Dutch intelligence service warns of WhatsApp security issue

WhatsApp may not be as safe to communicate on securely as people like to think, according to an employee of the Dutch intelligence service AIVD.

The employee implied this during a discussion about so-called end-to-end encryption during the AIVD 2020, a seminar held for the service's 70th anniversary, RTL NIeuws reports. When asked whether the AIVD can read WhatsApp messages, the employee replied: "I would not trust that WhatsApp is so safe."

End-to-end encryption is a powerful and increasing popular encryption technology that encrypts communications in a special way so that only the recipient can see it. WhatsApp has been using it since end last year and is thus generally seen as a safe platform for secure communication.

According to RTL, this is now being questioned by experts. The technology behind the encryption can not be verified by independent third parties, for example. It is also possible for WhatsApp to secretly and remotely disable the encryption. And the growing popularity of such encryptions only means that more more people are working on ways to bypass it. "End-to-end encryption absolutely makes our work more difficult, but it is also a challenge to find ways around these encryptions." the AIVD employee said.

"Even the services that are seen by many to be safe, are not necessarily safe. If the US secret service shows up with 20 agents on the doorstep of a company that offers encryption, they often very quickly agree to work along with the investigation. These are mostly American situations, but it does demonstrate that encryption is not always as safe as people think."