Spying on WhatsApp Conversations: Myths and Realities

Currently, it is not possible to spy on WhatsApp conversations just like that. The app uses end-to-end encryption, ensuring only you and the recipient can read the messages. Even WhatsApp can’t do that. All messages are encrypted and only you and the recipient have the keys to see the content. In addition, each message has a unique encryption with a unique key. Everything happens automatically and it is a feature that cannot be disabled. It’s not uncommon to find programs, applications, or websites that promise to access another user’s account and read all their messagesbut they are 99.9% wrong.

This does not mean that in the past and today there are no ways to spy on conversations on WhatsApp. Your conversations are untouchable, albeit with nuance.

Spy on WhatsApp conversations with WhatsApp Web

WhatsApp Web currently offers the easiest way to listen to conversations in some cases. Most often it happens when we directly leave the session started on an unlocked computer. Anyone who is nearby could view our conversations and send messages.

Another option is to have the person’s device nearby and access it. Aside from the obvious ability to view the conversations directly within the app, there is a way to spy on the conversations with relative secrecy.

Open Google Chrome and visit WhatsApp Messenger official website. Once there, press the three vertical dots icon in the top right corner that gives access to the browser options menu.

Visit WhatsApp's website with Chrome for AndroidVisit WhatsApp’s website with Chrome for Android

choose Desktop Site to see the desktop version.

Open Chrome options and select the option to view desktop versionOpen Chrome options and select the option to view desktop version

Click in the top left corner WhatsApp Web.

Choose the WhatsApp Web optionChoose the WhatsApp Web option

take the victim’s cell phone, go to settings and choose WhatsApp Web.

Search WhatsApp Web on your victim's WhatsApp applicationSearch WhatsApp Web on your victim’s WhatsApp application

Scan the QR code visible on your own screen with the other user’s mobile phone.

Scan the QR code on the website with the victim's phoneScan the QR code on the website with the victim’s phone

After a few seconds, WhatsApp Web will be activated on your phone with the WhatsApp account of the person you want to spy on, and you’ll be able to navigate through all the conversations. The problems with this method? It’s just for spying. Because the moment you type, you’re detected, and if the victim uses the web version or the Windows client, they might get a message that the app was opened on another device, raising suspicions that he is being spied on. It’s also not surprising that WhatsApp will soon act to change this behavior.

Spy on WhatsApp conversations via backups

One method that has been used to access WhatsApp conversations in the past is backups. Someone who has access to the backup might be able to restore it using some tools.

The integrity of the backups has improved over time, but it’s still possible for someone to spy on our conversations if they have access to the device (WhatsApp saves a daily backup of the messages locally via a file browser), or to the Google Drive account used to store backups in the cloud, or also to an SD card that we may have made a manual copy of. It is a remote controlled option that high technical computer skills or advanced forensic software requires, but it exists and cannot be excluded.

In the field of computer security, there are companies dedicated to the development and sale of spy software or forensic software. These are companies that offer all sorts of solutions, as long as you pay them for their services, which is usually only affordable for governments and their security agencies: there is a black market for spying on communications, which logically cannot be found on the bulletin board of the supermarkets are advertised. Such companies are able to extract information from any website or create and inject on victim’s device trojans that can take full control, including accessing WhatsApp messages.

Other WhatsApp spy software

Putting all that aside, sometimes things are a lot less demanding. There are also companies that provide communications monitoring services for the home environment. mSpy, for example, is software designed to to supervise one’s own children, or employees of a companybut it’s still possible to use it to spy on anyone’s WhatsApp if you have access to their device.

Before WhatsApp became popular and Facebook took over the company, there were very simple methods of spying. In the beginning, back in 2009, it was an application intended to communicate with your contacts through status updates. In this way one could see if one was available to answer a call or an SMS, but one could not, as it is possible today, to send messages from the application itself. Security was not a primary issue or concern in such an application.

When instant messaging was introduced, interest in spying on conversations was born. One of the first methods that appeared was to install the WhatsApp Sniffer app. This required us Root-Straight on our phone and connected to the same WiFi network as the person we wanted to spy on (any network with little security), for example in a public place like a library. Once up and running, it was possible to see all the messages sent by the phones connected to the same WiFi network, although they all seemed jumbled: it wasn’t as easy as entering a conversation and reading it. The real usefulness was rather limited as in just a few minutes you could see a large number of messages from all the people connected in the library without knowing who was talking to whom.

How do you check the privacy of your WhatsApp messages?

If you have any doubts about WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, you can always check it. Place yourself in a chat window with a contact and tap that contact’s name at the top.

Tap the contact's name in a chat windowTap the contact’s name in a chat window

You can access different areas including the encryption.

Go to the Help sectionGo to the Help section

There you will get a QR code that you can scan with your contact’s phone or vice versa to verify that the encryption is working properly. You can also compare the 60-digit code below with the code on your contact’s phone.

QR code and encryption numberQR code and encryption number

Spying on WhatsApp conversations is a key issue in the growing privacy issue of Internet communications. For years, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have required messaging app developers to use backdoors, or master passwords, that allow them to bypass encryption and read the messages of people involved in serious violations of the law. As far as you can see, spying on WhatsApp conversations is practically impossible unless you’re an advanced computer engineer specializing in security and cryptography, or a person with enough criminal streak to say the least.

And two more details:

  • Just because it’s not possible to spy on conversations doesn’t mean there isn’t other publicly viewable data revealing things about you. Anyone can find out when you’re online and how long you’re online by entering your number in their address book and monitoring their chat window with you.
  • Spying on private conversations is a crime: any of these actions to spy on another person’s private conversation is illegal. It is an offense of revealing and spreading secrets under Article 197 of the Spanish Penal Code, punishable by up to four years in prison. So think very carefully about what you want to do before you act.

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