Apple’s iMessage is U.S. DEA’s worst nightmare

“If you don’t want your text messages to be wire-tapped, you might consider getting yourself an iPhone,” Adrian Covert reports for CNNMoney.

“Apple’s seemingly innocuous iMessage app is giving the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency endless amounts of grief, because law enforcement is not able to trace and track text message conversations sent via Apple’s service,” Covert reports. “Though iMessage was introduced in 2011, DEA investigators only last month discovered that iMessages were not traceable.”

MacDailyNews Take: Government efficiency.

Covert reports, “While it is possible to try to directly extract the data from the iPhone’s hardware, Technology Review pointed out that it’s extremely difficult to get anything from the phone if it is password-protected and is set to wipe its memory after a set number of failed logins.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

102 Comments

      1. Before you go and use iMessage while founding your criminal empire, read this:

        http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130405/01485922590/dea-accused-leaking-misleading-info-falsely-implying-that-it-cant-read-apple-imessages.shtml

        The bottom line: Apple stores all your iMessages. When faced with a subpoena, they will in all likelihood reveal all to the Feds. Further, iMessage stores ALL your iMessages. The Feds go use the Way Back machine to see what you’ve been up to.

        The only “security” advantage to iMessage is that it cannot be read while in transmission.

        Yet.

    1. well said… and to Apple – PLEASE keep iMessage untraceable.

      Plus, Apple, please find aways to jump between FaceTime and iMessage in a seamless way as if both apps are one.

      When it comes to video / texting – BOTH Yahoo and Skype fail in this regards… Apple should bridge its solution so things can seem more fluent.

      1. A likely good idea: If you have current, serious encryption software, keep a backup of it handy for the future. Something tells me there is going to be considerable pressure from various directions to BACK DOOR current encryption software in order to allow surveillance, be it warranted or traitorous. That means our currently most excellent encryption software may well be ‘updated’ with back doors.

        Please note that I do not write this stuff in order to enable crime, but to PREVENT crime via our Corporate Oligarchy and other nefarious, unconstitutional, illegal interests who have no respect for our innate right to personal privacy. Seeing as the US government ALREADY is well known to pull these illegal surveillance stunts on US citizens inside the USA WITHOUT warrants, entirely unconstitutional, We The People are entirely entitled to fight back by enforcing our citizen rights. Sorry Big Gov. That’s the fact. Deal with it.

        1. excellent point Derek – and we the people are whom elect to have those govern, hence if not as we wish, we should insist on change – its our right.

          PS – I believe in privacy – and not encourage illegal behaviour by maintaining iMessage or FaceTime untraceable… I just congratulate Apple for AGAIN protecting the consumers in ways we (most) don’t even realize.

            1. http://bth.mn/imessage2skype/

              Not that it matters to me…
              but can the US DEA track Skype messages?

              the above link is a new application that will basically forward your text messages from iMessage to your Skype account… if you have one.

              For me, FaceTime, just needs a smooth slick app integration – perhaps by overlaying the video chat at times with a notification or text input method for use with iMessage that would run at the same time as FaceTime. Hence, no need to jump back and forth with the two apps running on iOS.

            2. Of that I am ignorant. I can go all paranoid and point out that Microsoft now code Skype…

              A particularly private pal of mine likes to use the encryption built into Jabber. I don’t know how effective it is, but I seem to recall it is 128 bit AES.

      1. In this lunatic desperation stock market? You might as well wish upon a star. The blatant, hateful, self-destructive Wall Street manipulators are incapable of making sense. They just want the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  1. @TT:
    Wonder if they do any hiring in Colorado ?

    … but .. I would think if they can’t crack it … then wouldn’t it be smart to …

    Never update your iMessage ..?

    1. Actually I did, thanks.
      And then last night my iPhone mysteriously signed itself back out again (actually I’m not sure when it did, I discovered it last night).
      Same goes for my MacBook Pro on occasion, although my desktop seems to never have the issue.

      I’m wondering if it is a safety precaution because I use them on so many different networks….?

  2. “Government efficiency.”

    This is such a cliched “joke” that I think everyone who makes it should receive an electric shock and be forced to learn and recite ten examples of private industry inefficiency that happened in just the *30 seconds* prior to their lame-ass, anti-government joke.

