WhatsApp must be open from Europe and that can be done safely, but also has risks | Tech

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The European Union should soon allow WhatsApp users to chat with people on other apps, such as Signal or Telegram. Apple’s App Store is also being pried open further and further. Good for competition, but security does suffer a dent.

The fact that you will soon be able to chat with people on other services from WhatsApp is thanks to new European legislation. Under the Digital Markets Regulation (DMA), the largest tech companies must comply with strict rules. These rules should limit their power and stimulate competition.

WhatsApp is so big and popular that it is difficult for makers of other chat apps to claim their own place in the market. Currently you can only contact other WhatsApp users on WhatsApp. There are more options under the new rules. If you prefer another chat app, you can use it and still talk to friends on WhatsApp.

Due to the same European rules, Apple must further open its App Store to outside parties. The company’s closed store is now the only way to install apps on an iPhone or iPad. Soon you will also be able to pick them from alternative app stores or even download them from websites.

This is happening against the wishes of Apple, which is afraid of an increased risk of misuse of iPhones. The company believes that the admission of alternative app stores opens the doors to fraud and the spread of malicious software, such as viruses and malware.

Ook de App Store moet verder open van Brussel.

Risk of vulnerabilities is growing slightly

WhatsApp also sees the risks. “Without ownership of both endpoints, we cannot guarantee the security of messages received or sent through another app,” the agency wrote.

To secure messaging, WhatsApp uses the same encryption as chat app Signal, where privacy comes first. With encryption, the sender sends a message that can only be opened by the recipient. Possible interception of these types of messages produces gibberish for the observer.

Messages sent from one WhatsApp user to another are always protected this way. Even parent company Meta can’t read along.

If another app uses the same Signal protocol, that encryption can be maintained, experts say. “But the chance of errors does increase slightly,” says Daan Keuper of cybersecurity company Computest.

Control over newcomers may be less

That’s because WhatsApp only has control over its own platform, not the app the recipient uses. “And we are talking about cryptography here,” says Keuper. “That is difficult to implement properly. On the other hand, vulnerabilities can arise.”

Cybersecurity expert Dave Maasland of ESET Netherlands shares that concern. But like Keuper, he does not think that consumers will soon run a privacy risk en masse. “If you choose a large, well-known app, there is usually a guarantee that security is well monitored,” he says. “But this law is intended to also give newcomers to the market a chance. The question is whether they are being monitored just as closely.”

The experts hope that it will remain clear to users when communications are and are not secured. But WhatsApp says it will only open its service to communication with apps that meet certain requirements.

Multiple security layers are best

Apple believes that consumers are indeed at risk of less secure iPhones if apps are downloaded via alternative app stores and websites. And the company has a point, says Maasland. “The moment you go outside the App Store, there is less control and you are more at risk of malware.”

iOS is generally known as very safe. This is largely because app developers have to comply with strict Apple rules. And the necessary checks also remain on iPhones and iPads.

“No security layer is perfect,” says Maasland. “That is why multiple layers are needed to keep vulnerabilities out. Apple does check apps that are installed outside the App Store on iOS, but it is better if rogue apps are excluded before installation.”

Secure the device properly

Apple claims to secure its systems as best as possible under the new legislation. Maasland says that the App Store remains the best place to install apps for the time being. When it comes to chatting, securing the phone itself is the most important thing if you want to minimize the risk of misuse.

“The weak point is the end point,” he says. “That is the device on which the messages arrive legibly. On the iPhone, for example, you can choose isolation mode. This makes your phone slightly less user-friendly, but a secure fortress. On Android there are also all kinds of solutions for extra security of your phone .”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: WhatsApp open Europe safely risks Tech

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