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WhatsApp backup encryption rolls out to beta testers on Android

Published Jul 19th, 2021 7:31AM EDT
WhatsApp Backup Encryption
Image: oatawa/Adobe

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WhatsApp has just received a feature that people have wanted for years, the ability to run the popular chat app on other devices with the same account. A limited version of the multi-device support was already available to users. You can run WhatsApp on desktops, but only if there’s a permanent wireless connection to your smartphone’s WhatsApp app. Full multi-device support increases the number of devices that can run the same WhatsApp account and eliminates the smartphone tether. WhatsApp on desktop will be a fully functioning application when it exits beta. It turns out that’s not the only handy new WhatsApp feature Facebook is testing. The company is also rolling out WhatsApp backup encryption, another functionality that many people have been asking for.

Multi-device functionality and backups are features that can go hand in hand. The latter is especially useful if you need to switch devices and port over the latest version of your WhatsApp chat history. But WhatsApp backups have limited functionality, and they’re not encrypted.

WhatsApp chats and calls are end-to-end encrypted. That means others can’t intercept and access data without knowing the device’s password. And you can set a password for the WhatsApp application for extra protection.

But backups are a different thing. They’re not encrypted, so anyone with access to them can read the WhatsApp chats in full. That’s why backup encryption is such a big deal.

How to enable WhatsApp Backup Encryption

As with other WhatsApp features, backup encryption isn’t out for all WhatsApp users. The feature is in testing, and Facebook supports only Android devices at this time. WaBetaInfo first noticed the feature in WhatsApp beta for Android

To take advantage of it, you’ll have to sign-up for the beta on Android and update the app to the latest version.

Before you start taking advantage of WhatsApp backup encryption, you’ll have to remember there’s a huge caveat here. End-to-end encryption is a great privacy and security feature to add to backups. But you’ll need to set a password for those backups. Alternatively, you can set a 64-digit backup encryption key.

Forgetting or losing either the password or the encryption key will have the same annoying effect. You won’t be able to access the backup contents until you remember either one. Facebook, Google, or anyone else can’t help you recover access to the backup. That’s par for the course when it comes to encryption. Only you should be able to decrypt the data. That’s why passwords are required.

It’s unclear at this time when backup encryption will roll out to all users and whether it’ll come to iPhone soon. But all users will likely get a similar WhatsApp experience in the near future. That includes multi-device and backup encryption support.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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