back to article WhatsApp to offer end-to-end encrypted backups in iCloud, Google Drive with user-managed keys

Facebook's WhatsApp on Friday said users will soon be able to store end-to-end (E2E) encrypted backups of their chat history on Google Drive in Android or Apple iCloud in iOS, with an option to self-manage the encryption key. The move makes encryption-enforced message privacy – typically rather complicated – more viable for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All you need to do then is just encrypt it with a One-Time Pad before it leaves your PC.

  2. Alumoi Silver badge

    Oh, wow!

    And the cynic in me thinks this is just another attempt to get their users to give up more valuable info about themselves. Like a certified link between a Whatsapp account and a Google/Apple one.

    I'll stick to the old method of backing up manually, to my own computer, via USB cable, thank you very much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, wow!

      Marketing for sure,

      Not only would you be trusting Facebook to deliver on those promises, Google is changing their signing system so *Google* holds the signing keys, so Facebook couldn't even ensure their app is *their* app.

      Google plans on optimizing each app for each device, and signing on the fly. So even comparing apps won't work, they will be different anyway, you will receive an app that is custom to you with whatever Google wants in it.

      So do you trust Google not to backdoor every app?

      The keys will be stored securely in Google secure security store for security and they pinky swear not to give the NSA an account. Do you trust that not happen? Because every agency that has an account has the keys to sign trojan versions of the app. EVERY APP, every banking app worldwide, every messaging app worldwide, every audio every camera EVERY APP.


      Australia just made hacking legal. Australia-US just signed a cyber cooperation agreement. Do you trust that the Aussie/US agreement won't give Australia access to that server and those signing keys to let Australia do the hacking on behalf of the others? I do not, I think we'll see a raft of trojan Aussie apps.

      Remember ANOM encrypted phone?

      I see the 'Anom secure phone' story is doing the rounds again, I've just been trying to validate it, perhaps its just that the coffee hasn't kicked yet, but I'm struggling to find the basic confirmation even of the first claim. It's all screwy.

      The first claim seems to come from the Australian police. A drugs bust in Ghent back in June 21 2021 of drugs aboard a fruit juice tanker sailing from Brazil to Australia via Belgium (WTF is that route?):

      "The illicit cargo was intercepted on 21 June 2021, when a fruit juice tanker from Brazil, destined for Australia, arrived into Ghent, Belgium." (Aussie police press release).

      I can find two juice tankers going to Ghent, but none (as you'd expect its a perishable cargo) to Australia via Ghent. e.g.

      OK, so maybe badly worded, the drugs not the vessel perhaps?

      So next, I cannot find the drugs bust in Flanders main newspaper from June 2021, I would expect such a major find to show up in contemperaneous local news. But nope.

      So now I try to find the guy, but the dates are all screwy. Not June 2021, but May 2020!

      27th May 2020, here he is getting arrested in Australia:

      "Julian Lee, 39, was one of five people arrested on March 30 - including his wife Hoang Anh Le - during a series of raids in Sydney that uncovered a $65million drug syndicate."

      28 June 2021 (more than a year later):

      "Husband of Instagram-star pole dancer allegedly masterminded $64M cocaine shipment by 'stashing drugs underneath a cargo ship for divers to pick up' - as he's caught in worldwide AN0M sting....

      Julian Lee, 39, was one of five people arrested on March 30 - including his wife Hoang Anh Le - during a series of raids in Sydney that uncovered a $65million drug syndicate"

      "Bondi fitness instructor Julian Lee was arrested at his home in Sydney's east LAST WEEK in the latest arrest resulting from the hi-tech AN0M sting, where police invented an encrypted messaging app for criminals and used it to read their texts.

      A tip off from Australian investigators led Belgian authorities to find 216kg of cocaine hidden in the hull of a fruit juice tanker heading from Brazil to Australia via Europe last Monday. "

      Yeh, "ARRESTED LAST WEEK" would match the Aussie police claim, except he was arrested last year too! Also for being a drug smuggler king-pin. He gets arrested a lot this guy.

  3. Chris G

    Cast iron security

    Is not sending reams of vapid massages in the first place.

    I also regularly delete old messages from my messaging app for both me and the recipient.

    1. xyz Silver badge

      Re: Cast iron security

      Can't we play a game.... Person A sends a whatsapp of aaaaaaaa etc (many As) to 10 person Bs, each of whom sends a whatsapp of bbbbbb etc (many Bs) to 10 more etc and see how quickly we can KABOOM servers and make data mining a hoot. I'm sure AIs would do that sort of thing for fun.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Cast iron security

        If you want to overload servers, you're going to have to do a lot more than that. Let's run some numbers; I'm bored.

        Let's assume each message has a thousand characters. Manually sent once per day to ten people. That makes your storage impact 10000 bytes for payloads and ten metadata frames, let's say those are another thousand bytes. Your friends each have ten friends who will do the same, not including you. So we now have a total of 111 people doing this. Current daily traffic is now 2.2 megabytes (using decimal). At Azure storage prices, that would cost Facebook about $0.00019 per day for all of you combined. If you do this routinely for a decade, that takes it up to $0.68. That's if they never compress your messages or delete the ones which are obvious garbage.

