WhatsApp rolls out end-to-end encrypted Google Drive, iCloud backups

WhatsApp logo
WhatsApp logo (Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Update, Oct 14 (17:15 ET): Rolling out now

What you need to know

  • Popular messaging app WhatsApp will soon enable end-to-end encryption for backups in Google Drive and iCloud.
  • The feature will roll out to users on Android and iOS in the coming weeks.
  • Encrypted backups will ensure nobody else can access your messages.

WhatsApp announced on September 10 that it will soon allow users to protect their message backups using end-to-end encryption. While WhatsApp already allows users to back up their message history via Google Drive and iCloud, they are currently secured by the cloud-based storage services.

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Facebook says it created an all-new system for encryption key storage to make end-to-end encryption possible for backups on both Android and iOS. Once you enable end-to-end encryption, your backups will be encrypted with a unique, randomly generated encryption key. You can secure the key manually or with a password.

Whatsapp E2ee Backups

Source: WhatsApp (Image credit: Source: WhatsApp)

When you choose to use a password, the encryption key is stored in a Backup Key Vault that is "built based on a component called a hardware security module — specialized, secure hardware that can be used to security store encryption keys." You can access the backup using your encryption key or your personal password to retrieve the key from the Backup Key Vault.

Whatsapp E2ee Backups

Source: WhatsApp (Image credit: Source: WhatsApp)

The encryption key will be rendered permanently inaccessible after a "minimal number" of unsuccessful attempts to access it. This, Facebook says, will help prevent brute-force attempts to retrieve the key.

ChatD, which is WhatsApp's front-end service, will implement a protocol to send the encryption keys to and from the app's servers. The contents of the encrypted messages, however, will not be accessible to ChatD. WhatsApp also clarifies that it will only know a key exists in the HSM, but not the key itself.

The HSM-based Backup Key Vault service will be located across multiple Facebook data centers to prevent outages and ensure that it operates reliably for over 2 billion WhatsApp users.

The feature will roll out to users on the best Android phones and iPhones over the coming weeks.

Update, Oct 14 (17:15 ET) ― End-to-end encryption now available

Facebook announced on Thursday that WhatsApp begins rolling out end-to-end encrypted backups today. The blog post indicates that Facebook will start "rolling this feature out slowly" to its more than 2 billion users, so it may take some time to reach your device.

You can check for the feature in the latest version of WhatsApp by navigating to Settings > Chats > Chat Backup, where you'll see an option for end-to-end encryption.

Babu Mohan
News Writer
  • Signal so much better...
  • Functionally? No it's not - it's a steaming pile of garbage with little to no development despite the big opportunity which, now I believe it lost. Most people I know have gone back to WhatsApp due to lack of features on Signal. But from a privacy perspective - yeah people should only be using it ideally. Though there need to be options to allows hooks into conversations - for e.g. I like Google's AI and want my Google Account to have access to certain conversations.
  • Nonsense, Signal does everything I need it to and it does it securely and without a hitch... I will never ever use any messaging app produced by Facebook or Google for that matter...
  • Well, I don't know. Whatsapp has several features that I surely miss on signal. I agree with above statement, signal had THE chance to pull in whatsapp folks but lack of features is frustrating. Having said that, I also wouldn't go back to those data stealing, privacy ignoring jerks at Facebook.
  • WhatsApp really needs to enable 'streaming' message history and media management - even if using my Google account to manage local storage space.