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US DEA upset it can't break Apple's iMessage encryption

post #1 of 62
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Officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are reportedly frustrated that they cannot crack Apple's iMessage encryption to listen in on suspects.

DEA
A DEA intelligence note warns of the difficulties of intercepting Apple iMessages. Source: CNet.


Apple's apparent stymying of the DEA was revealed in a government intelligence note obtained by CNet, which calls it "impossible" to intercept iMessages, even with a warrant. The note is entitled "Apple's iMessages: A Challenge for DEA Intercept."

The DEA is apparently only stopped if the message is an iMessage encrypted by Apple. If the message is instead sent as a text message, it's easier for the agency to obtain, though the DEA did admit that it "seems to be more successful if the intercept is placed on the non-Apple device."

The security of Apple's iOS platform vs. competing mobile operating systems like Google Android is frequently touted as a key advantage for the iPhone. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center even issued a warning to users last year regarding malware that targets Android devices.

iMessages are encrypted messages that can be sent between Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and even Macs running the OS X platform. The service launched with iOS 5 in 2011, and Apple publicly revealed that all sent and received iMessages would be securely encrypted.

Messages


DEA officials first discovered that iMessages could be a hinderance to their efforts when a real-time electronic surveillance under the Federal Wiretap Act failed to yield all of a target's text messages. The agency then discovered that the person was using iMessage, which bypassed the text messaging services of carrier Verizon.

Apple revealed in January that it sees 2 billion iMessages sent each day from a half-billion iOS devices, plus Mac computers, which gained iMessage support last year. iMessage accounts allow users to send and receive their secure messages across all their Apple devices.
post #2 of 62
ROTFLMAO.

Even so, the Android fans will continue to scream about how much more secure Android is.
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post #3 of 62
Woohoo, security by obscurity.
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post #4 of 62
Interesting that Apple keeps it more locked down than the carriers. I wonder if they simply haven't built in the mechanisms to allow for easy device access or if they are actively preventing them from gaining access.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag View Post

Woohoo, security by obscurity.

500 million devices and with the highest mindshare of any tech company or brand? Yeah, real obscure¡ You'd probably have to talk to a 1000 people before you'd find anyone that has ever heard of the iPhone, much less seen one¡

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post #5 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


500 million devices and with the highest mindshare of any tech company or brand? Yeah, real obscure¡ You'd probably have to talk to a 1000 people before you'd find anyone that has ever heard of the iPhone, much less seen one¡

 

More like 10 if you are only looking for 'heard of'. 

 

As for this issue, I'm sure with a proper federal warrant, Apple would comply and there is some way for them to access the data. 

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #6 of 62
I wish AppleInsider would stop making assumptions. Where is the evidence that the US DEA is "upset" or "frustrated."

And rickag, I don't think you know what "security by obscurity" is, because this isn't it.
post #7 of 62
Sounds good to me. F*ck Big Brother, the DEA, the American Government and all those other peepers that infringe upon our freedom.

Fascism is still a bad thing AFAIK.
post #8 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Interesting that Apple keeps it more locked down than the carriers. I wonder if they simply haven't built in the mechanisms to allow for easy device access or if they are actively preventing them from gaining access.
500 million devices and with the highest mindshare of any tech company or brand? Yeah, real obscure¡ You'd probably have to talk to a 1000 people before you'd find anyone that has ever heard of the iPhone, much less seen one¡

And based on the report herein, if you see one, it's probably a drug dealer being pursued by the DEA. Clearly, if you have the iPhone, you have something to hide.
post #9 of 62

I don't think it will matter.  Most drug dealers want giant phones to match their 24 inch rims on their giant SUV. Their girlfriends need them to match the giant hoop earrings.

post #10 of 62
This is classic government trolling. If the DEA REALLY had a hard time reading messages do you think they would make that publicly known?

Everyone needs to remember context.
post #11 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by ankleskater View Post

And based on the report herein, if you see one, it's probably a drug dealer being pursued by the DEA. Clearly, if you have the iPhone, you have something to hide.

I use iMessage across multiple iDevices and Macs constantly. I must be a kingpin.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #12 of 62
Hey, buddy. Get a warrant!
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post #13 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fithian View Post

Hey, buddy. Get a warrant!

Hey, buddy. Read the article.

