April 5, 2013
Apple’s iMessage Service Safe From The Prying Eyes Of Big Brother
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
CNET obtained an internal document from the Drug Enforcement Administration that discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that Apple's encryption technology makes it impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices.
The encrypted service makes it hard for police attempting to conduct court-authorized surveillance on non-traditional forms of communication. The DEA document said iMessage came to the attention of the agency's San Jose, California office when they were drafting up a court order to perform real-time electronic surveillance under Title III of the Federal Wiretap Act. They found that records of text messages obtained from Verizon Wireless were incomplete because the target used iMessage, according to CNET.
"It became apparent that not all text messages were being captured," the report read. "iMessages between two Apple devices are considered encrypted communication and cannot be intercepted, regardless of the cell phone service provider," DEA said, according to CNET's account.
If messages are exchanged between an Apple device and a non-Apple device, then the messages can sometimes be intercepted, depending on where the intercept is placed.
Apple said back in January that it saw two billion iMessages sent each day from a half-billion iOS devices.
Although the DEA has been unable to crack the code behind Apple's iMessage service, a hacker group was able to cause a little disruption with the service. Hackers attempted to shut down the iMessage service with a Denial of Service attack (DDoS), but instead revealed another flaw in the system. Users began being flooded with messages from the hackers, revealing that Apple has no limit on how fast messages can be sent, enabling attackers to send thousands of messages very quickly.
IPhones are not the only way for users to send iMessages back-and-forth to each other. Apple has also put the software on iPads, iPod Touches and its Macintosh computer line. Criminals or anyone paranoid about Big Brother spying on you can use any of these devices to ensure their conversations with other people using Apple devices are hidden from snoopers.
"It's much much more difficult to intercept than a telephone call or a text message" that federal agents are used to, Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union told CNET. "The government would need to perform an active man-in-the-middle attack... The real issue is why the phone companies in 2013 are still delivering an unencrypted audio and text service to users. It's disgraceful."