Popular instant messaging app WhatsApp, on Tuesday, announced that it is turning on end-to-end encryption for all its users by default. The company says that every call a user makes, every text message they send, all photos and videos they share will now be more secure. Furthermore, the encryption status of any chat is visible under the chat's preferences screen. The announcement comes a little over a year after the Facebook-owned company partnered with Open Whisper Systems, a nonprofit software group that develops collaborative open source projects with a mission to "make private communication simple." The end-to-end encryption feature is available on the latest version of the app. In a blog post, Open Whisper Systems further explains the feature: Once a client recognizes a contact as being fully e2e capable, it will not permit transmitting plaintext to that contact, even if that contact were to downgrade to a version of the software that is not fully e2e capable. This prevents the server or a network attacker from being able to perform a downgrade attack. In a blog post, WhatsApp writes: While WhatsApp is among the few communication platforms to build full end-to-end encryption that is on by default for everything you do, we expect that it will ultimately represent the future of personal communication. WhatsApp has also made available the technical details about how the two companies implemented this feature (PDF). For those of you who haven't heard of WhatsApp, it's an instant messaging and voice calling app. The free service, which is available across all popular platforms, is used by more than a billion people worldwide every month. A report on Wired says that a team of only 15 engineers enabled this security feature for over a billion users. Privacy researcher and activist Christopher Soghoian rightfully adds, "Google has no excuse."
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