You can add an extra layer of security to your WhatsApp chats now.
Wondering how to end-to-end encrypt WhatsApp backups? For the longest time, you didn’t have the option to store your WhatsApp back-up in iCloud or Google Drive end-to-end encrypted. But that’s all changed now. We’ll walk you through what you need to know…
End-To-End Encrypted Messenger Apps
Encryption is the most important thing about any messenger app. And not just regular encryption – end-to-end encryption (also known as E2E). But first, let’s briefly explain what encryption is when related to messaging apps.
If a message is encrypted it means that it is digitally scrambled and if someone saw the raw code of the messages they couldn’t make out the text inside. The only way you can read the text of an encrypted message is if you have the encryption key (this is a digital key).
When you use an encrypted messaging app, both the sender and receiver automatically get the decryption key, so they can see the content of the text message. However, if the messaging app ONLY offers encryption and not end-to-end encryption, the messaging app provider will also usually have a copy of this key. That means, should the provider want – or be issued with a warrant – they could view your messages without you knowing.
End-to-end encryption, on the other hand, is a technology much like regular encryption except for the ONLY people with the decryption keys are the sender and the receiver of the message. The messaging app or provider does not have access to the key. This means that even should they be served with a warrant, they would not have the technical ability to read your encrypted messages.
The Problem With Backing Up Messages
WhatsApp is an end-to-end encrypted messaging app just like Apple’s Messages and Signal. This means Facebook owner WhatsApp does not have the key to decrypt your messages, nor does Apple, nor does the Signal Foundation.
But because of the way E2E messaging apps back up their messages to cloud backups like iCloud and Google Drive, the E2E messages are actually stored in a simple encrypted state in the iCloud or Google Drive backup (this is why Signal does not back up messages to iCloud or Google Drive.
And because your E2E messages are now stored as a backup with regular encryption, the backup providers (Apple or Google) could technically decrypt them if issued with a warrant.
But for WhatsApp users – that’s no longer true. As of October 2021, WhatsApp now lets users choose to store backup their WhatsApp messages to iCloud or Google Drive in an end-to-end encrypted format, which means even if Apple or Google does decrypt your backups, they still can’t access your WhatsApp messages.
How To End-To-End Encrypt WhatsApp Backups
Backing up your WhatsApp messages while retaining their end-to-end encryption in the backup is now easy. Just do the following:
- In the WhatsApp app, tap on Settings.
- Tap Chats.
- Tap Chat Backup.
- Tap End-to-end Encrypted Backup.
- Tap Continue.
- When asked to create a password or key, do so.
- Tap Done.
WhatsApp will now end-to-end encrypt your backup chats before they are backed up to iCloud or Google Drive. But a word of warning: if you forget your password or key you created during the steps above, you’ll never be able to access the E2E back-ups again – and not even Facebook will have the technical capabilities to access them (which is the whole point of end-to-end encryption).
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.