Even if they have a warrant, the DEA has trouble reading iMessages.

However, I don't see anything wrong with that in a country based on individual freedom.
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post #14 of 62
Call me crazy, but is this something that the public should even know? And by public, I really mean drug dealers?
post #15 of 62
This must be why the end users (addicts in the street) get caught instead of the kingpins. The street peeps are using Android.
post #16 of 62

Oh noes! How will they stop cannabis use without round the clock surveillance of all citizens?

 

DEA, your concern has been noted. I will be sure to act on it at every possible voting opportunity.

post #17 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Interesting that Apple keeps it more locked down than the carriers. I wonder if they simply haven't built in the mechanisms to allow for easy device access or if they are actively preventing them from gaining access.

Apple isn't a telecom company, they are a technology company so the same rules don't apply to them. I'm sure that is about to change though.
post #18 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I use iMessage across multiple iDevices and Macs constantly. I must be a kingpin.

Don't you mean iKingpin?

Let's face it, who else but a drug lord can afford so many outrageously over-priced Apple devices?
post #19 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I use iMessage across multiple iDevices and Macs constantly. I must be a kingpin.

Finally, the truth comes out! 1eek.giflol.gif

post #20 of 62

Umm, strong encryption has been around for ages in various forms.  This is why the US government classified it as a munition in the 90s

 

BBM uses it too, but the big difference here it seems is that Apple's iMessage servers don't actually keep any unencrypted data on them.  That's my guess anyways given the fact that, even with a warrant, it's difficult to get ahold of the messages.  Whereas, with BBM, governments have been able to put pressure on RIM/BlackBerry to get ahold of data.

 
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post #21 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Hey, buddy. Read the article.

Even if they have a warrant, the DEA has trouble reading iMessages.

However, I don't see anything wrong with that in a country based on individual freedom.

I don't think that's not really what the DEA says is it? iMessages are considered encrypted communications and therefor aren't intercepted in the first place. I don't think they commented on whether they can de-crypt them if they get their hands on them did they? I get the impression it might be a legal issue when dealing with encrypted message from the way the DEA notice is worded. Could be wrong of course since there's not a lot of details.
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post #22 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

 

More like 10 if you are only looking for 'heard of'. 

 

As for this issue, I'm sure with a proper federal warrant, Apple would comply and there is some way for them to access the data. 


Read the Article, even with a warrant they couldn't.

 

 

 

Quote:
DEA officials first discovered that iMessages could be a hinderance to their efforts when a real-time electronic surveillance under the Federal Wiretap Act failed to yield all of a target's text messages
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post #23 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheUnfetteredMind View Post

Finally, the truth comes out! 1eek.giflol.gif

"Say hello to my little friend" couldn't be more accurate.


"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #24 of 62

This is the part from the original article that I found most interesting. Not that Apple IS encrypting, but why isn't everyone else?

 

 

 

Quote:

Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said yesterday that "Apple's service is not designed to be government-proof."

"It's much much more difficult to intercept than a telephone call or a text message" that federal agents are used to, Soghoian says. "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."

post #25 of 62
The real message here is: DEA want you bad guys out there to use iPhones because we have the ability to trace your location with your iMessages because we have decrypted both now.
post #26 of 62

You'd think that Dept. of Justice not breaking iMessage would be a plus to all the fraud and abuse that is done by governmental agencies buying iPhones.  Now it will be harder to shine the light of truth on the corruption that is well known in Washington!

 

On a side note, the EPA just ordered a million iPhones... take that BlackBerry! 1rolleyes.gif1biggrin.gif

/

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post #27 of 62

Hmm.  "Cannot be intercepted", but there seems to be some wiggle room in that statement.

 

For example, are the messages available from Apple's store-and-forward servers upon request?

 

I usually don't look for conspiracies, but this whole thing seems too public, and the explanation lists specific cases instead of making a blanket statement.

post #28 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag View Post

Woohoo, security by obscurity.

You clearly don't know what that means.

