After Apple, is WhatsApp the US Government’s Next Crypto Target?

Secure_text_messagingI wrote earlier at http://goo.gl/ikpg93 about the excellent security and privacy in WhatsApp, a replacement for text messaging. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, which means only the recipient and sender can see the messages. Government and individual hackers cannot tap into the messages because of the heavy-duty encryption used.

An article by Liam Tung in ZDNet speculates that WhatsApp’s encryption is too good. He reports WhatsApp,  the world’s largest mobile messaging service, could be the next tech company in line for a legal battle with the US government over encryption that’s seen as frustrating a criminal investigation. Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s founder, who was born in Ukraine, has talked about his family members’ fears that the government was eavesdropping on their phone calls.

US government officials reportedly are weighing options to resolve a “prolonged standoff” over an approved wiretap order that investigators can’t act on due to WhatsApp’s messaging encryption, according to a New York Times article at http://goo.gl/SvDuwF. Liam Tung’s article is available at http://goo.gl/NQxvvR.

I’d suggest downloading and installing WhatsApp now while you still can. See https://www.whatsapp.com.

In a twist, the government helped develop the technology behind WhatsApp’s encryption. To promote civil rights in countries with repressive governments, the Open Technology Fund, which promotes open societies by supporting technology that allows people to communicate without the fear of surveillance, provided $2.2 million to help develop Open Whisper Systems, the encryption backbone behind WhatsApp.

Of course, any government action against WhatsApp will be always be a waste of taxpayer dollars. Any legal action by the US government taken against WhatsApp or any other secure communications method will only apply to products developed or made available within the United States. As soon as any such product is banned, a dozen or more software developers in other countries will rush to offer replacement products that cannot be banned by the US government. Such products will easily be available to US residents and non-residents alike. Several such foreign-made products already exist. (See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aprivacyblog.com+text+message for information about several such products available today.) In fact, several products available today for Android cell phones offer even stronger encryption that that of the Apple iPhone. See https://privacyblog.com/2015/03/03/silent-circle-announces-new-blackphone-2-privacy-oriented-phone-and-tablet/ for a brief announcement of one such product that offers much better encryption that that of Apple’s iPhone.

Even more secure communications products undoubtedly will appear following any US attempted legal ban of WhatsApp or any other secure communications products.

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