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DEA upset by inability to intercept Apple iMessage content

updated 11:18 am EDT, Thu April 4, 2013

iMessages sent via SMS still vulnerable, agency says

The US Drug Enforcement Administration is complaining that it can't intercept content on Apple's iMessage service, even with a warrant, according to an internal note obtained by CNet. "On February 21, 2013, the DEA San Jose Resident Office (SJRO) learned that text messages sent via iMessages between Apple products (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and iMac) are not captured by pen register, trap and trace devices, or Title III interceptions," the DEA writes. "iMessages between two Apple devices are considered encrypted communication and cannot be intercepted, regardless of the cell phone service provider."

The agency does say that if a message ends up being delivered via SMS it becomes easier to obtain, but cautions that this "seems to be more successful if the intercept is placed on the non-Apple device." DEA officials are said to have first learned about issues with iMessage when a surveillance effort under the Federal Wiretap Act didn't net all of the target's text messages. Further investigation revealed that the person was using iMessage, which was skipping the need for sending texts through the person's carrier, Verizon.

The news could be a boon for both criminals and average people concerned about avoiding government snooping. iMessage is, however, limited to running on Macs and iOS devices; the only way people who don't use the service can interact is via phone texting.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. Flying Meat

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Seems fair.

    I guess I fall into the second category, "people concerned" with government snooping. I doubt they can't intercept and decrypt the messages though. I imagine they just want Apple to make it easier for them. :P

  1. Geoduck

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-14-10

    But...

    according to the BlackBerry users I know BlackBerry is the only secure phone. Only BB messages etc. cannot be intercepted. Only BB is secure. It's why BB with BB-10 will take over the world inside 12 months.

    LOL

  1. Bobfozz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-28-08

    DEA

    your comment

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    When you use iOS...

    You're supporting terrorism.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-21-99

    Won't

    Won't someone think of the children?

  1. Sebastien

    Registered User

    Joined: 04-29-00

    I hope the DEA realizes....

    that nobody cares what they think.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Sigh...

    Originally Posted by GeoduckView Post

    according to the BlackBerry users I know BlackBerry is the only secure phone. Only BB messages etc. cannot be intercepted. Only BB is secure. It's why BB with BB-10 will take over the world inside 12 months.

    LOL



    BB encrypts everything that is communicated to the device, including SMS messages. In iOS, only Apple device communications (iMessages) are encrypted. If an iPhone texts back and fourth to an Android or dumb phone, they are not encrypted. BlackBerries are thus (still) more secure than any other device in the consumer market, including iOS.

    Did you even read the article?

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    BB encrypts everything that is communicated to the device, including SMS messages. In iOS, only Apple device communications (iMessages) are encrypted. If an iPhone texts back and fourth to an Android or dumb phone, they are not encrypted. BlackBerries are thus (still) more secure than any other device in the consumer market, including iOS.



    How can BlackBerry encrypt SMS messages? The SMS protocol is run by the provider, not the phone manufacturer. iMessage is secure simply because it is NOT SMS, and runs through Apple's own back-end servers. The second a message is transmitted as an SMS, it is unencrypted and runs through public protocols — this is the case for every messaging service out there, including BlackBerry's.

    Only messaging from BlackBerry to BlackBerry runs through RIM's servers and remains encrypted, same as iMessage.

    I think one source of confusion is that BB encrypts all data stored on the phone itself, including the SMS archive, no?

  1. Geoduck

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-14-10

    comment title

    Grendelmon
    Time to replace the battery in your sarcasm-aid?

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Doh

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    Only messaging from BlackBerry to BlackBerry runs through RIM's servers and remains encrypted, same as iMessage.

    I think one source of confusion is that BB encrypts all data stored on the phone itself, including the SMS archive, no?



    Actually, I stand corrected. You're right that SMS isn't encrypted. I was thinking that they passed those through the enterprise servers, but they don't. In fact, it doesn't appear that they encrypt any SMS messages at all, even BB to BB.

    Page 24:
    http://docs.blackberry.com/en/admin/deliverables/7127/BB_Ent_Soln_Security_5_0_0_STO.pdf

    We use them at my workplace and the data connections are always behind our firewall... I was thinking SMS did the same.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Complaining?

    Was it complaining or just statement of fact?

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