A post by Telegram founder Pavel Durov explains how WhatsApp will never be able to secure its users’ information despite Facebook, its parent company, embracing the importance of speed and privacy.
Durov noted in the blog post that aside from copying the features that appeared on his messaging app, Facebook mimicked the entire philosophy that drove the development of Telegram, which is protecting the privacy of its users. However, Durov further highlighted how it is impossible for the social media giant to steer WhatsApp into becoming a privacy-oriented service without having to clash with the surveillance authorities in the United States.
The founder of Telegram made this declaration based on his personal experience as well as previous and recent incidences. Even though Telegram had experienced no data leaks over the six years of its existence, the team that develops the program detected three infiltration attempts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within just three weeks of the group’s stay in the United States.
Durov also provided a list of security issues that plagued WhatsApp over the past few years. The Facebook-owned messaging service recently confirmed the presence of a vulnerability that allowed oppressive regimes to snoop on their targets through Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP). This security flaw allowed governments to get access with all the data stored within the smartphone using a single voice call. An Israeli firm may have already collaborated with foreign governments to take advantage of this security flaw.
However, the problems faced by WhatsApp stretched to the earlier part of the decade, with the messaging platform sending messages between smartphones using plain text, allowing anyone from mobile providers to governments to view private conversations easily.
Even though WhatsApp later encrypted the messages transmitted over its platform, the developer of Telegram alleges that the key to decrypt its messages are available to several governments, allowing surveillance agencies to continue tracking their targets despite WhatsApp’s promise of encrypting conversations. Furthermore, the messages that users backup in the cloud are not encrypted, providing governments another venue to snoop on its targets.
Last, but not the least, Durov noted how WhatsApp could contain backdoors, citing how the recent vulnerabilities found in the messaging app resembles attack vectors that governments could use to snoop on its users. However, it is challenging for researchers to confirm the presence of these backdoors since the application is not open source.
Despite the addition of privacy features into the WhatsApp platform, Durov alleges that these features, along with message encryption, are nothing more than marketing ploy aimed at enticing customers. The founder of Telegram likens this strategy with what Facebook used to defeat Snapchat, albeit targeted towards users of Telegram and other privacy-focused messaging platforms.
Moving forward, Facebook intends to monetize on its purchase of WhatsApp, and over the past few years, it already developed features that allow the social media giant to get revenue from the chat platform. However, over the past few months, reports appeared that Facebook would introduce ads on the chat platform, a privacy-related decision that likely prompted the co-founder of WhatsApp to leave the social media giant.