WhatsApp cloud backups get end-to-end encryption1
You may have heard that WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted for users' safety and peace of mind—and they are. However, that feature only extends to your current, active messages on the app. Backups of your chat histories saved to iCloud or Google Drive, on the other hand, aren't encrypted. Yet this is about to change in the very near future.
spotted a leak revealing that chat backup encryption was definitely something WhatsApp was working on.It isn't the first time the issue has been brought up, as even back in May we
XDA Developers now reports that barely a few days ago, this very feature was released in a beta version to select users of the messaging app. For a short while, it allowed users of the beta to lock their backed-up communications as well as shared media securely behind a password.
The beta cloud encryption was only available for a few days, however, before WhatsApp pulled it in order to take care of connection issues in the cloud backups. However, the main encryption features were already revealed to the public during that short time period.
Encryption works not only on cloud backups, but even on local backups to your phone or home server as well—although in the case of total device failure, it would be more difficult to recover.
Although users can choose the password they want to use (as opposed to automatically generated encryption), there are some constraints for security's sake. The encryption key is required to have only numbers and lowercase letters, which are between "a" and "f." This is a safety measure to ensure that no passwords can be easily deciphered and backups unlawfully accessed.
Users will need to write down the encryption key somewhere or remember it well, though, because WhatsApp does not offer any recovery services if you end up forgetting your password. In that case, whatever WhatsApp backups were stored behind that key up until that point will be lost.
We expect WhatsApp to have polished up the connectivity issues that caused it to pull the beta in the first place any day now, and hopefully see it become available globally in a matter of days.