WhatsApp Gets Extra Security Features

John Lister's picture

WhatsApp is adding a series of privacy and security features. However, several will be switched off by default so users should consider activating them.

The messaging app, now owned by Facebook, has become popular thanks to two key features. It's designed to handle groups well so that users can send a message to a specific group of friends or colleagues in a more intuitive manner than Facebook's own messaging tools.

It also uses end-to-end encryption, meaning not only that intercepting a message is of little use, but that Facebook cannot access messages even if it wanted to or was ordered to do so.

The first change is relatively minor but will be activated by default. It involves the "last seen" status, which tells other users when you were last using the app. At the moment that has to be switched on for everyone or switched off completely. The change means it will now only show this status to users who have you in their phone's contact list, or with whom you've previously exchanges messages. (Source: theverge.com)

Double-Lock Protection

The new optional settings include an additional level of protection against messages being viewed when phones are physically accessed, for example by a thief or somebody nosy. Users can now set WhatsApp to replicate the device's main lock screen protection such as a PIN code, fingerprint or facial recognition.

That means somebody accessing the phone will need to pass this protection to access Whataspp even if the phone is unlocked. To balance security and privacy, device owners can set a time period between the phone being unlocked and WhatsApp requiring the login.

WhatsApp is also adding two-step verification, meaning users can't simply type the correct password to login, but must also receive a security code, for example by text message. That's not necessarily all that useful with a tool that most users only run on one device, though it could protect against a major password breach.

This Message Will Self-Destruct

Finally, users will now be able to set messages to automatically disappear after a set period, with a choice of 24 hours, 7 days or 90 days. Screenshots suggest this will work on a chat-by-chat basis, meaning it affects all messages in a particular conversation. (Source: dailystar.co.uk)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you use Whatsapp? What privacy tools are important to you in a messaging app? How confident are you that messages you send on phones and other devices remain truly confidential?

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