WhatsApp’s iCloud backup option for data transfer from an old device to the new iPhone 12 may not be as secure as you might think

WhatsApp is a widely used messaging platform, and with its end-to-end encryption system, it claims to provide ultimate security and guaranteed privacy to all its almost 2 billion users in the entire world. But, the app may not be as secure as it likes to portray itself to be.

First off, Apple has been in the news because of its recent launch of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. But it has been discovered that when a user switches their WhatsApp account from their old device to the new iPhone, they are directed to use WhatsApp’s iCloud backup option to transfer all their WhatsApp messages history, media, and other settings. Now, apparently, it seems like a completely innocuous action, but actually what happens is that Apple gets a key to the users’ entire conversation history on WhatsApp during this transfer through the WhatsApp iCloud backup, because this backup is not protected by an end-to-end encryption system. Once all our conversation content becomes insecure and Apple saves it, it can forward it to law enforcement agencies if required! Of course, this kind of threat is for a very limited number of people and only a particular set of people will be really concerned about the law enforcement agencies accessing their conversations. But still, this is a privacy and security risk and WhatsApp’s rival apps like Signal and iMessage have already resolved this issue.

Another security/privacy risk comes with the recently launched feature that allows WhatsApp to self-delete users’ messages after 7 days if the user has enabled the option. Although, the company has been pitching this feature as a security fixture by letting people relax about their conversations, as they do not have to worry much because all their messages will self-disappear with this feature, but that’s not all about it.

If the user has quoted a message, that quoted and forwarded message will not self-disappear. Secondly, if someone sends a media file, it will be auto-downloaded in the recipient’s phone (if the auto-download option has been turned on,) even if it self-disappears from WhatsApp chat after seven days. Now, this is also quite dangerous because media files are already considered as quite dangerous, as they can contain any malware or they can provide a vulnerability for the cybercriminals to access the recipient’s device.

Snapchat and Instagram provide the option of expiring media, which is far better than this. Maybe WhatsApp is also going to look into this glitch and may try to fix it eventually.

Until then, it is better not to use this feature and to turn off the auto-download option for media files on WhatsApp too.


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