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Apple just made iMessage the safest messaging app with a big security upgrade

Published Feb 21st, 2024 9:37AM EST
Apple's Messages app / iMessage / Digital Market Acts / iPhone 15 Pro / European Union legislation
Image: José Adorno for BGR

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Apple announced an important update to iMessage, which, according to the company, might have turned this app into the safest messaging app available today. The Security Research team upgraded iMessage with a new post-quantum cryptographic protocol that improves end-to-end secure messaging.

Apple says that “with compromise-resilient encryption and extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks, PQ3 is the first messaging protocol to reach Level 3 security — providing protocol protections that surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps.” The company states that PQ3 has the strongest security properties of any at-scale messaging protocol in the world.

In comparison, Line, Viber, and WhatsApp all have classical level 1 cryptography, which iMessage also had. Signal, for example, added level 2 protection with a PQC Key establishment, but Apple went a step further with ongoing PQC rekeying.

Apple's iMessage PQ3 protocol makes it the safest messaging appImage source: Apple Inc.

Now, with quantum computing threats rising, Apple has decided to upgrade the existing protocol to avoid possible breaches of its encryption. The company explains: “Although quantum computers with this capability don’t exist yet, extremely well-resourced attackers can already prepare for their possible arrival by taking advantage of the steep decrease in modern data storage costs. The premise is simple: such attackers can collect large amounts of today’s encrypted data and file it all away for future reference. Even though they can’t decrypt any of this data today, they can retain it until they acquire a quantum computer that can decrypt it in the future, an attack scenario known as Harvest Now, Decrypt Later.”

When can I take advantage of this new iMessage protocol?

Support for PQ3 will start to roll out with the public releases of iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS 14.4, and watchOS 10.4, and is already in the corresponding developer preview and beta releases. iMessage conversations between devices that support PQ3 are automatically ramping up to the post-quantum encryption protocol.

With that, Apple says this new PQ3 protocol will fully replace the existing protocol within all supported conversations this year.

You can learn more about this protocol and how Apple is ensuring iMessage becomes the safest messaging app here.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.