With more than 1.2 billion daily active users and 50 billion messages sent per day, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app across the globe.
That’s for good reason: Not only does the app include all the emoji and photo editing tools you’ve come to expect from a social app, it also touts user security as a notable priority. After introducing end-to-end encryption last April, this week the app announced it’s finally rolling out two-factor authentication to users.
Available on iOS, Android, and Windows, WhatsApp’s two-step verification makes it so that attempts to verify your phone number on the app must also be accompanied with a six digit code. Periodically, the app will also ask you to enter your code when you open the app in order “to help you remember your passcode.”
To turn two-step authentication on, in the app go to Settings, Account, Two-step verification, and select Enable. When setting this up, you’ll have the option to enter an email address as well. This will be used in case you forget your passcode.
WhatsApp has users across the globe, including places like Iran where free speech is more limited (a location where the app has in fact come under fire). However, even in places where free speech is protected, such as the U.S., phone owners are slowly becoming more aware of how valuable their personal data is—and how valuable it is to keep that data secure.
“We’ve always believed in a couple of things, one is user privacy,” WhatsApp engineer Dan Cocuzzo told the Daily Dot. “It’s one of the core values of our company as to how it was built.” (To get started with the app, for example, all you need is a phone number.)
Two-factor authentication helps lock that data in so only you can access it, but beyond that, encrypting the communications across WhatsApp’s network helps ensure that even if a government demands the company’s data, it’s impossible to decipher. (The app worked with Open Whisper Systems, whose open-source protocols have been vetted by a variety of security professionals, for this task, which took more than two years to fully implement.)
In our brave new world, secure, encrypted communications could prove vital in the fight against injustice and misinformation. Switching on two-factor verification for your email and messaging apps is the first, and one of the most important, steps in ensuring hackers, government agencies, and even curious friends don’t look through your messages without your permission.