WhatsApp - which is owned by Facebook, and has always placed a premium on privacy - now offers video chatting for its 1 billion users worldwide, and has a heavy-duty security feature cooked into the offering, according to CNN Tech. Like all text and phone messages sent via the app, WhatsApp's video chat will likewise offer encrypted as its default setting, allowing only the people on either end of the video call to view anything.
A big shift in industry trend
WhatsApp is hardly the first popular chat service to offer end-to-end encryption, but privacy experts say the size of its user base - 1 billion worldwide - makes this move vital for pushing global security standards in a secure direction, CNN noted. Apple's FaceTime app is similarly secured by default, but is only available to iOS users, while WhatsApp has a huge market base because it accessible on many Android devices. Likewise, Google will roll out its own video chat app (known as Duo) later this year, but it will effectively be starting from scratch.
Interestingly, WhatsApp was in the news recently because a security expert said he found a flaw in the company's encryption early last year and it still hasn't been fixed, according to The Guardian. The vulnerability is a back door which could allow some third parties - government agencies, for instance - to monitor specific (but not all) conversations. While much of the issue is complicated, it only affects messages as they're being transmitted; once they're delivered they remain encrypted. This would apply to voice, and potentially even video calls.
Boost your security
While this vulnerability still exists, other security experts point out the scope of it is quite limited and may not open up users to much identity theft or fraud risk.
But consumers can still be affected, according to Mac World. There are simple steps users can take to help boost their privacy on WhatsApp. Users are advised to make sure they turn on the "Show Security Notification" settings within the app, and verify the number assigned to each contact before they start conversations with them, especially if the person on the other end has changed devices. That's particularly vital if a person's security code has changed.
Moreover, while WhatsApp encourages users to back up their messages on a server, it may lessen the message security by removing the encryption for storing purposes, Mac World stated. For those who want to keep their conversations private, it's best to ensure the back-up feature is turned off.
It should also be noted that WhatsApp is actually built along similar lines as an open-source encrypted communication platform known as Signal, according to Fast Company Design. While the hallmark of Signal is security - in much the same way as WhatsApp's - and it doesn't have the financial backing that Facebook provides, meaning any new features could present new security concerns. However, because of its singular focus, Signal is considered by many to be the gold standard for private chatting.
With all this in mind, consumers should always be cognizant of the ways in which they can improve their privacy through apps and websites, so as to better avoid falling victim to these threats. Learn more about how to be proactive about your personal privacy with Identity Guard. With a variety of products, you can choose the Identity Guard products that fits your lifestyle.