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Apple makes iMessage safer than ever with ‘quantum-secure’ chat protection

Apple is taking a significant leap forward with a very futuristic iMessage update, enhancing user privacy with state-of-the-art cryptography techniques. The technical details make for pretty heavy reading, but for the average user, it’s reassuring to know that Messages will soon boast the most secure end-to-end encryption capabilities of any messaging app. That means your conversations remain private, protected not only from today’s hackers but also from threats that don’t even exist yet.

This move is part of a broader shift in the tech industry towards post-quantum cryptography (PQC), a futuristic approach to encryption designed to secure data against the potential capabilities of quantum computers. That’s right, “quantum-secure” is more than just a flashy buzzword. Yikes.

While the timeline for practical quantum computers remains uncertain, the potential threat they pose to today’s encrypted data cannot be overlooked. Apple’s latest update to iMessage, incorporating post-quantum cryptography principles, is a proactive measure to address these concerns.

Without getting too technical, Apple’s new contact key verification essentially locks your messages between two “symmetric authentication keys,” one for each chat participant. Apple explains that nothing can be decoded “without knowing both of the shared secrets, meaning an attacker would need to break both algorithms to recover the resulting secret, thus satisfying our hybrid security requirement.” Got that?

The reason all this is so important is that iMessage has actually been targeted by spy groups several times before, exploiting vulnerabilities in Apple’s security measures to attack governments, hack dissidents, and even leak private data. It’s scary-sounding stuff, but rest assured the average user is very unlikely to be the target of one of these digital attacks. They tend to be expensive, time consuming, and highly targeted.

Apple’s new iMessage protections will roll out with the release of iOS 17.4, some time in the coming weeks.