WhatsApp just gave 500,000 Android users encrypted messaging

In a odd and surprising move, WhatsApp has just offered end-to-end encryption for all Android users. Relying on the Open Whisper System, and using open source code, WhatsApp just gave 500 million users totally encrypted messaging. The encrypted messages are accessed via the user's device, using a key that only the account owner can access on the device. That means WhatsApp can't access the messages, and neither can law enforcement. It's not clear when an iOS version may be available.

The end-to-end encryption scheme isn't new, but WhatsApp is the largest messaging provider to offer it. WhatsApp is using Open Whisper System's TextSecure code, and has been quietly encrypting messages for about a week.

Perhaps the best part of this encryption is that it's frictionless. Users won't know it's happening, and it's business as usual for you and your WhatsApp pals.

It may not be popular in the eyes of law enforcement, but WhatsApp founder Jan Koum grew up in Ukraine under Soviet oversight, and is no fan of government involvement. WhatsApp is also very popular outside of the US, with many European and Indian users.

This encryption feature is Android-only, and no iOS rollout has been announced. The rollout has been in the works for some time, though, and might just be a matter of code. Speaking to The Verge, Open Whisper CTO Moxie Marlinspike said the focus was on getting the code ready for such a big rollout. It's possible WhatsApp is having a bit f trouble working that code into their iOS app, or hasn't started yet.

Via: The Verge