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Security Risks in WhatsApp You Should Know About

Sharing pictures, videos and personal data over WhatsApp has become a norm. Is it safe to do so? Let’s find out!

5 min read

Since its inception, WhatsApp has been the most popular messaging platform used by almost every other smartphone user. WhatsApp has seen unstoppable growth after its acquisition by Facebook in 2014. According to reports, around 30 billion messages are sent and received on this platform everyday making it one of the largest messaging apps on earth.

Despite the fact that WhatsApp has taken measures to strengthen its security by providing end-to-end encryption on chat messages, there still lies some flaws and security risks in this platform pertaining to data sharing among users or clicking on spam messages being shared by anonymous people. Here are some important factors you need to know if you are a WhatsApp user to be aware of all those security threats.

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Image Source: Geekgyan.com

Malware Impersonating WhatsApp

When a platform is this much famous, it is likely to be exploit by hackers. Making a copy of any original platform and trapping users to get their personal data shared is not a big deal in today’s world. It is a common practice followed by cybercriminals to trick WhatsApp users by sending messages containing links to malware or malicious software. This might cause damage to your devices or that they might get unauthorized access to your personal data.

Another trick that is usually adopted by the hackers is that they ask users to access WhatsApp desktop application through the link provided by them. To make people click on those malicious links, they attract people by depicting the whole situation as if it is their only chance of winning valuable prizes. So, it is better not to be fooled by such messages and use web.whatsapp.com which is the authentic link to access WhatsApp Web Platform.

Security Vulnerability

We know that all of the messages we send on the private chats in WhatsApp are encrypted and no one can peek into our private conversation. However the story published by The Guardian tells us about the vulnerability of the system that is called hacking proof. It says that there are flaws in the system that could be used by cybercriminals to hack in to the messages somehow. However, this story was denied by Open Whisper System that is helping WhatsApp with the encryption of the messages. They said that without properly investigating all related factors, the report has been published. It is to be mentioned here that the messages on a particular device are encrypted by public and private security keys, making the system highly safe. However, one thing that can be concluded after all this debate is that even after all these measures taken for the encryption of data, your private information remains vulnerable to some extent.

Backups without encryption

Though your WhatsApp chats has end-to-end encryption and are safe from all kind of interception even during transmission but there isn’t anything done about the encoding the backups that are created on cloud storage on your phone.

Chat backup is considered one of the most convenient facilities of WhatsApp that allow users not to lose their important chats and data ever. Backups are created in different intervals of time automatically as per users’ preference. Despite of all these benefits, an unencrypted backup could make your data incredibly unsafe and easily accessible by any of the unauthorized person. Accessing your data from a local or cloud storage would not be a problem for anyone because all they need is to locate those file or in the other case involving legalities they might just require a simple permission.

The thing here is that not any of your data is stored on dedicated WhatsApp server (which is recommended if the encryption has to be retained) instead, you are given options to back up your data either in local storage or in cloud storage (both in Android & iOS).

Image Source: Wired.com

Data Sharing among Facebook Family

When Facebook decided to own WhatsApp, it was made clear by the authorities that both of these apps should keep their data separate and that these companies also agreed on this. Things went in order according to the communicated guidelines until August 2016 when Facebook updated their policy allowing the data sharing among the two aforementioned platforms. This is what their FAQs say about data sharing:

“We plan to share some information with Facebook and the Facebook family of companies…some of your account information with Facebook and the Facebook family of companies, like the phone number you verified when you registered with WhatsApp, as well as the last time you used our service.”

Upon this move Facebook and other companies that come under its family tree involved in data sharing phenomenon faced a lot of criticism by governments of different countries officials. However, users are given a choice whether to share the data on Facebook or not. However, when the updated version of WhatsApp was installed by user the data sharing was allowed as default while giving the options to them of turning it off from the app settings. Just months after the announcement of data sharing, Facebook abandoned the practice of data collection for WhatsApp users in UK when the authorities asked clarification about customers’ data usage from the social media giant.

Recent Developments on WhatsApp Data Sharing

France has given notice to Facebook and WhatsApp while sparing them a timeframe of 30 days to take adequate measures in order to put an end to the data sharing practice among the two companies. It has also been made clear that such kind of act is clearly a violation of Data Protection Law in France. If the requirements of the French authorities are not fulfilled in the communicated timeframe then they might face some serious consequences and heavy fines.

All of this information and recent developments might get you a little spooked out and that you might start to feel more reluctant towards sharing any of your personal data among the social networks you trust the most. It is an understood fact that life without these messaging apps and social platform seems impossible but do keep in mind that your very first priority should always be your very own safety.

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