What is End-to-End Encryption: Complexity in Simple Words

Many have probably already noticed the pop-up window with the inscription "Information is protected by end-to-end encryption."

Most messengers include this notification when creating a new chat or gaining access to an existing one. But what is end-to-end encryption and why is it needed?

End-to-End Encryption - Definition in Simple Words

Incoming and outgoing calls, audio and text messages, pictures, and videos - all the information in the chat is fully protected by reliable end-to-end encryption. With its help, the data cannot fall into the wrong hands because it is only accessible to two or more participants who are taking part in the chat. This is especially important when transmitting data over open or unreliable networks, such as the internet or public Wi-Fi networks.

The encryption keys are only available to chat participants, so only they can access and continue to interact with each other. Yes, anyone can get a personal encryption code for their individual correspondence with a particular contact or group. To find it, just go to the "Contact Info" menu and then the "Encryption" section. Here, a key will appear in the form of a 60-digit code or QR code that is necessary for activation.

This key is the security code for your data, but only the visible part of it is available for viewing. This is because every message or audio recording is equipped with its own lock/key complex. They do not require additional setup, as the application assigns the code automatically.  

Popularization of End-to-End Encryption 

Former CIA and NSA employee Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the US government was monitoring every call made by users and tracking text messages.

Apple and Facebook were the first giants to offer their users the ability to live a private and secure life online. Since then, end-to-end encryption has been applied almost everywhere.

While encryption is often associated with messaging apps, it is also being adopted by other services such as cloud storage, email, and voice and video calls. End-to-end encryption has gained support from privacy advocates and some tech companies, who see it as a way to enhance trust and security in online communications. However, there are also concerns that encryption can be used by criminals to facilitate illegal activities, such as terrorism or child exploitation. Despite this, encryption remains a vital technology for protecting online privacy and security.

Does End-to-End Encryption Guarantee Security in All Messengers?

Unfortunately, this is a truly controversial issue. Edward Snowden found in 2013 that Skype had a so-called backdoor, a software that bypasses encryption. Although officially every message on Skype is protected, this doesn't stop them from passing all necessary data from chats to the US National Security Agency.

However, other messengers do care about their users' anonymity. For instance, Telegram already has a function for self-deleting accounts, which means that if a person doesn't use their account for several years, all information including messages will be automatically deleted. This is covered by the "right to be forgotten" law, because if a conversation lasts a long time, some of the information may already be outdated or illegal.

Another security flaw exists in WhatsApp. During a call made through this app, it is easy to determine the user's real IP address. Normally, this should look like a secure scheme, where every message or call in the messenger establishes connections with the company's server, preventing the retrieval of information about the IP address of all chat participants.

The main problem with all messengers is the standard registration process through a mobile phone number. All intelligence services already have access to all phone number databases. In addition, they can send various messages on your behalf, which will not be displayed. To protect yourself, check the activity of your account from other devices. This feature is already available in some messengers and will help you stay safe.

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