There are many reasons out there why people might want to be able to hide their WhatsApp chats. Maybe those conversations contain sensitive business information and communications. Or maybe they contain details that are embarrassing.
In this article, we’ll talk about the various ways that you can protect your WhatsApp chats from people who shouldn’t be seeing them.
WhatsApp Security Only Goes So Far
First and foremost, you should know and understand the security features of your messaging app. WhatsApp is fairly secure as far as messaging apps go, and is certainly much more secure than traditional SMS texting.
WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, which means that when you send a WhatsApp message, the app scrambles it up so that it is not readable or viewable during transit to the device on the other end. If a hacker were to somehow access the data on its way through the airwaves, the data would not be readable or viewable or decipherable in any way. Only the devices on either end (sender and receiver) can decode the message and view it.
Not even WhatsApp (the company) can decode or view the message. This means that if law enforcement were to subpoena or demand that WhatsApp turn over the data that was sent, WhatsApp would have to supply the data, but nothing would be readable.
That being said, the security of WhatsApp is far from perfect. While the contents of your messages would be private, WhatsApp does pay attention and retain data about messages being sent, from and to. While law enforcement might not be able to see what you said, sometimes all they need is proof that the messages were sent by a specific account or received, or on a specific date or time.
Another vulnerability for users is that WhatsApp chats and messages are stored on the users phones, and sometimes in the cloud or on another device depending upon backups. If someone were to gain access to the app in the phone, they would have access to any chats stored on the device.
Prevent Unauthorized Users From Accessing Your Phone/Data
The first and most obvious way to keep your WhatsApp chats a secret or to keep others from reading them is to prevent people from having access to your phone.
This could come in several different forms.
This could mean enabling a security feature on your device to prevent people from picking up your phone and gaining access to the device as a whole. This could be a security code, fingerprint scan, or facial recognition. Most phones come with this feature, and these days, most people enable it in some fashion.
Second, you could passcode-lock the WhatsApp app itself. How you would do this depends on the type of device and operating system you are running (android vs IOS for example).
If you are using an Apple device, you’ll probably find that there are no stock apps installed, and you may struggle to find a third-party app approved by Apple to do this. Instead, many apps give you the option to lock or secure the app as a feature directly within the app.
In WhatsApp, for example, you should be able to keep people out of your messages by changing your settings as follows:
- Screen Lock
You can also use the Guided Access functionality, which allows you to open up one app, but then require the passcode to switch to any other app (really good when you want to let someone scan through photos or play a game, but you don’t want them to take a tour of the rest of the device).
With an Android device, you’ll likely have similar options within the WhatsApp app itself as noted above. But you’ll also have more freedom to utilize third party security apps (app lockers or block access).
For the more adventurous and tech-saavy, you could try out an app such as GBWhatsApp for android, or a tweaked version of the app for jailbroken Apple devices.
Second, you should disable any feature that causes the app to push notifications to your home screen, notifications bar, or even to your lock screen.
These push type notifications will often display a portion or all of the message without you having to go and open the app. Other times they simply inform you that a message has been received. if you don’t want people to be snooping into your WhatsApp, then preventing them from knowing that you are using the app (or receiving messages) is an important step.
Third, you should archive any chat that you want to protect.
When you archive a chat, you can hide the conversation from someone who is just picking up the app and taking a quick look at your chats, and then revisit it later to read it again. Obviously a sophisticated WhatsApp user would know of this option/feature, but someone who doesn’t use it often or at all would probably miss that you have archived your chats.
Fourth, you should delete any sensitive messages from the app (and your backups) upon conclusion of the conversation.
Deleting your messages is not always an option, nor is it convenient. But if you are concerned about other people reading your private messages, one of the best ways to prevent that from happening is to take them off of your device.
Other Creative Ways to Protect Your Messages
One thing you can’t control is when other people send you messages. If you don’t want anyone else to know that someone is sending you messages, and you can’t always keep other people from accessing your phone (or you don’t want to sit over the top of them and sweat whenever they are suing it), another creative way to keep the existence of those communications is to uninstall the app when you are done with it.
Unless you delete your WhatsApp account, your contacts and incoming messages and missed call notifications should be available to you whenever you install the open and log in. Thus, if someone grabs your phone and clicks through the apps to look for WhatsApp, he/she won’t find the app or any incoming messages. Then when you are ready to spend some time on the app, you can install it in a minute or two, do what you need to do, and then uninstall it when you are done with it.
You can also place the app in a folder, rather than leaving the app sitting on the main homepage of your phone or even obvious in your apps area. Some devices will allow you to create folders within folders, and you can tuck it down in there deep as you can to keep people from seeing that you have it installed.
Watch Out for Multi-Device Breaches
WhatsApp is rapidly approaching the ability to run WhatsApp on multiple devices. While this is currently limited, in the future, you will have to pay close attention to where your WhatsApp account is logged in. For example, let’s say that you log in to WhatsApp on your laptop, and save the password. Then you leave the laptop, take your phone, and go to work. If someone opens up that laptop, when the multi-device functionality is released, people will be able to log in to your WhatsApp when your phone is not connected up or logged in.
For most people, this will be a good thing. But for those who want to keep their WhatsApp messages super private, this is an obvious place for things to go wrong.
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