Whether you are looking to text someone or want to send an image from your holiday to a group of friends, you are likely to pick up WhatsApp.
Just like any other app or a web-based tool, WhatsApp can also leak your private data if you are not careful. Now, ESET, a company that offers security solutions, including nifty anti-virus apps for smartphones as well as computers, has come out with a few tech tips.
The company says that every WhatsApp user should use the following tips to keep his or her WhatsApp chats safe and secure:
1. Lock WhatsApp
One of the best WhatsApp security tips is to protect the app with a password or PIN. WhatsApp itself does not offer such a function, but there are third-party apps that do. It may seem cumbersome but if you lose your phone, it is going to prevent anyone else from accessing your chats.
2. Block WhatsApp photos from appearing in photo roll
It is fair to assume that your WhatsApp conversations may occasionally take on a distinctly ‘personal’ note. If you are sharing images with your spouse, for example, the last thing you want is for those images to appear in your general photostream, popping up when you let a friend swipe through your holiday snaps.
On iPhone, it is easy to fix. Go into your phone’s ‘Settings’ menu, then ‘Privacy’, ‘Photos’, and deselect WhatsApp from the list of apps whose images are fed into the photostream.
Android users will have to get under the hood a little bit. Using a file explorer app like ES File Explorer, find WhatsApp’s ‘Images’ and ‘Videos’ folders. Create a file within each called ‘.nomedia’. That will stop Android’s Gallery from scanning the folder.
Secondly, if you exclude WhatsApp images from your photoroll, and lock the app as above, it provides another layer of security if your phone is stolen or hacked into, but it won’t be a 100 per cent bulletproof solution.
3. Hide ‘last seen’ timestamp
Not sure if you want people to know when you are going on and offline? It may not seem like vital information, but if a scammer already knows some other things about you, adding that last piece of contextual information can prove useful to them, whether you are awake or not; at home or overseas; coming out of the cinema or getting off a flight. Or you just may not want contacts, especially colleagues, or your boss, to know you are checking WhatsApp at your desk. You can disable or restrict who sees your ‘last seen’ time in WhatsApp’s ‘Profile’; ‘Privacy’ menu, in Android, iOS, Windows or BlackBerry. Be aware though, if you turn it off, you won’t be able to see other users’ ‘last seen’ times either.
4. Restrict access to profile picture
Is your profile photo one you have used elsewhere – on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter? Maybe it’s even on your company’s website somewhere. If it is, and your WhatsApp sharing is public, anyone you have ever spoken to — even if you have just replied to an unwanted message — can download your picture from your WhatsApp profile and, using Google Image search, very quickly find out more about you. Set profile picture sharing to “contacts only” in the Privacy menu.
5. Watch out for scams
WhatsApp itself will never contact you through the app. Also, WhatsApp does not send emails about chats, voice messages, payment, changes, photos, or videos, unless you email their help and support to begin with. Anything offering a free subscription, claiming to be from WhatsApp or encouraging you to follow links in order to safeguard your account is definitely a scam and not to be trusted.
6. Deactivate WhatsApp if you lose your phone
WhatsApp offers users simple and effective security tips to keep control of your account if your phone is lost or stolen. As well as locking your SIM card through your network provider, WhatsApp recommends that you immediately activate WhatsApp with the same phone number on a different phone, with a replacement SIM. One number on one device can only use the app at a time, so by doing so, you instantly block it from being used on your old phone. If that is not possible, WhatsApp can deactivate your account.
7. Be careful what you talk about
Last but not the least, use the same common sense you would with any form of digital communication. Don’t send personal information if you can possibly avoid it, such as addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, and never send your bank, social security or credit card details, or your passport or other identification details.