Is WhatsApp secure? Everything a small business should know

We explore how secure WhatsApp really is for businesses to use, including how encryption works, its security features, and how you can negate data leak risks.

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Security is of the utmost importance for every business, and this can be especially essential for communication with customers – which is why using WhatsApp for business purposes is popular.

WhatsApp is seen as one of the three most secure messaging services, alongside Signal and Telegram. But how secure is the platform, really?

This article will explore WhatsApp for Business’ security, looking at data risks, what encryption really means, and questions around handling employee and customer data on WhatsApp.

Why is WhatsApp seen as so secure?

WhatsApp has been viewed as one of the most secure messaging platforms since it implemented end-to-end encryption in 2016.

End-to-end encryption means all calls, messages, photos, videos, voice messages, and documents are secure, and no one can read, watch, or listen to these messages as they travel between sender and recipient – not even employees at WhatsApp.

The encryption and decryption of messages sent and received on WhatsApp happens entirely on users’ mobile phones – before a message is even sent, it’s scrambled into code that’s secured with something called a cryptographic lock, to which only the recipient has the ‘key’.

And, even better, these ‘keys’ change with every single message that’s sent – making it more unlikely that cryptographic locks can be ‘broken’, and keeping the platform all the more secure.

Not every messaging app offers end-to-end encryption, which is one of the reasons WhatsApp has become so popular.

What security features does WhatsApp for Business have?

End-to-end encryption is particularly important for businesses that interact with customers via WhatsApp, as it is crucial that your customers’ data is protected at all times.

Regardless of whether you use your personal WhatsApp account or WhatsApp for Business to interact with clients, the privacy and security standards that apply to your messages and calls are the same – they are all end-to-end encrypted.

The WhatsApp Business platform is protected by layers of process and security systems that address any vulnerabilities that may crop up, which owners Meta call a ‘Defence in Depth’ strategy. This approach is an important factor, as it keeps key information that’s shared between businesses and customers – like phone numbers and home addresses – really safe.

Business owners themselves can take extra steps to make their WhatsApp use extra secure, too. Linking authentication tools like Descope helps to secure the app even further – and sharing this use with customers can help provide peace of mind and confidence for all parties. Authentication tools add an extra step at the login stage of using WhatsApp – and makes it that bit harder for hackers to take advantage.

To summarise, WhatsApp’s Business platform’s key security features include:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Two-step verification
  • Account authentication
  • Advanced system monitoring (to detect and fix any suspicious activity)
Important tip

Remember, it’s important to update your WhatsApp platform as soon as a new version is available. Updates are often released to address security concerns, so updating your app as soon as possible optimises your security levels.

What are the security and data risks of using WhatsApp for work?

Like with any platform that promises to be secure, there are always potential risks – and that’s no different with WhatsApp.

Hackers are becoming increasingly creative with how they approach potential victims, making it harder for users to spot scams that could give hackers access to their WhatsApp messages.

As messages are encrypted and only those intended to receive them can view the data they contain, the WhatsApp Business platform allows business owners to meet their obligations under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Ensure that any data you receive is stored and used in adherence with these rules.

It’s important to note that, once a message is received by a business, it is subject to the business’s own privacy practices – and this can create some security and data protection mishaps if employees aren’t careful with how they use WhatsApp.

Company best practices for staying secure on WhatsApp

If you’ll have team members besides yourself using your WhatsApp Business account, ask them to:

  • Log out of WhatsApp at the end of the work day
  • Close WhatsApp and lock the device it’s on before leaving it unattended. You could suggest that your team only uses WhatsApp Web or Desktop, so the platform is only accessed on work devices
  • Never send sensitive business data to customers or leads
  • Never share passwords or access to the app with anybody outside the business, or any fellow team members who haven’t been approved to use it
  • Do not click on any unknown or unexpected links that are received via WhatsApp
  • Immediately report any messages that appear suspicious, such as spam or phishing messages, to the most relevant person/team at your business (for example, your IT manager). Suspicious senders can also be easily reported to WhatsApp within the app

For more advice, take a look at our best practices for using WhatsApp in the workplace.

How can I make my WhatsApp Business account as secure as possible?

Despite having end-to-end encryption, there have been security breaches on WhatsApp. It’s important to be vigilant when using the platform.

To recap, here are some easy steps to keep your WhatsApp business account safe:

  1. Update your WhatsApp app as soon as a new version becomes available
  2. Enable two-step authentication at login
  3. Use secure networks when using WhatsApp, like virtual private networks (VPNs)
  4. Change your WhatsApp and device passwords regularly. When an employee who knows the password leaves the business, change it straight away
  5. Limit employee access to your WhatsApp account, and only share the passwords with team members on a strictly need-to-know basis

Final thoughts

WhatsApp’s business platform offers end-to-end encryption, which is a huge plus for small businesses, as staying compliant with security processes and data protection is crucial if you want to maintain a positive reputation and avoid fines. While there are some minor risks associated with using the app, diligent processes and training behind the scenes can ensure the messaging service becomes an integral tool for your business’s success.

Mid shot of Kirstie Pickering freelance journalist.
Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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