender to recipient. So is WhatsApp safe to use? Yes — texts sent through the secure messaging app will be encrypted while in transit, so only you and the person you’re messaging can see them. The same security applies to voice and video calls and photos sent via WhatsApp.

An end-to-end encrypted message cannot be viewed by anyone while in transit. The message is scrambled into indecipherable code while in transit, so only you and the person you’re messaging can see it. The same security applies to voice and video calls and photos sent via WhatsApp.

End-to-end encryption is not unique to the WhatsApp messenger, of course. Other messaging apps, like Telegram and Signal, also offer this feature. However, WhatsApp is probably the most widely used service offering this level of security.

Let’s take a closer look at WhatsApp’s security now, from the app’s ability to protect users from hackers to its safety for kids.

Is WhatsApp safe from hackers?

Before you install WhatsApp, you should know how safe the app is from hackers. The good news is that with end-to-end encryption, your messages are protected from Wi-Fi snooping and man-in-the-middle attacks.

However, hackers could still try to hack your account by cracking your password. If you use a weak, easy-to-guess password, it could take seconds for a hacker’s brute forcing software to get through the login process. That’s why using a complex password containing at least 10 characters is essential for security.

You can also set up two-step verification (also known as two-factor authentication) on your WhatsApp account, making it much harder for hackers to gain access to your profile. Two-step verification is an optional feature, but we strongly recommend setting it up.

Is WhatsApp safe for sending private photos?

WhatsApp encrypts your data while in transit, which makes the app a good option for sending private photos. While images and videos are moving between users, they are encrypted and cannot be decrypted until they reach their intended recipient. You can also set up your account so that photos cannot be saved through screenshots, making it easier to keep your images private.

With that being said, it is important to remember that the messaging app can still be hacked if you use weak passwords and don’t set up two-step authentication. Even if your photos are encrypted in transit, they could still be accessed through your account.

Is WhatsApp safe for kids?

WhatsApp is as safe for kids as any messaging application. In itself, the app is not unsafe and can be used to keep children in touch with parents and friends. However, as with any app of this kind, kids are at risk being targeted by strangers, cyberbullies, and WhatsApp scams. For this reason, it is important to talk with young people and make them aware of the potential risks.

Kids might also benefit from using the WhatsApp web interface, rather than a mobile app. This means they can use the service while on a family computer, making it easier for parents to keep an eye on them and limit risky behavior. But if you need to give your device to a child, make sure to learn how to lock phone screen for kids beforehand.

WhatsApp security issues

WhatsApp has some security and privacy issues that users should be aware of.

  • Malware exploits: WhatsApp has been vulnerable to a variety of malware exploits in recent years. In 2019, a vulnerability was found in the app that allowed hackers to install malware on users’ devices. The malware was apparently developed by the Israeli company, NSO Group. More recently, in 2022, WhatsApp patched a vulnerability that could have allowed hackers to infect victims’ devices with malware via video calls. While the issue was resolved, it demonstrates the ongoing risks that malware poses to WhatsApp users.
  • Phishing scams: Like any messaging app, WhatsApp is often used for phishing attacks. These scams involve criminals sending links to potential victims that could infect their devices with malware. The attacker usually pretends to be a trusted contact and may even hijack the account of a friend or family member to do so. Once you click on the link, you’ll be connected with a server that installs malware onto your device.
  • Privacy concerns: WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, so users are right to be wary about their privacy credentials. In 2021, the WhatsApp privacy policy was changed to allow more user data to be shared with Meta, further underlining its close links with the notoriously data-hungry tech giant. Since WhatsApp is a free service, it is safe to assume that your data will be monetized and that personal privacy is not its top priority.

While these threats might make you want to delete WhatsApp, there are steps you can take to make your experience on the app safer.

How to use WhatsApp safely

Though end-to-end encryption can protect messages and calls, you can take steps to enhance overall safety on the app.

    1. Use strong passwords. No matter how robust WhatsApp’s encryption is, you can’t keep your messages private if you don’t use strong passwords. While a short phrase might be easier to remember, it’s also easier to crack. Instead, use long, complex passwords with no recognizable words, combining letters, numbers, and symbols. The length of the password is key — a good password should be at least 10 characters long.
    2. Enable two-step verification. With two-step verification, you protect your account with both a strong password and a private numerical pin. Even if a hacker cracks the password, they will also need your pin to access your account. Regardless of how strong your password is, you should always enable two-step verification for additional security.
    3. Don’t follow links in messages. When someone sends you a link in a WhatsApp message, be on your guard. Even if you know the sender, double-check that it is really them and that their account hasn’t been hacked. Cybercriminals will try to trick you into clicking links and downloading malware, and the best defense against this threat is just avoiding message links. You should also consider installing malware protection on your devices, to add further protection against these attacks.