Mobile Menu

The Not So Hidden Dangers of Conducting Business Over WhatsApp: Why your data isn’t safe

In today’s interconnected world, instant messaging apps like WhatsApp have become indispensable tools for both personal and professional communication. With its user-friendly interface and widespread adoption, WhatsApp has become seamlessly integrated into the business landscape, offering a platform for customer support, collaboration, and information sharing. 

However, as businesses increasingly rely on WhatsApp for critical conversations, concerns about the security of these communications have emerged and continue to be regularly reported on.

Understanding the Landscape

WhatsApp boasts a user base of over 2 billion active users worldwide. Among them are millions of businesses leveraging the platform to connect with customers, partners and even employees. Statistics reveal that over 50 million businesses globally utilise WhatsApp for various purposes, ranging from customer support to internal team communication. According to a survey by Statista 43% of small and medium-sized businesses in the United States alone have embraced WhatsApp for customer engagement and communication.

The Encryption Debate

One of WhatsApp’s most advertised features is its end-to-end encryption. Relying solely on encryption within WhatsApp for the protection of confidential business conversations presents numerous vulnerabilities, with encryption alone not sufficient to consider communications ‘secure’. 

. Backups may also lack encryption, posing a risk if compromised. Concerns extend to third-party risks within the Facebook ecosystem, social engineering attacks, and legal compliance. A comprehensive security approach is necessary, encompassing device security measures, user education, backup protocols, and compliance with relevant regulations, to mitigate these risks effectively.

Global Directory Risk

When a user is added to WhatsApp’s global directory, this integration presents significant privacy concerns. The automatic recognition of contacts using WhatsApp, while convenient, means that anyone on the system could potentially gain access to the user’s device. However, you do not need to have someone saved in your contacts for them to be able to contact you. Anyone on WhatsApp can contact anyone else, it’s an open library of contacts who can share anything with anyone, even files which may compromise your device. 

This interconnectedness creates a vulnerability where sensitive information might be exposed, and unsolicited messages could become more frequent. Furthermore, the synchronisation with the global directory raises questions about data security, as the extensive sharing and accessing of contact information could lead to unauthorised access and potential misuse of personal data. 

Security Risks and Concerns

Despite WhatsApp’s encryption measures, concerns about security vulnerabilities persist. Over the past two years, the platform has faced over 100 reported instances of security flaws, raising questions about its robustness against emerging threats. Thus citing susceptibility to malware and phishing attacks as primary concerns. 

The open nature of WhatsApp’s platform contributes to its inherent security risks. Unlike closed ecosystems where access and development are tightly controlled, WhatsApp allows for third-party plugins and integrations, increasing the potential attack surface for adversaries. This openness can lead to issues such as poorly vetted third-party applications introducing vulnerabilities or unauthorised access to user data through compromised plugins. These vulnerabilities underscore the importance of implementing additional security measures to safeguard sensitive business communications.

Regulatory Compliance

In an era of heightened data privacy regulations, compliance with legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is paramount for businesses. Fines associated with breaching these regulations have been on the rise for organisations utilising messaging apps like WhatsApp. 

If not complied with, it leaves businesses open to being susceptible to many regulatory issues with well reported penalties from the SEC and CFTC totaling $9.2 billion in 2023. However, a survey by Deloitte found that only 38% of organisations using messaging apps have policies in place to ensure compliance with data privacy regulations, highlighting a critical gap in regulatory awareness and preparedness. 

Best Practices for Secure Communication

To mitigate security risks associated with WhatsApp and similar platforms, businesses must adopt best practices to enhance their communication security. When it comes to secure communication, utilising a dedicated secure communications app is paramount. Such apps typically offer robust encryption protocols, ensuring that messages and data remain confidential and closed user groups ensuring protection from unauthorised access. 

One of the best practices for secure communication is to choose a reputable and trusted secure communications platform that prioritises user privacy and security instead of using insecure and non-compliant consumer messaging platforms. 

Secure communications systems for clients should offer premium levels of security and control for official organisations. Highly sophisticated organisations may wish to deploy the platform within their own infrastructure, integrated with their pre-existing systems, and configured with additional security measures such as the ability to restrict users from copying and pasting, screenshotting and downloading attachments.

With complete control and ownership of the system, organisations will be able to eliminate many of the vulnerabilities that are increasingly seen within consumer messaging systems.

While WhatsApp offers undeniable convenience for business communication, it’s essential for businesses to acknowledge and address the security risks associated with the platform. By leveraging alternative messaging platforms, implementing robust security protocols, and ensuring regulatory compliance, businesses can maintain secure communication while safeguarding sensitive information from emerging threats. As security challenges evolve, proactive measures and a commitment to continuous improvement are crucial for protecting the integrity and confidentiality of business communications. 

To sign up for a free trial or demo of Salt Communications contact us on info@saltcommunications.com or visit our website at https://saltcommunications.com/.

Discover why your organisation should consider Salt as a secure communications method.   

About Salt Communications:

Salt Communications is a multi-award winning cyber security company providing a fully enterprise-managed software solution giving absolute privacy in mobile communications. It is easy to deploy and uses multi-layered encryption techniques to meet the highest of security standards. Salt Communications offers ‘Peace of Mind’ for Organisations who value their privacy, by giving them complete control and secure communications, to protect their trusted relationships and stay safe. Salt Communications is headquartered in Belfast, N. Ireland, for more information visit Salt Communications.  

References:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1306022/whatsapp-global-unique-users

https://www.thebarcodewarehouse.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-risks-of-using-whatsapp-for-business

Share This Post

Explore More