Science

Did you know that Signal is the culprit behind the encryption used by WhatsApp?

Signal is one of the favorite messaging apps for privacy conscious users. Features such as end-to-end encryption, the use of PIN codes, and the ability to distort faces in photos make it a favorite in this section. Few people knew that Signal is also the creator of the WhatsApp message encryption protocol.

Although the two companies have had public quarrels over Facebook’s privacy scandals, they signed a brief partnership a few years ago. Open Whisper Systems, the company behind Signal, announced in 2014 an agreement to bring its encryption protocol to WhatsApp. The company will integrate TextSecure into all messages, voice memos, files, and calls.

After a year of operation, Signal has confirmed that the transaction has been completed and all WhatsApp clients for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Nokia, and BlackBerry will be end-to-end encrypted. For its part, WhatsApp announced to its users that messages and calls are secure and that no one outside the chat can read or listen to them.

Signal has considered all scenarios to prevent third parties from reading conversations, including the ability to use an older version of the client to receive messages in plain text. WhatsApp users can ensure that conversations with their contacts are encrypted. The client uses scannable QR codes or a string of numbers shared by sender and recipient.

Dispute between Signal and WhatsApp

The signal became popular thanks to Edward Snowden, an NSA analyst who leaked classified information. Mr. Snowden recommended the use of TextSecure and RedPhone, two Open Whisper applications that later merged into what we know today as Signal. Subsequently, the application was proposed by movements such as Black Lives Matter and Elon Musk himself.

Unlike WhatsApp, Signal is open source and run by a foundation created by hacktivist Moxie Marlinspike and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton. The latter joined the project in February 2018 with a $50 million donation and the idea of ​​making private communication accessible to everyone.

Despite WhatsApp and Signal collaborating nearly a decade ago, they have had some public spats. One of the latest was in 2021, when the latter exposed Facebook’s methods of rolling out targeted ads. Signal has planned a campaign showing the amount of information Meta collects from its users.

The idea was not liked by Mark Zuckerberg, who accused Signal of lying in order to gain publicity. Facebook did not allow Signal to show ads and temporarily suspended his account on the social network. While users couldn’t see the ads, the damage was done and Facebook was ridiculed.

Although Signal does not have a WhatsApp user counter, it, along with Telegram, is an alternative for those who want to secure their conversations. The next time you see a message about end-to-end encryption in one of your WhatsApp chats, remember that this feature exists thanks to the work of Signal engineers.

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