    1. Cliche because it is true. We can make the joke because, unlike industry, we are forced to fund government projects. If you don’t like how a company is run..you don’t buy their products. Not true for the government. Paying almost 8% sales tax…then giving them 10 thousands per year of my hard earned money…I have good reason to questions their “business practices.”

      1. What’s the descriptive word? Oh yes:

        Oxymoron.

        http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/oxymoron

        BTW: It’s not innately ‘government’ that is anyone’s enemy.

        It’s psychopaths, puppets, propagandists and porkers who make ‘government’ into a hell hole of stupidity, corruption and waste. Blame the people who ARE the bogus institution. ‘Government’ is just another name for a gang of specific people and their collective behavior, be it brilliant or bozoid.

        1. Colourful and, I think, true.

          The only problem with a cliche is that it devalues rational thought in favor of instinct.

          The cliche was once so powerfully true of something that it became a catchphrase, a shortcut for a series of thoughts.

          After that it got routinely applied as a defining characteristic of the original thing.

          A definition altered in this way is not susceptible to analysis (“taking apart”) because the catchphrase has condensed into a monoid without parts of its own.

          Yes, those parts can be recovered from history, but only with effort, which is rarely undertaken: thus cliche becomes an impediment to rational thought by having shrunk in diameter, obscuring possible bias or flaw, and erasing the original reference point that was present in the idea to start with.

            1. It would appear that you have cultivated cognitive bypass methodologies that allow a full range of analytical techniques to be applied to a problem, rather than allow the experiential hard-wired expected value algorithms to dictate your social behavior. 🙂

      1. I’ve long felt that every aspect of government should be handled by the military and budgetary issues should be considered def con 1.

        That would be the only way to ensure quick and concise government.

        1. Government is like that bloated beached whale lying helpless on the sand thrashing about that cannot help itself without voraciously consuming taxpayers’ money to support itself.

          The best thing that can happen is to line up all government officials and shoot them like the dogs that they are, starting with the empty suit in the WH.

  3. LMAO @ MDN Take. Kingpins, distributors, dealers and users have probably been using iMessage for two years now and these clowns finally get around to discovering it. It’s prohibition all over again. What a colossal waste of money.

    And this is the same stodgy, lifeless entity that some want in charge of our health care, among other things.

    Ronald Reagan said it best: the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

        1. @CitizenX; thanks. Reagan, AFAIC, was a great con man. He was able to convince a substantial portion of the population that he was acting in the interests of the average American. The statement “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
          rises to the level of Orwellian doublespeak. Of course Reagan was from the government. Of course he was also in the pocket of big business. His “supply side economics” was a con game to further line the pockets of the wealthy. He tapped into an anti-government sentiment that already existed among a large sector of Americans, but rather than try to make the government actually do its proper job, he began the process of selling it off to the corporate interests.

            1. We are supposed to have government of, by and for the people. Government is supposed to protect the interests of the citizens. Of course the government is often inefficient and wasteful, partly due to those within it and outside it who have turned steered it away from its true purpose. But it is not “government” that is the problem — the problem is the hijacking of government by money interests. These interests have a lot to gain by convincing the American people that it is corporations who have the best interests of the public at heart and turning people away from true democratic governance.

  4. Is it clear that the DEA have only just DISCOVERED it?

    Or is it that the discovery has only just been publicised?

    It’s the kind of thing they would have done well to keep quiet about!

    Anyway, completely agree – legalisation is the way forward.

    1. That’s not the point, CitiX.

      Government is not efficient. Period.
      They may do things no others can or will, but that doesn’t make them ‘efficient’, it makes them ‘necessary’….

      1. The point is whether business or government tried to crack encryption or iMessage you would get the same result. They would be unable to as it stands now.

        It may have taken government 2 years to realize they were having a problem because it probably took just as long for it be be widely used and to become a problem. Flying under the radar so to speak since it is only a lowly Mac messaging system.

        To just knee jerk spout “government inefficiency” show it to be just that. Knee jerk.

        By the way. How efficient is business. Do you really want to take the position that there is no inefficiency in business?

