Apple Enhances iMessage with PQ3 Encryption

Anurag Paul

26th Feb'24
Apple Enhances iMessage with PQ3 Encryption | OpenGrowth

Apple claims its PQ3 protocol provides strong encryption that safeguards users from advanced attacks by quantum computers.

Apple is rolling out a fresh cryptographic protocol for iMessage. This protocol aims to shield users from complex attacks by quantum computers. With this new encryption, users could be safeguarded even if encrypted data is accessed and decrypted later by quantum computers. iMessage became the second messaging platform, after Signal, to adopt quantum-security cryptography with its PQXDH protocol introduced last year. This additional layer of security helps protect users in case their encryption keys are compromised.

On Wednesday, the company outlined the creation of the PQ3 protocol for iMessage. This protocol is set to be deployed on compatible iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch models. PQ3 serves as a quantum-resistant cryptographic protocol, aiming to safeguard conversations from potential breaches by attackers wielding quantum computers in the future, as stated by Apple.

The conventional public key cryptography, employed in secure messaging apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage, and Signal, shields users by leveraging intricate mathematical challenges. Nonetheless, it's believed that potent quantum computers could unravel these challenges. Although such quantum computers aren't yet in existence, they pose a potential threat to compromising encrypted conversations in the future.

Apple also underscores another concern brought by quantum computers — the "Harvest Now, Decrypt Later" scenario. This scenario involves storing large volumes of encrypted data currently accessible. Skilled attackers could potentially gain access to this data in the future when a sufficiently powerful quantum computer can break the conventional encryption methods used to safeguard those messages.

iMessage becomes the second messaging platform to incorporate support for quantum-security cryptography. In the previous year, Signal, often regarded as the benchmark in encrypted messaging, revealed its plans to introduce a new PQXDH protocol, aimed at shielding users from quantum computers. Apple claims that its PQ3 encryption protocol surpasses PQXDH by regularly changing post-quantum keys. This proactive approach helps mitigate the potential exposure of messages in case of key compromise.

What does Apple state?

Apple states that the new PQ3 post-quantum encryption protocol is crafted to defend users against both current and future threats. This protocol will be implemented right from the initiation of a chat. It works in conjunction with the company's existing encryption, featuring a hybrid design. This setup requires attackers to overcome not only the traditional encryption but also the post-quantum primitives utilized to safeguard iMessage conversations.

To ensure user protection in the event of an encryption key compromise, Apple has implemented a system where a new post-quantum key is transmitted periodically, rather than with every message. This approach helps to manage the size of encrypted messages while ensuring that users can still access the service even in challenging network conditions.

Apple's new PQ3 protocol has undergone thorough review by its Security Engineering and Architecture (SEAR) teams. Additionally, it has been scrutinized by a team led by Professor David Basin, who heads the Information Security Group at ETH Zürich, and Professor Douglas Stebila from the University of Waterloo. Furthermore, the company enlisted a third-party security consultancy to independently assess the PQ3 source code, with the assurance that no security issues were found during the assessment process, according to Apple.

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Anurag has been writing content for over eight years, and he is dedicated to it and cannot see himself in any other industry. As a passionate writer, he is interested in business and entrepreneurship. An accomplished technologist and financial expert, he strives to empower others through entrepreneurship, leaving his comfort zone to explore entrepreneurship. Having worked in the Financial sector for more than five years as a full-timer, he also has a keen interest in Corporate Finance ...

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