There are over 1.5 billion WhatsApp users across 180 countries, and more than a billion of them use it daily, making this the most popular messaging app out there.
One of the reasons it’s so popular is because it offers more security than your everyday messaging app. With the built-in end-to-end encryption, users can rest assured that the only person with access to their messages, voice, and video calls is the recipient.
However, this doesn’t mean that WhatsApp is bulletproof. In May 2019, a targeted surveillance attack that exploited the app’s vulnerability was discovered, and it endangered a number of WhatsApp users.
Luckily, there are ways that users can ensure their safety and privacy while using this app, so let’s take a look.
Here’s How Stay Safe When Using WhatsApp
#1. Security Notifications Will Keep You in the Know
One of the better features that WhatsApp has is its security codes. In short, whenever a new device accesses a user’s existing chat, a new security code is created for both the sender and the recipient of messages. This way, the users can be assured that they have end-to-end encryption.
Security codes can change if a user has reinstalled WhatsApp, or if they’ve changed their phone.
To verify that all chats have end-to-end encryption, users can turn on their security notifications, and be notified whenever the security code changes. They can then verify the code by scanning the QR code or comparing the 60-digit codes.
#2. Cloud Backup Is a Potential Security Threat
While the messages and voice and video calls have end-to-end encryption, it doesn’t mean that no one can get a glimpse of the chat history. WhatsApp has a backup option that allows users to store their chat history in the cloud, either on Google Drive or iCloud.
This is a great feature that allows users to save all their messages and get access to them if they change their phones or need to reinstall their WhatsApp. The problem here is that the cloud doesn’t have end-to-end encryption, making it vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Those who are concerned about their privacy should disable the cloud backup option.
#3. Two-Factor Authentication Is a Must
Two-factor authentication gives users an additional layer of protection against outsiders attempting to gain access to their accounts. It requires users to not only enter their username and password when logging into their accounts but an additional security code as well.
When it comes to WhatsApp, users cannot lock it with a password. However, they can still enable two-factor authentication. Users will need to create a 6-digit PIN, manually enable two-factor authentication, and WhatsApp will periodically ask for the said PIN code.
#4. A VPN to Ensure Privacy
Even if WhatsApp had perfect, bullet-proof encryption, it wouldn’t matter much if an outsider gained access to a user’s phone and started monitoring their activity. So, those who want to be safe while using WhatsApp have to ensure their devices are safe. The best way to do that is through a VPN.
What is a VPN? A VPN (Virtual Private Network) works by keeping the connection between a device and a network hidden and encrypted. This means that no outsider can intercept the connection, nor gain access to a device’s apps and data.
#5. Passwords Are Still Important
Since WhatsApp doesn’t have the option to be locked with a password, most users don’t really think twice about it. This doesn’t mean passwords aren’t important – it just means the users need to take some extra precautions.
Android users can install App Lock apps and keep their WhatsApp account secure, but iPhone users don’t really have many options. The only alternative is ensuring that the device has a strong password or pattern lock. When the password is strong, unique, and next to impossible to remember, users can rest easy knowing that breaking into their device is that much more difficult.
#6. Keep the App Updated
Lastly, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep all the software and apps updated, including WhatsApp.
Software updates bring much more than just a new design. They mostly come with crucial bug fixes and security patches. Outdated software is vulnerable to cyber attacks because it has known security issues that can easily be exploited. All WhatsApp users should be sure to always have the latest version of the app.
The Bottom Line
Software updates, strong passwords, VPN, and more will ensure better security and allow users to stay safe while using WhatsApp. Regardless of how secure an app is, taking these few extra steps as a precaution is always a good idea.