Wednesday, July 28, 2021

DEA Can’t Intercept iMessages

A leaked memo from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicates that the federal agency can’t access Apple iMessages, even with a warrant. The communication system uses end-to-end encryption technology that makes intercepting the messages nearly impossible.

CNET’s Declan McCullagh and Jennifer Van Grove reported, “Encryption used in Apple’s iMessage chat service has stymied attempts by federal drug enforcement agents to eavesdrop on suspects’ conversations, an internal government document reveals. An internal Drug Enforcement Administration document seen by CNET discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that because of the use of encryption, ‘it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices’ even with a court order approved by a federal judge.”

Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg added, “The DEA is only thwarted, however, when the messages are encrypted by Apple, so normal SMS text messaging is still fair game. They first discovered their little iMessage problem while attempting to perform electronic surveillance back in October 2011, and it ‘became apparent that not all text messages were being captured.’ It turned out, of course, that their target was an iMessage enthusiast.”

AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes explained, “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.”

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington noted, “iMessage has quickly become a popular option among users since its introduction in June, 2011. The service had seen over 300 billion messages sent as of last October, and that number has no doubt grown considerably since then. It has the advantage over other encrypted chat offerings of being built-in to all iPhones, iPads and iPod touches at the system level, requiring only an Apple ID to activate and use. Once logged in, iMessage becomes the default option for communicating via text, MMS or group message, whenever the service detects the party you’re communicating with can also receive them.”

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