MESSAGING SERVICE WhatsApp has rolled out encryption for messages stored on Apple's iCloud, closing a loophole that meant chats were accessible in a readable form.
Forbes has the scoop, and reports that WhatsApp added the extra layer of security in late-2016 in a bid to stop hackers, along with law enforcement agencies, from getting their dirty mitts on messages stored in iCloud.
WhatsApp confirmed the rollout in a vague statement, saying: "When a user backs up their chats through WhatsApp to iCloud, the backup files are sent encrypted."
This ain't all as rosy as it sounds, though, as news of the feature first came to light after a third party company and FBI contractor claimed to be able to circumvent the security measure.
The company in question, Oxygen Forensics, claims its hacking tools are able to download the encrypted WhatsApp data backed up to iCloud, and then generate an encryption key to decrypt the data.
However, this workaround only works when it has access to a SIM card with the same mobile number that WhatsApp uses to send a verification code, and requires the users' Apple ID and password.
Even so, Forbes suggests the method could be used, for example, by police in possession of a device where the WhatsApp account has been deleted but iCloud backups have not been wiped.
Clunky workaround aside, news of WhatsApp's added encryption is unlikely to go well with either the UK or US government.
Here in Blighty, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has critised social media firms, including WhatsApp, for their use of encryption that she claims "gives a place for terrorists to hide.
"We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other," she said.
Over in the State, FBI director James Comey revealed earlier this month agency had been unable to access the contents of more than 3,000 mobile devices in the first half of the fiscal year, despite having legal authority to access the data. µ
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