Apple Announces 'Revolutionary' New Security Protocol for iMessage

by Joe Rossignol

Apple today announced a new post-quantum cryptographic protocol for iMessage called PQ3. Apple claims that this “revolutionary” and “state-of-the-art” protocol provides “extensive protection against even very sophisticated quantum attacks.” jpg” />
Apple believes that the security of the PQ3 protocol “exceeds the security of all other widely used messaging applications,” according to its blog post:

Today we are announcing the most significant update the cryptographic security history of iMessage by introducing PQ3, a revolutionary post-quantum cryptographic protocol that advances the state of the art in end-to-end secure messaging. With compromise-resistant encryption and extensive protection against even the most sophisticated quantum attacks, PQ3 is the first messaging protocol to achieve what we call Layer 3 security, providing protocol security superior to that of all other widely used messaging applications. To our knowledge, PQ3 has the strongest security properties of any large-scale messaging protocol in the world.

PQ3 will be rolled out gradually to supported iMessage conversations starting with iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4. macOS 14.4 and watchOS 10.4 will arrive in March, according to Apple, and it's already included in the latest beta versions of those updates, according to Apple. VisionOS will not support the PQ3 protocol during the initial rollout.

Apple says PQ3 will completely replace the existing iMessage encryption protocol across all supported conversations later this year. To be eligible to participate in an iMessage conversation, all devices participating in an iMessage conversation must be updated to the software version listed above or later.

Post-quantum cryptography

iMessage already supports end-to-end cryptography. encryption, but existing cryptographic protocols commonly used by messaging applications are based on mathematical problems that could potentially be solved by future quantum computers.

PQ3 is designed to protect users from “Collect now, decrypt later” attacks , in which attackers are now collecting large amounts of encrypted data and storing it in the hope that they will be able to decrypt it using a quantum computer in the future:

Although such quantum computers do not exist yet, attackers are extremely well resourced can already prepare for their eventual arrival by taking advantage of the sharp decline in the cost of modern data storage. The idea is simple: such attackers can collect large amounts of today's encrypted data and store it for future use. Even though they cannot decrypt this data today, they can store it until they acquire a quantum computer that can decrypt it in the future. This attack scenario is known as “Collect Now, Decrypt Later.”

Apple says PQ3 provides what it calls “Level 3 security,” meaning it protects “both the initial establishment of the key, as well as the current exchange of messages.”

You can learn more about the protocol in more detail. , read the Apple Security Research blog post.

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