WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world with monthly active users reaching 2 billion. While Facebook Messenger leads the US market, organizations expanding abroad will find that WhatsApp is the most widely adopted messaging app in 180 countries, including all of Latin America and much of Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

While such a transformative technology presents business opportunities, there are also security risks that WhatsApp users must be mindful of. On one hand, they have instant access to their customers and team members alike, as well as a raft of potentially useful conversational data to drive smarter decision-making. On the other, the enhanced accessibility comes with a greatly increased attack surface for phishing, social engineering attacks, and potential data theft.

To most business decision makers, using messaging apps in the workplace is a matter of weighing the risks and opportunities and determining an acceptable compromise. In reality, business leaders want what’s best for their business. And what’s best for the business is to continue embracing innovations and helpful technologies to remain competitive in their respective industries. The problem is, in the case of WhatsApp, it is often difficult to juggle market imperatives and WhatsApp cybersecurity at the same time. 

Resources are, of course, limited. Companies who have devoted a huge chunk of their resources to securing their tech stacks will not be able to casually adopt WhatsApp as a solution because of the threat surface that comes with it. On the other hand, companies that have focused their efforts on innovating ahead of their competitors find themselves severely susceptible to cyber threats because if they leave security as a secondary decision.

Modern Communications Are a Business Imperative

As the world’s most popular instant messaging apps, WhatsApp is simply too big to ignore in certain markets. In Brazil, for example, 96% of smartphone owners use WhatsApp as their primary communications channel. In India, the average smartphone user spends 38 minutes every day on the app. These statistics drive companies to continue adopting WhatsApp for business communication.

The enormous reach of WhatsApp in the countries they dominate translates into some serious economic impact. From cementing superior brand connections to interacting with customers through the platforms they’re already on, WhatsApp has become a critical tool in global engagement. Ignoring WhatsApp for business communication can severely hamper your marketing and customer support teams. 

On top of that is the vast amount of conversational data these departments generate, which businesses can leverage to drive smarter decision-making. In conclusion, if you’re going to do business in a country where WhatsApp reigns supreme, then you need to be a part of it too.

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Should You Rely on In-App Security and Privacy Settings?

In a word, no. Cybersecurity analysts often talk about WhatsApp security risks, and compare these to the risks of other applications. The reality, however, is that no third-party app is 100% secure. 

In-app security and privacy settings might give users some control over how safe their data is, but the truth is that platform settings are designed to protect the platform owner, not end users’ business data.

An example: Although WhatsApp has encryption and two-factor authentication, its parent company, Meta, still does have access to the data that WhatsApp has. And the tech giant doesn’t really have a perfectly clean track record, with vulnerabilities having arisen before.

Moreover, a report by ArsTechnica reveals that Meta actually employs about 1,000 WhatsApp “moderators” who review flagged WhatsApp messages. And even though nothing has indicated that Facebook collects private messages without user intervention (i.e., tagging content with claims of fraud, spam, and others), there is nothing stopping them from doing so, either. Thus, opening a risk of exposure to WhatsApp users.

Does this mean you should stop using mainstream instant messaging apps in your company? Fortunately, no. Doing so could cut you off from many customers, particularly in the case of companies using WhatsApp for business communication across broader international markets. However, WhatsApp security risks open companies to possible data breach, and this can have an even greater impact on your bottom line.

The challenge lies in establishing a way to use these technologies safely. Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp lie beyond normal perimeter security, which means the security of WhatsApp messages and the data it handles typically isn’t overseen by your own security protocols. Because of this, businesses need a way to analyze data before it ends up being transmitted through such apps.

Addressing WhatsApp Security Risks Safely

Extending security to your instant messaging channels provides multiple business benefits. It also encourages the responsible use of apps that could otherwise end up causing more harm than good. With the right technology on your side, there’s no reason you can’t retain full control over your corporate data, even if you are using platforms that might otherwise present serious problems for security and privacy.

SafeGuard Cyber provides security and compliance solutions for WhatsApp so that businesses can use these leading technologies to drive growth. Request your demo today to find out how it works.

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