The ultimate guide to using WhatsApp safely (and privately) | Your Technology | The country
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Are the conversations held on WhatsApp safe? As explained by Fernando Suárez Lorenzo, president of the General Council of Professional Colleges in Computer Engineering, “it is true that it has a reputation for not being secure, but it is also true that it has evolved and that conversations have been encrypted from end to end for a long time.” The weak point in this security link may be, once again, in the user. Habit, or possibly ignorance, can lead to seemingly private photos and conversations ending up in the hands of others. However, it is possible to maximize security, both in the configuration and in the use of the most popular messaging tool in much of the planet.
Activate two-factor verification
This is the most effective layer of protection when it comes to user privacy in any application or service you use while connected to the Internet. It consists of using an additional device for the system to verify the veracity of your identity. It is a very common method used to operate in electronic banking, where the introduction of a temporary code sent to the mobile phone is required. This function has been available on WhatsApp for some time, although optionally, so the first thing is for the user to activate it. The system also requires the introduction of a PIN code that protects against a terrifying possibility: that someone duplicates the SIM card and downloads all the conversations. “If someone were to access our SIM and install it in a new phone, something that is not complex, they could restore all the conversations even if they were encrypted,” warns Suárez. This eventuality can be limited by activating this security layer.
Lock the app biometrically
Meta cannot be accused of not having made adequate security measures available to the user; the point is that a good part of them are optional. It is the case of the screen lock. WhatsApp can be configured so that the screen locks automatically —regardless of the phone’s own lock— and so that accessing content requires the use of a fingerprint or face, depending on the device. To activate the screen lock you have to go to Settings > Account > Privacy, and there activate the lock box. The system also offers the possibility of setting a blocking time. This function may seem redundant when considering that mobile phones already have lock codes, but WhatsApp expressly refers to it as a security measure, so as not to leave the mobile within the reach of others and, if that happens, they are conversations protected with a blocking system.
Get familiar with temporary chats
WhatsApp incorporated several months ago one of the functions most demanded by the defenders of the platform’s privacy: that the conversations be automatically deleted after a while. This optional feature causes messages to disappear after 24 hours, a week, or 90 days, as chosen by the user. Why might it be interesting to activate it? The main reason lies in increasing the level of privacy, since there will be no trace of the conversation once the established period of time has passed. Being honest, is it really necessary to keep conversations from several years ago stored? The most prudent thing would be for the chats to be temporary by default, something that can be configured in Settings> Account> Privacy, and there set the default duration. Of course, this only works for new conversations; in the existing ones it maintains them. Temporary chats also offer another advantage: they help limit the space occupied by conversations.
Delete old conversations
Dead the dog, the rabies is gone. Something like this could be applied given the risk that the talks end up in the hands of others. If they are deleted, it is impossible for that unwanted situation to occur. “In addition to limiting the information that is shared, a good security rule on WhatsApp is to delete old conversations,” explains José Manuel Ávalos, a cybersecurity consultant. You can’t remember what you wrote years ago in a certain chat, and if this information were to fall into someone else’s hands, it could become a real ticking time bomb. This is mainly relevant in relation to the photos that are sent, of which control is completely lost once they leave the sender’s device. This expert also recommends taking special care with the attached files or links that are received, especially through groups, since they can be the gateway to an attack or vulnerability of the device.
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