Apple iMessage gets a security feature that makes it nearly impossible to intercept conversations

Called iMessage Contact Key Verification, the feature that looks like something out of a spy movie comes to thwart even the most sophisticated attempts to intercept messages.

Apple iMessage is one of the most popular instant messaging apps, offered since its inception with end-to-end communication encryption. To the exasperation of hacker groups and government agencies alike, the encryption technologies used to protect conversations have proven very difficult to circumvent, with attempts to legally obtain the surrender of Apple’s directly decrypted communications rejected with unwavering determination. According to the US company, end-to-end encryption technologies are designed in such a way that not even Apple can “see” what iPhone users are talking about.

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Adding to the barriers of existing security technologies, iMessage’s Contact Key Verification functionality allows users to verify that good messages sent only reach the people they intend to converse with. Thus, users who check this setting will receive automatic alerts, triggered in “exceptional situations” where a “highly advanced adversary”, such as a hacker group backed by a state actor, attempts and eventually succeeds in bypassing Apple-managed cloud servers, disarming the end-to-end encryption technologies responsible for protecting message exchanges.

While such a scenario is highly unlikely, Apple wants to cover every possible avenue of attack, ensuring that not even a hacking attempt by an attacker with highly sophisticated means at his or her disposal could go unnoticed. Less useful for ordinary users, the iMessage Contact Key Verification functionality could make a difference for users who are already favourite targets for interception, such as journalists, human rights activists, high-ranking employees of private companies and dignitaries.

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To avoid giving possible clues to hacker groups already preparing to attack, Apple will provide a more detailed description of the protection offered by the iMessage Contact Key Verification feature at the time of its official debut, scheduled for 2023.

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