        What about the inefficiency in the stock market? Apple at 423 when they s**t more money in profits than many other companies with higher stock prices.

        1. Most business is exponentially more efficient than just about any part of government. That doesn’t mean they are honest, beneficial to all and not dangerous in some form, but they have to survive.

          Speaking of knee-jerks, looks like you just had a few concerning food. Maybe if the economy was better so many families wouldn’t require both parents work 1 or 2 jobs and a need for super cheap fast food. Just a thought.

          And BTW, Capitalism requires a STRONG government, but not necessarily an overbearing one. Finding that balance is an ongoing battle that is losing to the overbearing side for now. Coincidence things are bad?

          1. I guess out of the other side of your neck in a different forum you would be railing against the big 3 auto makers for being “inefficient”. Or am I wrong in that? Maybe you would be railing against all the too big to fail banks that had to be bailed out?

            I have a feeling that you want your “cake” but want to pretend like the cake comes from the benevolence of “efficient business”.

            I use fast food as an example. Next time you eat pork, than the inefficient government that you don’t get Trichinosis.

            Oh wait. Farmer john in his concern for your safety and health will spend the extra dollars to ensure that his hogs are tested and their meat is inspected before you buy it.

            crickets… crickets… crickets….

          2. “And BTW, Capitalism requires a STRONG government, but not necessarily an overbearing one. Finding that balance is an ongoing battle that is losing to the overbearing side for now. Coincidence things are bad?”

            So where does overbearing and strong collide? I think most people, especially the ones that would make the inane claim of “inefficient government” don’t know the difference.

            That is the problem. They will get up each morning after having slept soundly and free from harm because of government mandated safety systems, eat safe food, drive a safe car on a safe road to a safe office building or factory, do a good job and make an adequate living while their kids are schooled in an “adequate” environment and …. etc.

            You get my point. But then they get a few beers in them and they want to rail against the government.

            Again… SHEESH!

            1. Might want to keep any open flames away from that straw man you’ve created.

              All your points have nothing to do with government efficiency.
              Has nothing to do with the need for government.
              Has nothing to do with some businesses.
              Has nothing to do with banking.

              Has to do with the fact that government is inefficient, even in its best form.
              You seem to think that anyone that utters a word against the Feds is a toothless hick that isn’t bright enough to see its need.

              Apparently most people see a need for government, some want more, some less.
              But I’ve never met ANYONE making the asinine assumption that people are too stupid to see a need for government just because they recognize its inefficiency.

              Get over it.

            2. Oh my God, I just realized you must work for the Post Office, DMV, DA, DOT or something that is causing you to take this so personal.

              No one else in their right mind would be so offended by a known-known…or do you think it reflects on Obama and not any other President? Is it now racist to say government is inefficient?
              (at least I didn’t say ‘Chicago’…doh!)

              I don’t understand your argument enough to even reply to it other than to say when you make a joke about a reality it is not a made up ‘straw-man’ fallacy.

            3. No, I actually never worked for any government agency. i never said or intimated anything about Obama so you can let your guard down.

              What you can’t deny is that without government regulations you would be one sickly, working for 1.25 cent an hour worthless pile of nothing, driving an unsafe car on muddy roads. Your children would be uneducated and just as sickly as your pathetic ass.

            4. Steam engines are efficient, governments aren’t.

              Efficiency is a thermodynamic concept that was lifted by business theorists long ago to measure such things as worker productivity and assembly-line yield.

              It began to be applied to government “output” in the 20th century as a justification for cost-cutting, but never acquired traction as a useful metric and was reduced to a casual polemical tool.

              To this day, there is no widespread acknowledgement that any human organization, much less the government of a world state, exhibits in its design or its execution anything like optimal material economy or good husbandry, simplicity, elegance, fairness, or justice, or anything else. It’s a human thing; it’s bound to be messy, inexact, suboptimal.

              The only real argument is in its subjects’ preferences for particular articles of government, or the form of government itself.

              Meanwhile, the lawyers continue to get richer. Cue Shakespeare, Henry VI ,Part 2.

