WhatsApp is introducing a new security feature for its Android and iOS mobile apps that will ensure your IP address is inaccessible to malicious parties.
The situation the platform is dealing with is a bit complex, so please be patient. “According to WhatsApp, most calling products use a direct peer-to-peer connection between two people. This allows for “faster data transfers and better call quality,” but requires participating devices to know “each other’s IP addresses,” so data packets are sent back and forth to maintain connectivity. However, if a bad actor has the right technical expertise, they could intercept one of these packets and obtain sensitive information about their target, such as their “broad geographic location or Internet service provider.”
To address this problem, WhatsApp is implementing Protect IP Address in Calls, a tool that forwards phone calls you make via the service through company servers. This ensures that potential cybercriminals lurking there cannot see your or anyone else’s IP address. Of course, calls remain end-to-end encrypted.
There’s a catch. Since you are avoiding a direct connection, activating this feature will reduce call quality. It won’t be as crystal clear as if it were peer-to-peer.
Specialized privacy protection
There is some debate online about whether or not it is possible for someone to obtain an IP address through a telephone conversation.
Most claim: “No, it’s not,” says the British communications company Ocean Telecom claims it is possible if the call is made via a VoIP connection (Voice over Internet Protocol), which WhatsApp uses for its service. There is a special technique called ‘packet sniffing’, which allows a cybercriminal to intercept a data packet containing sensitive information.
But as we said before, that requires a certain degree of technical expertise. This is not something that everyone can do, nor is this a feature that everyone will use.
WhatsApp states in the email they sent us that Protect IP Address in Calls is intended for their “most privacy-conscious users” who want the choice to route calls through its servers. The default security level on WhatsApp is sufficient for most people
Keep an eye out for the patch as soon as it arrives on your phone. Instructions on how to enable this tool can be found on the platform’s website official Help Center website. You’ll find this in the Advanced section of the app’s Settings menu.
We reached out to WhatsApp to ask if there are any plans to extend this update to WhatsApp on desktop or web, and why passing phone calls through the server reduces call quality. This story will be updated if we hear back.
If you’re looking for other highly secure platforms, check out Ny Breaking’s list of the best encrypted messaging apps for Android of 2023.