        But what if your friends can find other friends like a multilevel marketer's sales pitch? Well, if they go out four levels with ten friends each time, you now have 11111 people all spamming the system. Over our decade, that's a storage bill of $69.00. They will not notice.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice distraction from the real goal..

    What WhatsApp and LinkedIn share is their interest in relationships*, and as long as WhatsApp still absorbs the entire address book instead of of doing the hash matching that other messaging apps do, it is still stone cold in breach of GDPR and in general of its promises of privacy (which, given its actual business model, should have been met with the derision and distrust they deserve anyway).

    Thus, WhatsApp's promise to help users protect their data is again a deliberate distraction from what they are really acquiring.

    * If you want to know why relationship knowledge is so important, look for information about Gordon Welchman. His discoveries are still suppressed, but note that it's not about message contents.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Store your keys with Zuck.......I think not!!!

    Quote: '...Mark Zuckerberg....."WhatsApp..... getting there......required an entirely new framework for key storage..." '


    So.......Zuck has got the keys......who else I wonder can get them?


    A better approach would be for correspondents to use keys based on randomly chosen, very long prime numbers......and throw the keys away after every message.







  6. FuzzyTheBear

    encrypted backup ?

    Ok .. so if i get this right .. they want you to encrypt the backup ? .. this is idiotic and pointless. If the messages are in plaintext to begin with and it's on someone else's server .. it's allready too late to insure any privacy .. unless i totally missed the point an encrypted backup to publically accessible information ( public ie the companies themselves ) this is totally useless.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: encrypted backup ?

      "unless i totally missed the point"

      You did. It's not public. The chat messages themselves are encrypted during transit. Now you can back them up in an encrypted form too. If you trust Facebook to have all the other stuff that isn't encrypted like who you sent messages to and when, you can have more secure backups now. You probably shouldn't though.

    2. ElRegioLPL

      Re: encrypted backup ?

      What are you going on about? Whatsapp is E2E encrypted.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This could solve the current employment issues ...

    An0m was sold as the most secure phone on the planet, but now nobody uses it because most of the users have been jailed ... so the push is to use WhatsApp. "Secure" communications has resulted in many people now working from jail, not working from home. If WhatsApp includes An0m features then it could solve the current labour shortages.

  8. Mage
    Big Brother


    Doesn't Facebook own WhatsApp?

    No thanks.

  9. Snowy Silver badge

    They are not interested in the message!

    They are interested in who you talk to.

    1. TheProf

      Re: They are not interested in the message!

      I think the actually NEED to know who you're messaging for them to deliver the message.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: They are not interested in the message!

      Oh, they wouldn't mind knowing what people are talking about as well.

  10. Lee D


    Tell me when they honour my data opt-out for sharing my stuff with Facebook which I do not want to ever happen, even briefly.

    Their only option for me when I complained to them officially was "email us - to an insecure email address - the exact data that you don't want us to store to prove that it's you".

    I have a complaint in with the ICO about it.

    At that point, I'll think about giving them my Google account tokens/data.

  11. Conyn Curmudgeon

    A bit late now

    Though the last person had left whatsapp and turned the lights off? Aren't we all using signal now? I get so confused.

  12. DrXym Silver badge

    All cloud storage should do this

    I suspect the reason they don't is bandwidth and storage capacity. If someone uploads a duplicate of something they already have all they need to do is increment a reference count on that rather than bother to upload it or store it twice or multiple times.

    But that still isn't much of an excuse for not supporting end to end encryption even if it is off by default. Allow users to set a strong password, or a key file or even a USB encryption device that is used to encrypt the content before it leaves the device and ends up on their server.

  13. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge


    Hasn't anyone noticed that none of the big American tech-giants uses end-to-end encryption for their cloud file storage?

    I believe this isn't a coincidence; I believe the U.S. government has pressured them to abstain from doing this. Only Mega ( uses end-to-end encryption effectively on file storage.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Noticed

      More likely it's just economic reasons - encrypted files can't be compressed and they can't recognize duplicate files and are compelled to store them multiple times. I'm sure various governments would lean on them if they did try end to end encryption though.

      I'm sure there is software which applies end to end encryption to cloud drives, e.g. by maintaining its own staging folder encrypted before being copied to the cloud drive folder and the same in the opposite direction. Not ideal and definitely no excuse for cloud services not offering the same function.

      1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

        Re: Noticed

        The problem is, when you don't E2E encrypt people's files, someone (either from the government or some educational institution) will start researching whether there's CSAM on your servers.

        And if you have hundreds of millions of users (like Google or Microsoft) there's bound to be some. And then the government starts asking difficult questions: why is there CSAM on your servers and why aren't you doing anything about it? Pretty soon they'll start threatening you with draconian legislation and maybe even liability.

        No one's asking whether there's CSAM on Mega's servers (I'm pretty sure there is and it may well be the biggest repository of CSAM) but we just don't know. So they don't have to answer difficult questions and face possible sanctions.

