What exactly is “end-to-end encryption”?
What exactly is “end-to-end encryption” – and why is it so powerful when it comes to keeping personal messages secure? Well, imagine a carrier pigeon. (Just go with us on the metaphor here.) For thousands of years, humans have used carrier pigeons to relay messages. When talking about the methods of keeping digital messages secure, the mechanics of an IRL carrier pigeon delivery can be a helpful jumping off point.
In Ancient Rome, carrier pigeons would be sent from the site of a chariot race to the owner to let them know how the race had gone. At any point along the way, if the carrier pigeon was intercepted — and the note wasn’t encoded in any way — a person could read the contents of the message, and then send the carrier pigeon on its way to deliver the message. And while there are a number of ways to encode a message (so an intercepting party would have a hard time reading it), end-to-end encryption takes the message’s security to another level.
Using the same analogy, if the carrier pigeon’s message was encrypted with end-to-end encryption, it’d be as if it was carrying a locked safe with the message inside it. Only two keys to open it exist in the world: one is with the sender, the other, with the message’s intended recipient. So even if the carrier pigeon was stopped along the way, the message couldn’t be read. Not only that, but for every message the carrier pigeon relayed between those two people, a new set of keys would be used. This is essentially how end-to-end encryption functions in the digital communication space.
WhatsApp uses Standard 256 bit end-to-end encryption on personal messages, media, voice notes, calls, status updates, and more. Using current computing technology, it would take billions of years to hack into 256 bit end-to-end encryption. Watch the mockumentary Explainer video above to learn more.