Apple secures iMessage against threats from the future

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    Maria Diaz/ZDNET

    Quantum computing may still be an emerging technology, but Apple is two steps ahead of other tech giants by releasing quantum-secure messaging. The company introduced his PQ3 in iMessage, raising the iOS messaging app to Level 3 encryption security, the highest level applied to messaging apps.

    Most other messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, which offers end-to-end encryption without quantum security, are between levels 0 and 1. iMessage with PQ3 is designed to withstand quantum attacks that may occur in the future, even years from now.

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    But if quantum computers don't exist yet, why does this matter to you?

    “The premise is simple: An attacker like this could collect large amounts of current encrypted data and store it all in a file for future reference,” said Apple's Security Engineering and Architecture team. says: blog post Announcing the news. “Even if we can't decode this data now, we can hold on to it until we have a quantum computer that can decode it in the future.”

    Apple plans to make today's iMessage exchanges secure against tomorrow's computers and attackers, especially an attack scenario known as “Harvest Now, Decrypt Later.” As the Apple team explains, these scenarios require data to be filed and stored for years until a device is created that is advanced enough to crack it, such as a quantum computer.

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    Apple claims that iMessage is the only Level 3 messaging service; signal PQXDH also offers post-quantum encryption, the only quantum messaging service available, with Level 2 security.

    At level 2, post-quantum encryption is applied only to the initial key establishment. This means that if the key is compromised, an attacker may be able to access all messages in the thread until the key is changed.

    Level 3, offered by iMessage, applies advanced encryption from the beginning of the conversation, persists throughout the conversation, and changes digital keys frequently and automatically. If a conversation is compromised, the attacker only has access to a small portion of the conversation until the keys are changed again.

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    Like WhatsApp, iMessage already offered Level 1 end-to-end encryption by default, which is not considered quantum secure. Other Level 1 messaging services include Line and Viber. Level 0 messaging services such as QQ, Skype, Telegram, and WeChat do not provide end-to-end encryption by default.

    Support for iMessage in PQ3 will roll out generally with the public release of iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS 14.4, and watchOS 10.4. This is already available in the corresponding beta release.


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