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WhatsApp encrypted backups rolling out to iPhone and Android

Updated Oct 15th, 2021 8:24AM EDT
WhatsApp Encrypted Backups
Image: Chris Tuite/imageSPACE/MEGA

Facebook announced a month ago that WhatsApp’s rumored end-to-end encrypted backup feature would roll out to all iPhone and Android. The company explained how users will be able to encrypt their chat backups in iCloud and Google Drive, which will ensure that nobody will access the contents. Previously, WhatsApp backups stored in the cloud were not end-to-end encrypted. Anyone with access to that cloud storage would have no issues opening WhatsApp backup files to go through the chats. The feature is rolling out to users, who will soon have the ability to save encrypted WhatsApp backups.

The feature started rolling out on Thursday, so iPhone and Android users should see the encrypted backup option appear soon in the app’s settings menu. The update will roll out gradually around the world, so there might be some delays for some people. But, eventually, WhatsApp users around the world will have the feature handy.

What encrypting WhatsApp backups means

WhatsApp users don’t have to encrypt their backups. And they don’t have to back up their chats, for that matter. But backing up data can come in handy in various scenarios. Backups let you preserve important conversations and ensure you don’t lose them even if something happens to your device. They can also be used when upgrading or changing handsets.

Encryption will be another layer of security to WhatsApp backups. That means people who aren’t supposed to see the contents of chats will be locked out permanently. That’s even if someone breaches your cloud account or if authorities subpoena a company to access your cloud data.

“While end-to-end encrypted messages you send and receive are stored on your device, many people also want a way to back up their chats in case they lose their phone,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said about the new WhatsApp feature. “Starting today, we are making available an extra, optional layer of security to protect backups stored on Google Drive or iCloud with end-to-end encryption. No other global messaging service at this scale provides this level of security for their users’ messages, media, voice messages, video calls, and chat backups.”

“You can now secure your end-to-end encrypted backup with either a password of your choice or a 64-digit encryption key that only you know. Neither WhatsApp nor your backup service provider will be able to read your backups or access the key required to unlock it.”

Remember the password

There’s also a significant downside to encrypting WhatsApp backups. You’ll have to make sure you remember the password or 64-digit key you’ve used to lock the files. That’s the only way to encrypt a service or device. You need some sort of password to access it. Lose or forget that password or digit key, and you’ll never be able to retrieve the WhatsApp backup contents. Facebook won’t be able to help either. That’s the point of end-to-end encryption. Only the person holding the keys to a secret can then access it.

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.