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How Access to Whatsapp Encryption May Affect your Privacy

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In the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Westminster, the British government on Sunday disclosed that its security services must have access to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp, revealing it was used by the killer behind the parliament attack.

In this piece, Yudala – the largest online and offline retail chain – examines the benefits of WhatsApp encryption and why access to these encrypted messages by a third-party may mean less privacy for you…

Created in 2009 as an alternative to text messaging, WhatsApp is today one of the world’s most popular instant messaging service with more than one billion users in 180 countries.

According to a May 2016 report from research firm SimilarWeb, WhatsApp is the top chat app in 109 countries, including Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 to make a bigger play in the rapidly-growing messaging market, along with its own Messenger platform. At the time the deal was announced, WhatsApp had 450 million users worldwide.

Khalid Masood, the 52-year-old Briton who killed four people before being shot dead in a rampage in Westminster on Wednesday, reportedly used WhatsApp to send a message some moments before the assault – a discovery that has seen the UK government determined to gain access to the end-to-end encrypted messages sent through the app.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd affirmed that it was “completely unacceptable” that police and security services had not been able to crack the heavily encrypted service.
“You can’t have a situation where you have terrorists talking to each other — where this terrorist sent a WhatsApp message — and it can’t be accessed,” she said.

WHAT DOES WHATSAPP END-TO-END ENCRYPTION MEAN?
WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what is sent and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. Your messages are secured with a lock and, only the recipient and you, have the special key needed to unlock and read your message. For added protection, every message you send has a unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically: no need to turn on settings or set up special secret chats to secure your messages.

It is also important to note that end-to-end encryption is always activated, provided all parties are using the latest version of WhatsApp. There is no way to turn off end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption is available when you and the people you message are on the latest versions of WhatsApp.

The benefits of end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp are numerous and has remained one of the major factors that has contributed to the growing popularity of the Facebook-owned service. These benefits include:

Privacy: With end-to-end encryption in place, people can communicate with each other and express themselves freely without fear of unintended people gaining access to their private stuff. This way, you can talk to your doctor about your medication, hold intimate chat sessions with your spouse/partner or have a discussion with an associate about a business proposal without the fear of being overheard or the call being tapped.

Safe group chats: Group chats are also safely encrypted, thereby lending an air of confidentiality to messages sent in such a forum. With encryption featuring in group chats, non-group members will have no clue at all about the happenings in the group. This makes it more attractive for people with like minds and interests to discuss their affairs in WhatsApp groups without the fear of being overheard.

Encryption works by default: Encryption setting is turned on by default by WhatsApp in all devices. If you are running the version of WhatsApp that has encryption support, you will be informed of this on your chat screen when you send messages across along with a lock symbol next to the confirmation screen. You can also verify the default ON setting by making use of a unique QR code on the phone of each contact in your list.

In case, for some reason, the default encryption setting does not get activated, you can do it yourself through a simple process. In your chat window, just click on your contact’s name at the top of the window to display his or her profile details. You will find an option to turn the encryption on.

WhatsApp can’t read your messages: End-to-end encryption means that even if it wanted to, WhatsApp cannot gain access to your messages. In other words, only the sender and receiver can read intended messages.

Not even WhatsApp employees or hackers will be able to gain access to the messages sent or received. This applies to any form of messages – text, images, videos and files.

Encryption works on all devices: The encryption in WhatsApp works using an open-source protocol known as Signal that is developed by an organization called Open Whsiper Systems. This company has worked in close association with WhatsApp in determining its requirements and the level of encryption to be provided.

The app ensures that smartphones featuring this app support the encryption and decryption keys to be applied to messages going out and coming into the device.

The encryption technology is supported by all recent WhatsApp versions running on Android, Windows, iPhones, and Nokia phones. Keeping in line with the usual trend, WhatsApp first introduced encryption on Android before extending it to other platforms.

Even in error, you are protected: WhatsApp has become very focused on making encryption mandatory that it now refuses to work on unencrypted messages.

If a person tries to send a contact an unencrypted message, WhatsApp will immediately prevent him or her from doing so.

Additionally, the sender will be informed that this is because the messages being sent from his or her end are not encrypted.

No server hacks with end-to-end encryption: When the encryption process was first implemented by WhatsApp, it took place over a central hub.

Messages management and key exchange coordination take place centrally, apart from central control of the encrypted code that is executed on both the servers and mobile phones.

However, this did not result in complete safety and paved way for end-to-end encryption. As a result, messages will get decrypted only on the receivers’ handsets rather than in between the server and the handsets.


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Millions of Cyber Attacks Launched on Nigeria, Others- Reports

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There were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUA) detections over a 7-month period in Nigeria, according to Kaspersky security solutions.

Millions of Cyber Attacks Launched on Nigeria, Others- Reports

Elsewhere in South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections, showing the growing desperation of the attacks.

The company reported on 28 million malware attacks in 2020 and 102 million detections of potentially unwanted programs (pornware, adware etc.) accounted for by the beginning of August 2020.

These numbers show that it’s not only the malware that attacks users but also the “grey zone” programmes that grow in popularity and disturb their experiences, while users might not even know it is there.

Potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) are programmes that are usually not considered to be malicious by themselves.

However, they are generally influencing user experience in a negative way. For instance, adware fills user device with ads; aggressive monetising software propagates unrequested paid offers; downloaders may download even more various applications on the device, sometimes malicious ones.

calculating interim results of threat landscape activity in African countries, Kaspersky researchers noticed that PUAs attack users almost four times more often than traditional malware.

They also eventually reach more users: for instance, while in South Africa, the malware would attack 415,000 users in 7-months of 2020, the figure for PUA would be 736,000.

“The reason why ‘grey zone’ software is growing in popularity is that it is harder to notice at first and that if the programme is detected, its creators won’t be considered to be cybercriminals. The problem with them is that users are not always aware they consented to the installation of such programmes on their device and that in some cases, such programmes are exploited or used as a disguise for malware downloads,” said Denis Parinov, a security researcher at Kaspersky.

By taking a closer look at PUA, it becomes apparent that they are not only more widespread but also more potent than traditional malware.

Evaluating results over the same 7-month period in Nigeria, there were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million PUA detections – which is four times as much.

Kenyan and South African threat landscapes have been more intense. In South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections.

Kenyan users faced even more malware attacks – around 14 million, and 41 million PUA appearances, Kaspersky said.


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Tech Giants Strike Deal with Advertisers over Hate Speech

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Web giants including Facebook have struck a deal with advertisers on how to identify harmful content such as hate speech, after an impasse over the issue which led to boycotts of the platform.

Tech Giants Strike Deal with Advertisers over Hate Speech

The agreement — which also included Twitter and YouTube — laid out for the first time a common set of definitions for hateful statements online.

In July, hundreds of advertisers including big-name consumer brands suspended advertising with Facebook as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, saying the social-media titan should do more to stamp out hatred and misinformation on its platform.

And earlier this month a group of celebrities — including Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry — stopped using Facebook and Instagram for 24 hours, to push a similar message.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) said in a statement Wednesday: “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in collaboration with marketers and agencies through the Global Alliance for Responsible Media have agreed to adopt a common set of definitions for hate speech and other harmful content and to collaborate with a view to monitoring industry efforts to improve in this critical area.”

The alliance was founded by the WFA and includes other major trade bodies.

According to the WFA, key areas of agreement included applying the alliance’s common definitions of harmful content; developing reporting standards for such content; establishing independent oversight; and rolling out tools for keeping advertisements away from harmful content.

The WFA said that properly defining online hate speech would remove the current problem of different platforms using their own definitions, which it said made it difficult for companies to decide where to put their ads.

“As funders of the online ecosystem, advertisers have a critical role to play in driving positive change and we are pleased to have reached agreement with the platforms on an action plan and timeline in order to make the necessary improvements,” said Stephan Loerke, chief executive of the WFA.

Luis Di Como, executive vice-president of global media at Unilever, a major advertiser, sounded a note of cautious optimism.

He said: “The issues within the online ecosystem are complicated, and whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Speaking in July, Facebook’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he remained adamant that the company did not want hate speech on the social network.

On Wednesday, the company’s vice-president for global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, said the agreement gave all parties “a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

 


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Nigeria, Others Facing ‘Millions of Cyber Attacks’ in 2020

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Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, continues to fall victim to millions of malware attacks and Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs), according to the latest research from Kaspersky.

The IT security firm says its security solutions have reported on 28 million malware attacks in 2020 and 102 million detections of PUA (including pornware, adware) accounted for by the beginning of August 2020.

PUAs are programs that are usually not considered to be malicious by themselves, Kaspersky explains. However, they are generally influencing user experience in a negative way.

For instance, adware fills user device with ads; aggressive monetizing software propagates unrequested paid offers; downloaders may download even more various applications on the device, sometimes malicious ones.

By taking a closer look at PUA, it becomes apparent that they are not only more widespread but also more potent than traditional malware, according to Kaspersky.

“Evaluating results over the same seven-month period in Nigeria, there were 3,8 million malware attacks and 16,8 million PUA detections – which is four times as much. Kenyan and South African threat landscapes have been more intense.

In South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections. Kenyan users faced even more malware attacks – around 14 million, and 41 million PUA appearances,” the company adds.

These numbers show that it’s not only the malware that attacks users but also the ‘grey zone’ programs that grow in popularity and disturb their experiences, while users might not even know it is there.

While calculating interim results of threat landscape activity in African countries, the researchers noticed that PUAs attack users almost four times more often than traditional malware. They also eventually reach more users: for instance, while in South Africa, the malware would attack 415,000 users in seven months of 2020, the figure for PUA would be 736,000.

“The reason why ‘grey zone’ software is growing in popularity is that it is harder to notice at first and that if the program is detected, its creators won’t be considered to be cybercriminals.

“The problem with them is that users are not always aware they consented to the installation of such programs on their device and that in some cases, such programs are exploited or used as a disguise for malware downloads. This is why many security solutions, including ours, flags such programs to make sure users are aware of its presence, influence on their device and activity,” says Denis Parinov, a security researcher at Kaspersky.


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