WhatsApp is ubiquitous in the western world, and you would struggle to find a South African who owns a smartphone without the Facebook-owned messaging app installed.
The app includes a variety of features, from Instagram-like statuses to group video calling, making it useful for various forms of communication.
Privacy-conscious users will also be grateful for the native end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp chats, which means that nobody is able to read you texts apart from yourself and the person you are speaking to.
This is a great feature regardless of the subject of your conversations, but there are still a number of other ways you can secure your chats.
We have listed some of the best ways to keep your WhatsApp chats safe below.
Back up to the cloud
WhatsApp allows you to back up your chats to the cloud, meaning that if you lose or replace your device, you will still be able to access your old conversations.
This can be extremely useful for users who have important information in their WhatsApp conversations and do not wish to lose anything upon changing devices.
WhatsApp users can back up their chat histories to iCloud or Google Drive through the WhatsApp settings menu, depending on their device.
It should be noted that these backups are not encrypted, and you should therefore ensure that your cloud storage is secure and protected by two-factor authentication before backing up your chats.
Users can also turn on automatic cloud backups to ensure that their conversations are regularly stored online without having to manually sync their chats.
Enable two-factor authentication
To ensure the security of your WhatsApp account and protect yourself from SIM-swap fraud or others trying to access your profile, you should activate two-factor authentication.
Users can enable two-factor authentication by navigating to Settings > Account > Two-step verification within the WhatsApp app, before turning the security measure on.
You will then asked to set up a six-digit PIN and can optionally enter your email address to facilitate recovery of your account in case you forget this PIN.
It is important that you remember this PIN, as WhatsApp will periodically prompt you for it and it will be required when moving your WhatsApp account to a new device.
This adds an extra layer of security to your WhatsApp chats and makes it much harder for anybody to compromise your credentials.
Block photos appearing in your gallery
If you often send or receive sensitive images you do not want to appear in your smartphone’s image gallery, you can disable the automatic addition of these files to your album.
This is most easily accomplished within WhatsApp itself, where users can disable all media visibility under the Chats section in the Settings menu.
You can also turn off this visibility for individual contacts by opening a chat with then, navigating to More options > View contact and toggling media visibility for that individual chat.
This feature is enabled by default, and if you are using an older version of WhatsApp where the media visibility option is not available, you will need to create a “.nomedia” file in the WhatsApp images folder of your device.
The full process for toggling media visibility on all devices is outlined on the WhatsApp website.
Use a password lock
Placing a password lock on WhatsApp is not as simple as these previous steps, and it requires considerable effort on some Android devices.
On iOS, users can lock their application behind either Touch ID or Face ID by navigating to Settings > Account > Privacy and changing a simple menu option.
Android users will need to lock WhatsApp behind another service, whether this is a third-party “vault” solution or a built-in service.
For example, Samsung and Huawei devices include “Secure Folder” and “PrivateSpace” features which can be used to lock WhatsApp behind a password or biometric check.
Other devices might need to download a third-party application to accomplish the same goal.
Keep your WhatsApp updated
One of the most important solutions to securing your chats and information is to keep your WhatsApp updated to the latest version.
This ensures that you have access to the latest features within the messaging app, and it also reduces your exposure to exploits and attacks.
WhatsApp recently confirmed that a dangerous voice call exploit allowed attackers to load spyware onto devices, and released a security update for the application to combat these exploits.
The only way to ensure that you are immune to these types of security exploits is to keep your app updated.
Make sure you have automatic updates turned on and check for updates regularly.