INTERNATIONAL - Hackers could soon read through your WhatsApp text messages, images and videos.
The latest security warning comes as the Facebook-owned chat app announced plans to start backing up users' messages to Google Drive for free.
Although WhatsApp protects all sent messages, images, videos and documents with end-to-end encryption, opting to back-up with Google Drive stops this security practice – leaving texts exposed to online hackers.
WhatsApp has long allowed people to store their messages in Google Drive.
Until now, these back-ups counted towards users' Google Drive storage limit. However, WhatsApp recently announced a partnership with the company that means back-ups will no longer be counted toward their Google Drive allowance. This means more people will likely take advantage of the feature, leaving more people potentially exposed.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced conversation records could be backed up for free on Google Drive without impacting users' storage quota. This move, which will be rolled-out as the default to all users from November 12, is good news for people who have lots of saved data in the chat app, since it means they can back-up their past conversations without any additional cost.
However, security experts have highlighted potential problems with the practice. Non-profit privacy watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has previously warned: 'We have advised users to never back up their messages to the cloud, since that would deliver unencrypted copies of your message log to the cloud provider.
'In order for your communications to be truly secure, any contact you chat with must do the same.' WhatsApp has confirmed back-ups are not encrypted in the FAQ section of its site.
'Media and messages you back up aren't protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in Google Drive', it reads. This means Google has the ability to access the data, writes technology blog BGR.
It also raises concerns hackers could access the unencrypted data – exposing personal information contained in text conversations – if they gained access to users' Google Drive account. Those who value privacy and security should consider other backup means, like saving WhatsApp content locally to a computer, on an encrypted hard drive.
Only WhatsApp users on Android are able to take advantage of the partnership with Google Drive. Users also need to have Google Play services installed on their phone. In order to stop backing up messages to Google Drive, users should navigate to the 'Manage Apps' option within the settings menu of the cloud storage.
Tap on WhatsApp in the menu, then tap on 'Delete Hidden App Data', then 'Delete'. MailOnline has contacted WhatsApp for comment.
Earlier this month, the firm announced it is changing the way it stores data. As part of the sweeping new changes, WhatsApp confirmed that messages, images and videos that haven't been updated in more than one year will be automatically removed.
To avoid the loss of any data, WhatsApp has told users to manually back up their data before November 12 2018. The messages will not be deleted from the app on the handset, only from the Google Drive storage service. However, users who want to transfer old chats to a new device will lose the ability to port over the content.
In an email to customers, a Google spokesperson said: 'Due to a new agreement between WhatsApp and Google, WhatsApp backups will no longer count against Google Drive storage quota.
'However, any WhatsApp backups that have not been updated in more than a year will automatically be removed from storage.' Although WhatsApp users have been notified of the change, it is possible customers will have missed the memo.
It could be a costly miss, as these valuable messages and hidden gems will be wiped from the system permanently.
- DAILY MAIL