What Is End-to-End Encryption?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a security measure applied in communication systems to ensure that only the sender and the intended recipient can read the messages exchanged, preventing third parties, including service providers, from accessing the message content. In other words, the data is encrypted on the sender’s device, transmitted through a secure channel, and decrypted only on the recipient’s device, without being decipherable at any intermediary points.

Here’s how it typically works:

  1. Encryption: Before sending a message, the sender’s device encrypts it using an encryption key. This key could be generated uniquely for that particular message or derived from a pre-established shared secret (like a password or cryptographic key exchange).
  2. Transmission: The encrypted message is then transmitted over a communication channel, such as the internet, using a secure protocol.
  3. Decryption: Upon receiving the encrypted message, the recipient’s device decrypts it using the appropriate decryption key. Since this key is only available to the intended recipient, no one else can decipher the message content.

End-to-end encryption ensures confidentiality, meaning that even if the communication channel is compromised or intercepted, the message remains secure and unreadable to unauthorized parties. Popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Signal, WhatsApp (in its default settings) and Telegram (in Secret Chats mode) are among some that utilize end-to-end encryption to protect user privacy.