        1. DrXym Silver badge

          Re: Noticed

          Maybe they will but as I said I think these companies just did it to save themselves storing large amounts of redundant data. I even dug out a comment I made along similar lines 9 years ago:

          I think crypto could and should be added to their clients even if someone has to purposefully choose to enable it. I don't even think it's that complicated to do really other some transitional edge cases (i.e. if a user sets, resets or changes the password).

          1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

            Re: Noticed

            I don't buy the "saving storage" argument. I believe most people's files are unique. Besides you'd have to correlate the file hashes of hundreds of millions of people and trillions of files.

            I'm convinced the number of duplicates is very low. less than 2%. As I illustrated with the government crackdown, it isn't worth the hassle.

            1. DrXym Silver badge

              Re: Noticed


      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Noticed

        You can always compress files using RLE.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Snowy and Doublelayer say

    they are not interested in the content of the messages

  15. Bodestone

    Interactions are definitely a possible problem

    If authorities get access then can you imagine the police knocking on your door asking if you knew Dave who knew Tna who went out with a suicide bomber in 2022?

    Guilt, or even the right to be interrogated by association cannot be allowed to expand. to a digital model based on social media data. At least not without review and regulation on how it is applied. I can see cases where solid evidence may lead to an investigation of contacts of known criminals, but on their own connection history, at the time, not using metadata as a predictive map.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iCloud Backup Not Secure?

    According to WhatsApp - Security of End-To-End Encrypted Backups


    WhatsApp’s backup management relies on mobile device cloud partners, such as Apple and Google, to store backups of the WhatsApp data (chat messages, photos, etc ) in Apple iCloud or Google Drive Prior to the introduction of end-to-end encrypted backups, backups stored on Apple iCloud and Google Drive were _not protected by WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption_ Now we are offering the ability to secure your backups with end-to-end encryption before they are uploaded to these cloud services


    But according to Apple Platform Security:


    *Adopting Data Protection in apps*

    The iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) for iOS and iPadOS offers a full suite of APIs that make it easy for _third-party_ and in-house developers to adopt Data Protection and help ensure the highest level of protection in their apps. Data Protection is available for file and database APIs, including NSFileManager, CoreData, NSData and SQLite.

    The Mail app database (including attachments), managed books, Safari bookmarks, app launch images and location data are also stored through encryption, with keys protected by the user’s passcode on their device. Calendar (excluding attachments), Contacts, Reminders, Notes, Messages and Photos implement the Data Protection entitlement Protected Until First User Authentication.

    User-installed apps that don’t opt in to a specific Data Protection class receive Protected Until First User Authentication by default.




    *iCloud security overview*

    iCloud stores a user’s contacts, calendars, photos, documents and more and keeps the information up-to-date across all their devices automatically; _iCloud can also be used

    by third-party apps to store and sync documents as well as key values for app data as defined by the developer_. Users set up iCloud by signing in with an Apple ID and choosing which services they would like to use. Certain iCloud features, iCloud Drive and iCloud Backup can be disabled by IT administrators using mobile device management (MDM) configuration profiles. The service is agnostic about what is being stored and handles all file content the same way, as a collection of bytes.

    Each file is broken into chunks and encrypted by iCloud using AES128 and a key derived from each chunk’s contents, with the keys using SHA256. The keys and the file’s metadata are stored by Apple in the user’s iCloud account. The encrypted chunks of the file are stored, without any user-identifying information or the keys, using both Apple and third- party storage services — such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform — but these partners don’t have the keys to decrypt the user’s data stored on their servers.


    So, backups are currently not protected at all without WhatsApp end-to-end encrypted backup? Or just "not protected by WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption"?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: iCloud Backup Not Secure?

      Backups are protected from external access by Apple's encryption, but since Apple have the keys, they can access the file for their own reasons, to give to someone else, or if their backup system is penetrated in such a way that the keys are available (guessed the iCloud password is the easiest way but other attacks could work).

      This encrypts the file before putting it in there, meaning that someone who can get Apple to decrypt the file still doesn't have the data unless they can get the key the user set.

      Insert boiler plate about Facebook holding a lot of other data and not being trustworthy here.

  17. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Encryption should happen at rest

    There's no need for the messages to land in the cloud in the first place, but if they do, it's better to encrypt them beforehand on the phone, as Signal does.

    Also worth enabling a timeout for messages: let's face it, in general, most messages are have a half-life of about a week.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't get it

    1) handing over all your data to the two most data leaching companies - is the opposite of security, so do they offer to keep if from smaller criminals?

    2) thank god I don't have any secrets that I need to text to people, anything owned by goog or fb - it's sole purpose is to profit from other peoples data, not hide it.

    But E2E is a great marketing term, like Cloud. is my E2E in the Cloud? can I sprinkle so old school buzz words like Synergy on there too?

  19. sharpwolverine

    Yeah, like I think this is true.

    Prolly one of the largest ad purchasers is sending data to two of the largest adtech companies, and I am suppose to believe that none have the ability to look into the data.

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