            5. The government is not meant to be efficient. Its function is to provide services that would not, or could not otherwise be provided. UPS is more efficient than the Post Office because the mail goes everywhere, not just where there’s a profit to be made. Under government regulation, airlines provided service to areas that don’t now have it. Yes, fares under deregulation are probably lower than they would otherwise be, but there are simply no flights anymore to places that aren’t profitable.

              Those who argue for privatization invariably have the attitude that if someone can’t make a profit from serving you, you shouldn’t be served. That’s a problem when it comes to things like health care, wherein, if you’re not served you die.

    2. Given the choice I would much prefer to receive only defense, roads, postal service , etc from the federal government.
      (well would be at least as happy with UPS and Fedex)
      Beyond that its all dubious. American individuals and groups made up of like-minded individuals do a better job of taking care of each other.
      No doubt some will disagree. LOL

      1. Ah yes, leave it up to McDonalds to give you quality beef in your hamburger. Or maybe let Con-Agra decide how many insect heads you have in your dinner.

        We all know the big bad wolf government has nothing better to do than try to improve the quality of your life. Sorta like taking that “promote the general welfare” thing to the extreme ensuring that your products and food are safe. Or that the car you buy won’t contribute to your death.

      2. “American individuals and groups made up of like-minded individuals do a better job of taking care of each other.”

        You are one silly boy.

        Tell that to the fellow I know who contracted cancer, was treated, recovered and was fired from his medium sized company because their health insurance provider raised their premiums as long as he remained on the payroll. His anticipated pension when he would have retired was also lost. That’s how American business takes care of its own.

        Tell that to the widow whose husbands medical bills forced her to take their small business into bankruptcy. She’s now looking at scraping by the rest of her life on the lowest levels of Social Security. They got taken care of all right.

        Tell that to the mothers forced to put out donation jars at convenience stores, trying to raise enough money for their child’s medical bills, so they can continue receiving treatment. The health care providers are really taking care of them (as long as they pay). Americans, every one.

        You can attempt to engage in magical thinking if you want. But eventually reality sets in for everyone.

  5. Everything can be hacked. This is just to get the bad guys (not always the smartest people in the world) to use iMessage. Even fanboys know better than to believe this. The government. They read our emails. They listen to our phone calls. They know where we are and they know where we’ve been through our cell phones and credit cards. Yeah, they can’t follow iMessage. Riiiiiiiiiiiight!

    1. Actually, according to top cryptanalysts (Daemen, Ferguson, Mao, RIjmen, Stinson, Schneier, etc.), if you use 256 bit AES encryption for messaging, which can be done via hardware* or software, then it isn’t crackable in transit. Prepending the AES-key using either RSA or elliptic curve crypto (with large enough keys) makes this a public key system that’s essentially uncrackable. (Of course, physical access to the machine changes this.) But this has been true since 2001…

      Going further back, Phil Zimmermann’s PGP made email secure (at least, outside an the NSA’s specific attack) for everyone. His story’s a good read on the security v. privacy dynamic.

      * There’s a small company in Raleigh, NC, that designed a chip with native Galois field GF(2^8) arithmetic just to put AES in anyone’s hand.

      1. Yep and if you do an out of band (offline) initial key exchange or use any kind of one time pad for keys out of band then you are golden unless they are already “on your phone”

        Sure they’ll crack it someday but you’ll be dead and in the ground by then.

        1. The most common passwords are still “password”, “Fluffy”, etc. Despite IT best-practice user direction, people just do not want to bother with, much less memorize, strong passwords like “hJC59mq-85RghhFOOL.”

          All the more reason you can’t be too careful on the interwebs these days. By all means, share pix of your family and pets on Facebook—but give them all aliases.

  6. I have a have a problem with law enforcement being able to read my messages.

    I have a HUGE problem with ANY OTHER branch of government being able to read them.

    That is the real problem.

  7. There are national security laws in place that can give the government access to iMessage or any other data. Don’t assume anything is private.

    As far as government efficiency goes, many aspects of government are now as, or more efficient than their private counterparts, but this is not a political forum so that discussion should likely occur elsewhere.

  8. there are nice apps out there that provide public key encryption over a variety of mediums including SMS.

    Personally I wouldn’t drug deal without one of them being deemed a “standard” in my organization. If I dealt drugs that is.

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