WhatsApp is an incredibly popular application that replaces standard SMS texting with sending messages over the internet. Thus, the cost of messaging friends and family is much less than with a typical phone plan. This makes WhatsApp much more accessible to people worldwide than texting, allowing millions to use it to stay in contact with loved ones or employers. However, is WhatsApp safe? The ease of access makes many interested in answering this question.
What Exactly Is WhatsApp Used For?
WhatsApp is a messaging app similar to Facebook Messenger. It does require a phone number to set up your account but doesn’t use data to send messages or make calls. Instead, it uses the internet, making access much easier for people who can’t afford to pay for data. WhatsApp works exactly like a standard phone’s texting or calling app.
Is WhatsApp Safe for Texting?
Thankfully, yes, WhatsApp takes its users’ safety into account and offers ways to keep their messages safe. Any texts someone sends through WhatsApp are encrypted, meaning the message gets scrambled in a way no hacker could undo. Even if a malicious actor intercepts your texts, they wouldn’t be able to read the words or figure out how to unscramble them. This makes the app much more appealing to businesspeople who may need to discuss sensitive information.
WhatsApp also has features that allow for easy text deletion. You can either delete a text message you sent for yourself or delete it for everyone, whether that means one other person or a whole group. Additionally, some settings allow texts to disappear within a set time — 24 hours, one week or 90 days. This feature is incredibly useful if you’re sending something that requires privacy.
Does WhatsApp Protect Your Data?
While WhatsApp is safe on a message-to-message basis, it has run into some data privacy issues. Back in mid-2022, hackers found a way to access unsuspecting victims’ accounts merely by making a phone call. The victim just had to call the hacker back, unwittingly give them permissions to their account and end up losing access in minutes. There was also a major phishing scam going around to everyone with WhatsApp that bypassed email spam filters.
However, in November 2022, there was a massive hack of WhatsApp user information. The data set this person allegedly stole contained the phone numbers of 487 million people on the messaging app. In the set were 45 million Egyptian numbers, 35 million Italian, 32 million U.S., 29 million Saudi Arabian, and 20 million French and Turkish, among many others. Tech news publication Cybernews was able to access a sample of the stolen phone numbers and confirm that they were all WhatsApp users.
Part of the reason WhatsApp has a sketchy past regarding data privacy is because of its parent company, Meta. The social media giant has faced previous criticism for allowing third parties to scrape its information, meaning they use a bot to harvest large amounts of data very quickly. While data scraping has uses in marketing and analytics, many people prefer to keep such information private. Not to mention, permitting scraping can lead to easily preventable hacks and data breaches.
While it’s not sure that data scraping was the cause of this latest WhatsApp data breach, such massive information sets are usually the result of this act. The information criminals obtain from these hacks can lead to more phishing scams or fraud.
Is WhatsApp Safe for Kids?
While WhatsApp is generally safe for children, there are some security safeguards to educate them on. First — and perhaps most importantly — they should never talk to someone they don’t know on WhatsApp. While it is perfectly normal to have internet friends, older teens or adults may use the app’s text deletion and encryption features to hide their dangerous motives for talking to kids.
Additionally, children need to know about privacy. While they may have deleted a message or photo they sent for everyone, they never know if someone on the other end saved or screenshotted it. Ensure they’re careful about what they share with others. You can also show your kids how to edit who can see their information, who is okay to share their location with and how to block people that make them uncomfortable.
Protecting Yourself on WhatsApp
With all that said, how can you stay safe on WhatsApp? Keeping an eye out for scammers and finding ways to protect your data will help. Here are a few tips for being vigilant while using this convenient messaging app.
- Encrypt Your Data Backups
Though WhatsApp does encrypt your messages and calls, it won’t automatically do the same when it sends a backup to the cloud. To turn this on, go into the app’s Settings — where the menu pops up will differ between iPhones and Androids. Once you’re there, go to Chats and then hit Chat backup. Then, tap End-to-end encrypted backup, select Turn on and follow the steps WhatsApp provides.
Doing this will ensure any data in iCloud or Google Drive also becomes encrypted. These backups are handy if you need to switch to a new phone, but leaving them unencrypted also opens you up to data breaches. Making sure your backups encrypt is essential.
- Adjust Your Information’s Visibility
By default, WhatsApp allows other users to see when you’re online, your location, your About information and any status updates. However, you can go into Settings once again, select Privacy and edit who can see those details. This can help prevent anyone from seeing data they don’t need to.
- Turn On Two-Factor Authentication
While WhatsApp calls it Two-step verification, the process is much the same. Two-factor authentication means you must have two pieces of data to log into your account. This process makes logging in much more secure, as a hacker would have to steal your credentials and another factor to enact a breach. For WhatsApp, that will be a six-digit number.
Is WhatsApp Safe?
WhatsApp is typically a safe app. However, scammers and criminals love to target it because it has so many users and tiny security holes to exploit. Use these three tips to keep your WhatsApp activity secure.
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