Apple Upgrades iMessage to Strongest Encryption in the World

Apple’s iMessage security is getting a new encryption system named PQ3, aimed at countering potential future threats posed by advanced quantum computing.

This was revealed yesterday, when iOS 17.4 beta 4 and more were released to developers, reports Bloomberg. Quantum computers with their advanced computing power can potentially decrypt today’s encryption methods used for securing messages.

Apple’s PQ3 system, now in beta versions of iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS 17.4, and watchOS 10.4, is set to be available to all users in the coming weeks and will become the standard security protocol for all iMessage chats by the end of 2024.

This upgrade is in response to the theoretical “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, where attackers could currently collect encrypted messaging data and leverage quantum computing to decrypt it. Apple’s plan aims to protect against such future threats.

Apple says PQ3 is “the strongest security properties of any at-scale messaging protocol in the world,” above Signal, which has been regarded as the benchmark for encrypted communications.

The PQ3 system is at a Level 3 security, surpassing Signal’s Level 2 and its own previous iMessage protocol, which it equates to WhatsApp’s Level 1 security. According to Apple, other popular messaging applications like Telegram, Skype, QQ, and WeChat fall below these levels.

Today, Apple shared more about PQ3 and iMessage, saying, “we are announcing the most significant cryptographic security upgrade in iMessage history with the introduction of PQ3, a groundbreaking post-quantum cryptographic protocol that advances the state of the art of end-to-end secure messaging. With compromise-resilient encryption and extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks, PQ3 is the first messaging protocol to reach what we call Level 3 security — providing protocol protections that surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps. To our knowledge, PQ3 has the strongest security properties of any at-scale messaging protocol in the world.”

Apple also announced that its Contact Key Verification system, enabling users to confirm the identity of their communication partners, will be extended to its Vision Pro headset, as part of the upcoming visionOS 1.1 update.

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