How Secure is WhatsApp Web?

In a workplace environment, security and privacy are two of the uppermost concerns for a business to be compliant, especially when looking to integrate software to help with collaboration and productivity. At RealTyme, we have concerns around the continual use of consumer-built secure messaging apps and their safety as they were not designed from the ground up with this in mind and exist to create addiction and monetize eyeballs. Many have added additional features but only when issues were found, or concerns were raised.

There are still many people using apps like WhatsApp for business collaboration and its convenience, despite the concerns over the visibility of data and personal information. Whilst the majority of people who use WhatsApp do so through a smartphone or tablet, there is also the desktop version called WhatsApp Web that can be downloaded onto a company-supplied laptop or desktop.

With concerns surrounding its security after intruders accessed remote desktop files through WhatsApp Web, is WhatsApp Web secure for business use, and what other risks does it pose compared to using the app on your smartphone?

What is WhatsApp Web?

WhatsApp Web is an online platform you can access from your computer where you can link and log in using a WhatsApp account. In 2016, the WhatsApp Web desktop app became available for download, providing an extension for users’ smartphones. WhatsApp Web works similarly to those who have devices in the Apple ecosystem that can log in and use iMessage across multiple devices that sync, or those with Android devices using Google messages. This is from a point of view of convenience for users, enabling access wherever you are connected to the internet.

However, with this convenience comes risk, with a security vulnerability discovered in 2020 that meant users could remotely access files from another user’s computer by inserting JavaScript into messages. This affected both WhatsApp Web’s Mac and Windows versions, and meant that messages could be altered, malware could be installed, and potentially sensitive or private documents and files could be accessed.

Is WhatsApp Web a Security Risk?

For users who had WhatsApp Web installed on a company-provided computer, the vulnerability left the door open for bad actors to access confidential information or files, running the security risk of a data breach. The issue was discovered by a researcher who found “multiple critical security flaws”, something that was attributed to WhatsApp Web using the Electron software framework – which has had its own security issues and is used by other apps such as Skype and Slack. Users who had outdated versions of the desktop app were particularly at risk, as the security updates and patches would have to be manually downloaded.

From a business owner's POV, the risks of employees using outdated consumer apps that had security vulnerabilities are too great. Whilst the issues discovered were later patched, those using WhatsApp Web instead of the accompanying desktop app were still at risk of browser vulnerabilities with Chrome etc. This is because as WhatsApp Web is a web app it also relies on users to not install anything malicious through browser extensions or other downloads, making it a less secure way to access this.

Choosing a Secure Alternative to WhatsApp Web

Organisations should be seeking communication platforms that are built with privacy by design, providing a secure alternative to WhatsApp Web that is designed for multiple devices to be synced and securing its content with end-to-end encryption. At RealTyme, we know the concerns business owners and C-Suite executives have about their hybrid or remote workers accessing sensitive information from home. Rather than relying on patches and third-party extensions to check company data and information are secure, using a communication and collaboration tool that has this by default is the best way forward.

The RealTyme platform provides this and makes workplace collaboration simple and secure, ensuring only those with invite access are included and providing the administrators full control of privacy. The features that make our platform a secure alternative include:

·        End-to-end encryption by default– no need to find this setting to turn it on like other apps

·        Biometric authentication

·        Strong mutual authentication using digital signatures

·        No personal data mining or sharing with 3rd parties

·        Private circles shared contact by invitation only

·        No contact syncing, ads, or spam – ever

·        No duplicated data on our servers, meaning minimal data footprint and greenhouse gas impact

·        No data-driven business model - unlike WhatsApp and Facebook

·        Full data sovereignty – for private cloud or on-premises deployment

Company data shouldn’t be compromised for the convenience consumer apps provide. Data privacy and security need to be the focus of your efforts to minimise the potential for breaching data protection and your industry's privacy policies. Using RealTyme provides peace of mind that all users collaborating on the platform can do so without the worry of data being intercepted by malicious third parties. This means fully secure screen sharing, messaging, video calls and file-sharing at all times using our secure collaboration suite.

To discover more, talk to sales or request an invite today. We'll be happy to show you a demo of the RealTyme platform in action, and address any concerns you may have with collaboration in your workplace.

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