Millions of people use WhatsApp to send pictures, messages, and other confidential information to friends and family members around the world. The amount of people who use WhatsApp suggests that many people find it safe, or safe enough.
But what else should you know about WhatsApp’s security?
First things first, let’s discuss the term safe. Since safe is such an ambiguous term and means something entirely different to different people, I’m going to assume from now on that safe means protected, in that your pictures, messages, and other information are not easily accessible from a third-party observer, whether that’s your brother or sister in the next room or a hacker across the way.
So, with the definition set, let’s discuss whether WhatsApp is safe, or safe enough. Again, meaning that your info is secure from prying eyes.
WhatsApp Safety Measures Explained
WhatsApp says it continually protects your data and content against would-be prying eyes and hackers, stating on its website that they use safeguards to preserve the security of your personal information and that messages sent over its network are encrypted, which means any information you send is reverted to code to prevent against unauthorized access.
This is key. Even with good encryption, a hacker would be hard-pressed to obtain your data.
WhatsApp also recommends not using unprotected Wi-Fi or other networks to send messages, as doing so could result in third-party hackers obtaining your information.
This is also a key point and one that users should be most aware about, as it appears that most hacking is done through third-party applications.
Its website states that it cannot guarantee against any such breach if one were to occur, but will notify the recipient if an event does happen. These are necessary legalities for such an expansive application.
Further still, and this is also very important, WhatsApp claims it does not store any messages — including your photos — on its servers. It only does so until your message is sent to the receiving phone. If the recipient of the message doesn’t receive the message after 30 days, the message will get deleted. Cyber security is a big deal with WhatsApp.
What Is There to Worry About?
Hacks do happen. Hackers who want to pry on your information and steal your photos can and will find ways, and they mostly do so when you’re using insecure networks, like airport Wi-Fi.
Leaks can also happen after your message is sent. If the recipient of your photo carelessly leaves their phone on to be seen by others, your photo can be seen and shared.
How to Be More Secure on WhatsApp
There’s nothing you can do about WhatsApp’s network. If it says the network is secure, you’ll just have to take WhatsApp’s word for it.
You can, however, protect your WhatsApp images by doing a few things.
First, use networks you’re familiar with or a VPN server when you’re not sure. ExpressVPN is said to be one of the best, most secure VPN networks out there.
Lock your phone. Don’t make it easy for would-be hackers. Keep your phone locked and away from prying eyes.
Avoid scams. If you get a message that seems fishy, don’t click on anything or reply. WhatsApp says it will never contact you, so don’t follow any links offering anything free. Avoid these messages completely.
Keep your profile hidden. Google’s reverse image search is a nifty tool for anyone wanting to find more information about a photo. If that photo is a picture of you, anyone wanting to find out where your profile picture has been used before and other information can easily do so. So, keep your profile hidden and no one can reverse image search your profile picture.
Last but not least, block your WhatsApp photos from appearing on your phone’s photo albums. WhatsApp gives you the option of storing photos sent and received on the app to your phone. If you send a discreet photo while having this option turned on, that same discreet photo will show up on your phone’s photo album and could be more easily accessible.
You can turn off this feature on your iPhone in the Settings menu under Privacy > Photos, and then by deselecting WhatsApp from the list of apps. The phone’s photo stream will no longer be able to save pictures from WhatsApp.
It’s a bit trickier for an Android phone. You’ll have to use a File Manager app to access your phone’s files. After downloading an app, you’ll need to create a .nomedia file under WhatsApp’s Images and Videos file. Doing so should prevent your shared photos on WhatsApp from being saved to the phone’s photo stream.
Put simply, WhatsApp can be easily susceptible when used over insecure Wi-Fi or other networks. Your photos, phone numbers, and other information can be made easily available for hackers who want your data.
But there are measures out there that you can take to be as secure as possible. Be smart about who you send photos to. Be smarter about what types of photos you send, and always be safe when you send information over the internet.
Nothing is truly 100% secure. If someone wants to obtain your photos and information, they can most likely acquire it because of something you’ve done, and not via WhatsApp’s own network.
Do you send photos on WhatsApp? Do you trust its networks to be secure? What safeguards do you take to prevent hackers from stealing your content? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.