WhatsApp, a massively popular messaging app, recently added end-to-end encryption for some mobile clients, a move that brings a high level of security to millions of users.
The change is the result of a partnership with Open Whisper Systems, the secure text and mobile OS company started by security researcher Moxie Marlinspike. Twitter acquired Open Whisper Systems in 2011 and Marlinspike stayed on there for two years before leaving. He has been working on encryption systems for many years and recently partnered with WhatsApp to help the company implement end-to-end encryption for users.
Right now, the encryption feature is included in the WhatsApp client for Android and only works for one-to-one messages, not group messages.
“The most recent WhatsApp Android client release includes support for the TextSecure encryption protocol, and billions of encrypted messages are being exchanged daily. The WhatsApp Android client does not yet support encrypted messaging for group chat or media messages, but we’ll be rolling out support for those next, in addition to support for more client platforms. We’ll also be surfacing options for key verification in clients as the protocol integrations are completed,” Open Whisper Systems said in a blog post.
The decision by WhatsApp to implement encryption is the latest in a series of such moves from large tech companies and Internet providers who have moved to protect their users’ traffic in the wake of the NSA surveillance revelations. Google, Yahoo and others have moved to increase their deployments of encryption in the last year or so, and in September CloudFlare announced that it would enable SSL for free for all of its customers.
The WhatsApp encryption deployment is likely one of the larger such implementations anywhere, even if it’s only on Android right now, as WhatsApp processes more than a billion messages every day. And the encryption deployment will be coming to other platforms in the near future.
“WhatsApp runs on an incredible number of mobile platforms, so full deployment will be an incremental process as we add TextSecure protocol support into each WhatsApp client platform. We have a ways to go until all mobile platforms are fully supported, but we are moving quickly towards a world where all WhatsApp users will get end-to-end encryption by default,” Open Whisper Systems said.