WhatsApp Introduces Enhanced Call Anonymity Feature to Safeguard User IP Addresses
- Xavier Thomas
- 08 Nov 2023
In an effort to bolster user security, WhatsApp is launching a notable update for its Android and iOS applications designed to conceal users' IP addresses and prevent them from being disclosed to malicious entities. The concern that this update seeks to mitigate is rather intricate. Explained in simpler terms, WhatsApp has pointed out that many calling apps operate using a peer-to-peer connection to enhance the speed of data transmission and improve call quality. Such a setup necessitates the exchange of IP addresses between devices to facilitate the flow of data packets that are essential for maintaining the call connection.
However, this direct exchange poses a vulnerability. Technically savvy attackers with the right skills could potentially intercept these data packets and glean sensitive details, including the user's rough geographic coordinates or their internet service provider. To counteract this potential security breach, WhatsApp is introducing a feature called Protect IP Address in Calls. By channeling phone calls through the company's own servers, the feature effectively hides users' IP addresses from nefarious actors whilst maintaining end-to-end encryption to ensure privacy.
One important aspect to consider with this additional protection is a slight degradation in call quality due to forgoing the direct connection method traditionally used by peer-to-peer calls.
The necessity for such specialized security measures has generated discussions amongst the tech community. Although some people question the feasibility of IP address extraction through regular phone calls, Ocean Telecom—a UK-based communications firm—affirms that it is indeed possible when calls are made via a VoIP connection, which WhatsApp employs. They allude to a sophisticated technique known as "packet sniffing," which could allow cybercriminals to seize data packets carrying personal information.
This high-level security feature, as shared by WhatsApp, is targeted at users with heightened privacy concerns who prefer an additional layer of security despite the prospective loss in call clarity. The company reassures that for most users, the standard security protocols are sufficiently robust to protect their privacy.
Users are advised to watch for the update and can refer to the platform's Help Center for guidance on how to activate this security tool. The option to engage Protect IP Address in Calls is located under the Advanced settings in the app’s menu, ready for those who choose an extra safeguard for their communications.