The reputable WABetInfo reports that password-protected and encrypted chat histories are on their way to WhatsApp in a future build.
If true, this news will be welcomed, coming soon before WhatsApp users approaching D-Day to accept the messenger’s new terms of service that will allow WhatsApp to share some of your personal data with parent company Facebook.
WhatsApp policy concerns
Despite this, alternatives like Signal and Telegram have seen huge surges of new users as WhatsApp users become more wary of Facebook’s influence at WhatsApp and what that could mean for their privacy.
As it happens, one of WhatsApp’s strongest selling points is its chat security. Your online conversations are secured via end to end encryption, which means that only the person sending the message and reading it on the other end can see messages.
Vulnerability in the cloud
However, this security only safeguards you while the message is in transit. Once it is in your phone – and more concerningly, when backed up to the cloud – your messages are vulnerable to being snooped on by hackers.
The latest reports suggest that cloud backups will be receiving additional security with backed-up messages getting encrypted and secured by a password.
“To prevent unauthorized access to your iCloud Drive backup, you can set a password that will be used to encrypt future backups,” one of the screenshots reads.
“This password will be required when you restore from the backup.”
No access without password
The app then asks the user to confirm their phone number and select a password that’s at least eight characters long. Another screenshot warns that “WhatsApp will not be able to help recover forgotten passwords.”
The WhatsApp Android and iOS apps store their cloud-based backups on Google Drive and iCloud, respectively. This has led to the concern that Google and Apple could be compelled by law enforcement authorities to access your online storage and, by extension, your chat history.
Should the reports be accurate, it would mean that the backups would be useless without your password.
It remains to be seen if and when the much-requested change makes it’s way into a future WhatsApp build, but WABetInfo has a pretty decent track record of breaking news early about new WhatsApp features.