Various apps and services, particularly messaging apps and service, have been emerging since people realized technology has made it easier for everyone to communicate with each other. However, not every app or service succeeds as a digital messaging platform. There are some, though, like WhatsApp, that manage to successfully pique people’s interest and have gained billions of users.
What Is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is an instant messaging service that is available on most devices including cell phones and computers. It allows people with different cell phones from practically anywhere to message each other. You might ask what makes WhatsApp so special when there’s already text messaging and social media platforms that allow people to do the same thing.
For one, WhatsApp is free as compared to traditional text messaging. It depends on an internet connection and not a phone service. Moreover, it would not cost an arm and a leg to send a message to friends or family abroad. They also have location tracking services included which enable users to track each other’s locations across the globe. These advantages, however, come with negative counterparts which seem to be the norm when it comes to the internet.
What Dangers Lurk Behind WhatsApp?
WhatsApp has its benefits. Still, WhatsApp users are not completely safe from the dangers lurking on the internet. Teens are especially fond of this app, so parents must take time to acquaint themselves with possible dangers.
Facebook eventually acquired WhatsApp which made it a more desired target by cybercriminals than it already was. In some instances, hackers spread malicious software by passing it off as a WhatsApp desktop application. Some also create phishing websites that appear as WhatsApp online. The latter usually asks for a phone number, that would then be bombarded with spam or may be used to correlate with other hacked data on the internet. Cyber threats, in general, are actually, more or less a given fact when it comes to internet apps and services.
Unencrypted Message Backups
One of the, if not the greatest, appeals of WhatsApp is that WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted. This means that only you and your recipient can decode the message. The messages can’t be intercepted during transmission as well. But then, that doesn’t make the message safe once the encrypted WhatsApp message is decrypted on your phone and someone sees it. There’s also the concern of unencrypted backup. A user’s data stored on WhatsApp can also be backed up via iCloud for iPhone and Google Drive for Android. Your back-up, since it’s already decrypted, is already vulnerable and undermines the WhatsApp secure feature of end-to-end encryption.
WhatsApp is one of the social media platforms criticized for the widespread misinformation, hoaxes, and fake news. Among the most notable fake news spread that WhatsApp unintentionally hosted was the widespread messages of fabricated child abductions in India. The messages spread in WhatsApp group chats like wildfire and resulted in the lynching of some people who were maliciously accused of fake crimes.
This is quite alarming for parents since teens are prone to sharing things they see on the internet. Worse is when they believe in such fake news and are either victimized or unknowingly become part of propaganda or cybercrime.
The brief line of text that used to be the WhatsApp status feature has eventually evolved into something similar to the Instagram Stories feature. WhatsApp is certainly meant to be more private than Instagram, but the WhatsApp status is not necessarily private since it can be viewed by a user’s WhatsApp contacts. This is, fortunately, easily rectified by choosing one of the three privacy settings for your Status.
Inappropriate Content and Lack of Enforcement Features
One of the downsides of WhatsApp is that basically anyone can create an account and could post or access any content posted. There are no filters for adult content and no enforcement features that ensure that the users are older than 16-years-old. Cyberbullies and sexual predators could also easily infiltrate a group chat and create malicious content or access sensitive data or even photos from members of the group.
Dangers and threats are inevitable on the internet. There are, however, safety and security measures you could take on a child’s WhatsApp account. As they say, prevention is always better than a cure. For instance, there are available security applications and software that could help you monitor your kid’s phone and online activities in real-time.
So, is WhatsApp safe? WhatsApp, like any digital platform, could both be a blessing and a curse; it is in great part up to the users that use it. The responsibility also falls on the parents to educate their kids on proper and safe usage of the application or the internet in general.