When you open a new chat on WhatsApp, have you observed the message in the empty chat section? The very first line of the message reads “Messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted.” Have you tried figuring out what end-to-end encryption really means? Let’s take a look.
How Does End-to-End Encryption Work?
End-to-end encryption is not a specific feature that only WhatsApp uses. It is a technology that many communication apps and platforms use to protect your privacy. To define it in the simplest terms, it protects the message you’re sending or receiving with the help of a complicated code. This code is called an encryption, which only the receiver of the message can unlock.
In other words, when you send a message to someone, it gets encrypted the moment you hit send. This applies to a simple hello or something as sensitive as your bank details. Leave alone hackers and government agencies, even the server and the messaging platform you’re using cannot read your message. Only the receiver can read what you’ve sent.
Let’s understand this with a simple example:
Suppose, you send a message to your friend that simply says “Hello, how are you?”. When you hit send, the server does know that you sent a message. However, all it is able to read there is a set of characters that make no sense. It might look something like this:
However, the friend you sent the message to will read exactly what you wrote.
Examples of Platforms Using End-to-End Encryption
Other than Whatsapp, there are plenty of communication platforms that use this service. After all, a good brand is aware that your privacy and security is of utmost importance. Some of the messaging platforms using end-to-end encryption include Telegram, Viber, Wire, iMessage and Signal.
What about your email platforms?
Given that the data you send or receive here can be more sensitive, you’ll be expecting end-to-end encryption services here. By default, platforms like Gmail use encryption-in-transit. In this technology, your data is encrypted in transit, but can be decrypted by the server too. So, your messages are protected from parties who may have access to your network but not from the server.
However, if you don’t want Gmail to read your messages, there is something you can do about it. The solution to this is using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption. For using this technology, you need to install browser extensions like Mailvelope or FlowCrypt. Compatible with both Chrome and Firefox, it allows you to send and receive completely encrypted emails on Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo.
Where are the Loopholes?
End-to-end encryption technology is being used on every platform where you need secure communication. What you’re really protecting here is breach of your data. However, that doesn’t mean that an unauthorized user cannot gain access. This is because if anyone steals or hacks your device, the user can gain access to all your messages.
We all have seen screenshots of WhatsApp chats posted on social media before. That clearly means that there is no 100% guarantee that end-to-end encryption can provide. However, we do know that it is necessary and safer than transferring data without any encryption at all.