256 AES encryption is the NSA standard, and Apple is applying it to 2 billion texts a day across over 200 million iOS devices, including the top selling phones in United States. If there was ever an example of the inverse of security they obscurity, this would be it.
post #29 of 62

All communications should be encrypted -- it is the only way to preserve liberty.  

post #30 of 62
Man I have to admit ther are many posters here that wouldn't recognize sarcasm if hit them on their head.
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Don't get me wrong, I like the flat panel iMac, actually own an iMac, and I like the Mac mini, but...........
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just waiting to be included in one of Apple's target markets.
Don't get me wrong, I like the flat panel iMac, actually own an iMac, and I like the Mac mini, but...........
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post #31 of 62
Love it. Yeah, go ahead and use it, we can't crack it, go ahead, it's totally safe. (wink wink)
post #32 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedRaider2011 View Post


Apple isn't a telecom company, they are a technology company so the same rules don't apply to them. I'm sure that is about to change though.

 

Indeed.  

 

The line in the sand that shouldn't have been crossed is when the US Government started intercepting all your emails and phone calls directly at the carriers and recording/searching them.  When no one said anything about this and not one of you freedom loving yanks decided to fight it, it was a given that it would spread.  

 

That's how fascism works.  You have to fight it when someone takes away your liberty even in a technical sense, because if you don't, then the government just takes away more and more and more ...

 

If Apple's servers haven't already been compromised, it's only a matter of time until Uncle Sam sets up one of those little "monitoring rooms" they have at each carrier, in every iCloud facility as well because despite all the talk, Americans don't actually seem to care about personal liberty and freedom anymore. 

 

I mean 911 wasn't even that long ago and already the only section of the US constitution that hasn't been abrogated is the one that says you can buy assault weapons in the parking lot at WalMart.  1rolleyes.gif

post #33 of 62

The way I understand it, even with MIM attacks, iMessages are not decipherable, at least not easily. The FBI/NSA/CIA can put whatever stations they want in-between,but the messages are secure END TO END. The memo noted that they only have some success reading the texts when one of the parties is not on iMessage.

post #34 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag View Post

Man I have to admit ther are many posters here that wouldn't recognize sarcasm if hit them on their head.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law

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post #35 of 62

Good! Prohibition is immoral and a huge waste of money and resources. It is idiocy and it's only a matter of time before it's gone, though that might still be years away. The people at the DEA have one of the most useless jobs ever, most of them should be fired.

 

Hopefully people are using iMessage to make a lot of drug deals.

post #36 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremeskater View Post
Not sure how the DEA would infringe upon your freedom unless for some reason you take drugs that are illegal.

 

I enjoy smoking weed sometimes. 

 

I tend to stay away from dangerous legal drugs, such as alcohol and prescription drugs, which are real killers, so only illegal stuff for me! 1smoking.gif

post #37 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

 

I enjoy smoking weed sometimes. 

 

I tend to stay away from dangerous legal drugs, such as alcohol and prescription drugs, which are real killers, so only illegal stuff for me! 1smoking.gif

caught!!!

post #38 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by genovelle View Post

I don't think it will matter.  Most drug dealers want giant phones to match their 24 inch rims on their giant SUV. Their girlfriends need them to match the giant hoop earrings.

Right, because that what drug dealers look like. Sheesh!

For your sake, I hope you're right.
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post #39 of 62

More info from PCMag Security Watch:

 

According to the ACLU's Principal Technologist Christopher Soghoian, Ph.D., the real issue lies in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act or CALEA which was passed in 1994.

Soghoian told SecurityWatch this law, "mandated that industries build in intercept capabilities to their networks." These industries included phone and broadband companies, but not companies like Apple. iMessage is also different from normal text messaging because it both encrypts the message and sends it peer-to-peer between iPhones, without touching a carrier's network...

Another critical aspect of CALEA deals with encrypted messaging, mainly that it is exempt from all wireless surveillance. Soghoian explained that communications, "encrypted with a key not known to the company […] cannot be intercepted." So in a situation where the decryption keys are handled on the device, and not by whomever is delivering the messages, then law enforcement must ignore the message entirely...

But just because iMessages aren't immediately available for intercept doesn’t provide complete protection. "With the right kind of system," said Soghoian. "Apple messages could be intercepted." At issue is that Apple provides no indication to the parties in an iMessage chat that a new device has been introduced.

post #40 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtkoren View Post

caught!!!

Fortunately for me, marijuana is decriminalized where I live, so it's the equivalent of a traffic violation. 1smoking.gif

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