iMessage Encryption too Strong for Feds’ Surveillance

imessageiMessage’s end-to-end encryption is so strong that federal agencies are having difficulties snooping over messages sent using the service, as revealed in an intelligence note leaked today.

The leaked intelligence note belongs to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who complain that intercepting messages between two Apple devices is next to impossible, even with a court order approved by a federal judge.

According to CNET, the DEA became aware of this issue during a criminal investigation in February this year, when the agency’s San Jose, California office learnt that the surveillance data handed over by Verizon was incomplete because some of the text messages were actually sent as iMessages.

This has to be another cause of worry for law enforcement agencies — the seamless integration of iMessage within iOS, without any user action, replaces SMS, a medium that can be wiretapped, with a very secure messaging channel, immune to eavesdropping. Since its launch in 2011, iOS and Mac users have sent more than 300 billion iMessages.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have long been gunning for laws that expand their wiretapping capabilities to newer form of communications like social networks, VoIP services, IM and of course email. Even if they don’t get these “backdoors” anytime soon, they can easily subpoena Apple to hand over unencrypted iMessage content.

You can view the “Intelligence Note” by visiting this URL.

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