WhatsApp encryption has NOT been broken by the CIA – despite what WikiLeaks says

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WikiLeaks got heartbeats racing on Tuesday with the publication of a massive trove of confidential documents, revealing how the CIA hacks into electronic devices.
Among the most noteworthy WikiLeaks claims is that the CIA can bypass the encryption on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram to spy on citizens’ conversations.

Source: mirror.co.uk

The claim caused some concern among security professionals, who rely on encryption protocols to protect communications as they pass between devices.
No one – not even the developers of these apps – can read or see those messages while they are in transit, so it would be quite a feat for the CIA to “break” this encryption.
A closer look at the documents confirms that the encryption of WhatsApp and other secure messaging apps has not been compromised.
Why is WhatsApp adding encryption and what does it mean for your messages?
Instead, the CIA has found a way to gain direct access to the smartphones that these apps run on, and collect audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.
The CIA has found a way to gain direct access to smartphones (Source: mirror.co.uk)

“This is not an app issue. It is relevant on the level of devices and operating systems like iOS and Android. For this reason, naming any particular app in this context is misleading,” said Telegram in a statement on the leak.
The CIA has found a way to gain direct access to smartphones
“It doesn’t matter which messenger you use. No app can stop your keyboard from knowing what keys you press. No app can hide what shows up on your screen from the system. And none of this is an issue of the app.”
This may not sound very reassuring. Indeed, Edward Snowden tweeted that the CIA’s ability to hack iOS and Android devices is “a much bigger problem” than breaking encryption.
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia
The only way the CIA can see your messages is to hack your phone (Source: mirror.co.uk)

However, if the CIA had found a way to bypass encryption, it would gain wholesale access to everyone’s private messages – allowing it to monitor any conversation, anywhere in the world.
Instead, the only way the CIA can see your messages is to hack into your phone – which requires a much more targeted attack, normally reserved for people deemed to be a threat to national security.
“The really interesting aspect to this leak is how the alleged cyber spying tools all appear to have one thing in common – the need to acquire information over the wire,” said Lee Munson, security researcher at Comapritech.com.
“That means, for now at least, we can assume that messaging systems with strong end-to-end encryption are beyond the reaches of the security services; a win for everyone who is truly concerned about protecting their privacy today.”

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