How Secure Is WhatsApp? [Main Concerns and Tips to Stay Safe]

Keelan Balderson
Keelan Balderson

Updated · Oct 27, 2022

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How secure is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a relatively safe app, thanks to its end-to-end encryption, but with 2 billion monthly active users, there’s a good reason to wonder if WhatsApp is safe enough.

Here’s everything you need to know. 

Is WhatsApp Safe To Use In 2022?

WhatsApp users share over 41 million messages daily.

That kind of popularity usually makes any software vulnerable. But, is WhatsApp a security risk?

No messaging platform is without vulnerabilities. Every social media platform has hackers attempting to break through it.

But, WhatsApp is generally considered a secure platform. The app encrypts every message that’s sent on it and the only people who can decode it are the sender and the recipient. 

If a hacker intercepts a message, they won’t be able to read it. Even WhatsApp has no means of accessing messages in transit.

This is much more robust security than you’ll find on other social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram.

On the flip side, WhatsApp does collect a lot of data from its users, much more than the likes of iMessage and Signal. But it collects considerably less than Snapchat, Google, Messenger, and TikTok. 

Unless you don’t use the others, WhatsApp is probably not your biggest problem. 

Most Common WhatsApp Security Issues

Although WhatsApp continues to offer a certain level of security to its users, there are still some WhatsApp dangers that you need to be wary of. 

Unencrypted Backups

WhatsApp encrypts all of your data, including chats and voice calls, but they’re only encrypted within the WhatsApp chat ecosystem. 

If you back up WhatsApp data on your Android or iPhone– which is handy in case you need to restore your data on a new device– the backup is not encrypted, at least not by default.

This means that if someone hacks into your Google Drive or iCloud, they could easily steal your data.

That's where dedicated backup software comes in hand since most of them offer file encryption.

WhatsApp Web Malware and Hackers

Your greatest risk on WhatsApp is getting your account hacked.

Hackers typically trick users into sharing the SMS message they need to activate the account on another device. They install the WhatsApp app on their phone and use the account they hijacked of one of your friends to message you and ask for the code, saying it was meant for them.

When you do, you lose your account.

The most recent WhatsApp security scandal that made headlines was that hackers could remotely hack your account by sending you a video file or video calling you. WhatsApp has since issued a fix in the latest update.

Another way you could lose your account is by downloading unauthorized third-party WhatsApp apps. This is a form of phishing and usually happens when users try to get the WhatsApp web client.

Although convenient for those who don’t want to constantly check their phones, the web client has opened up cybercrime opportunities for criminals to trick users into downloading their desktop variants of WhatsApp. 

If you’re not careful, you can easily download a malware-laced Google Chrome extension that seems like a legitimate messaging app.

You might be interested in: How to Spot a Phishing Email?

Facebook Data Sharing

WhatsApp privacy changes, which came into effect at the start of 2021, drew considerable backlash and prompted many users to flock to alternative platforms.

Namely, the messaging app updated its privacy policy, saying that it’s opening up further data sharing with Facebook. The updated terms require users to agree to share personal data, such as their phone number, with the app’s parent company Facebook.

In response to the criticism, WhatsApp clarified in a FAQ page on its website that the privacy policy has nothing to do with consumer profile data or chats and is related to businesses that use the service for customer service purposes.

So if you’re wondering “Are WhatsApp chats private?” the answer is yes.

On top of that, the app doesn’t share your location, doesn’t keep logs of who you’re messaging, and doesn’t share your contacts with Facebook.

The company even launched a new end-to-end encryption marketing campaign in early 2022 to reiterate its commitment to privacy.

Fake News

Social media platforms are a natural breeding ground for hoax messages and WhatsApp is no exception.

In fact, WhatsApp’s use of end-to-end encryption is what prevents it from going as far as its peers to moderate disinformation on its platform.

WhatsApp has still taken some steps to curb the spread of false information.

For example, it doesn’t allow users to forward a message to more than one person or group at a time if it had already been forwarded five times. WhatsApp also labels messages as “Forwarded” so users know that the sender is not the original creator of the message and might even add a “Forwarded many times” label.

As far as fact-checking is concerned, WhatsApp can do very little. For now, it advises users to “check your biases” and do a little research on messages that look different or those that “seem hard to believe.”

How To Keep Your WhatsApp Data Secure

The good news is there are changes you can make in the app to minimize security risks.

Encrypt Your Backup

The easiest way to mitigate the risk of having your data stolen is to enable encryption for your WhatsApp backups.

To do that:

  1. Open the WhatsApp app.
  2. On Android, tap the three-dot menu at the top and choose Settings in the dropdown menu. On an iPhone, you can find Settings at the bottom right.
  3. Tap Chats and select Chat Backup.
  4. Tap End-to-end Encrypted Backup and turn it on.
If you want to learn more about encryption and how it works, you can read our thorough guide here.

Add a PIN Number in WhatsApp

Adding a PIN number in your WhatsApp can save you and WhatsApp the trouble you’ll have to go through to get your account back if an attacker hijacks it.

Without a PIN, a hacker cannot get into your account, even if they get their hands on the SMS code they need to activate your account on another device. 

Disable Auto-Download

Is WhatsApp safe for sending private photos? Yes, it is, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The first thing you need to do to stop malicious content sent to your WhatsApp is to avoid clicking on unknown attachments and links. If they look suspicious, they usually are.

Secondly, disable the option to autosave images and videos to your phone’s gallery. These can come with embedded threats and it’s best to keep them out of your phone.

You might be interested in: How to Remove Malware from Android

Update WhatsApp Regularly

WhatsApp is constantly working to improve users’ security and privacy on the app, but some attacks can slip through the cracks. When this happens, WhatsApp is typically quick to respond and it usually does so with an update. 

If you’ve turned off automatic updates, you should keep an eye on any changes and make sure your app is up to date.

Bottom Line

So, how secure is WhatsApp? Not entirely. The consumer chat app collects and shares information about how you use the service. By sharing it with its parent company, Facebook, it puts your personal information and privacy at risk. 

However, the encryption of your chats and chat backups makes WhatsApp more secure than any other communication platform.

FAQs.


Is WhatsApp safe for kids?

As long as you monitor your child’s activity on the app and make sure that they’re only connected to people and accounts that can be trusted, WhatsApp is a safe app to use.

Is WhatsApp secure?

The app is considered to be secure, but as with any platform of its size, security risks are part of the deal.

What are the disadvantages of WhatsApp?

All messaging and social media platforms have their pros and cons. WhatsApp’s biggest selling point is its end-to-end encryption, but this also prevents it from stopping the spread of disinformation as effectively as other platforms. But, its biggest problem may be that its parent company is Facebook– which is a well-known data harvesting machine.

Can the police retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages?

WhatsApp says that it doesn’t keep data for law enforcement purposes, but the company may have no choice but to turn over data they have on a user if they get a court order. That said, it would be quite a challenge for the police or WhatsApp to recover data that the user deleted.

How secure is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption technology that renders messages unreadable in transfer, except between the sender and recipient. Although no app of its size is without risks, WhatsApp is generally considered to be safe.

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Keelan Balderson

Keelan Balderson

A qualified journalist and longtime web content writer, Keelan has a passion for exploring information and learning new things. If he's not writing or pushing his own brands, you'll find him watching pro wrestling or trying not to rant about politics online.

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