iOS 17.4 is getting a major iMessage security upgrade

    When iOS 17.4 is released in March, the greatest iPhones will receive a significant security boost to defend them against assaults carried out by quantum computers. Yes, Apple is that forward-thinking.

    Apple’s iMessage is well-known for its cross-device capability and the ability to send free text messages over Wi-Fi, but it is also one of the best encrypted messaging apps available. Long before Signal, Apple provided iPhone and Mac users with end-to-end encrypted communications by default, starting with iMessage in 2011.

    Over time, the iPhone maker has greatly improved the cryptography used by iMessage to make the service more secure. For example, in 2019, Apple changed their encryption system from RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) to Elliptic Curve. The business then included Secure Enclave in the service, making it even more difficult to retrieve encryption keys from your iPhone.

    Apple is now upgrading iMessage to include post-quantum cryptography (PQC). Here’s all you need to know about this new encryption technology and how it’ll protect your iMessage conversations from hackers for years to come.

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    Harvest now, decrypt later

    Despite recent improvements, quantum computers remain in their infancy, but firms all around the world are attempting to make them a reality. According to McKinsey, a quantum computer capable of “functioning at scale” may be “not viable before 2040” or perhaps later. Still, corporations are preparing for a post-quantum future right now.

    This is due to the “Harvest Now, Decrypt Later” attack scenario, which hackers and other cybercriminals may utilize. As data storage prices have plummeted, hackers may now collect massive amounts of encrypted data and keep it until they can decode it using a quantum computer.

    Because of their enhanced processing capability, quantum computers will easily breach today’s cryptography standards, unlike classical or regular computers. As a result, if communications are encrypted using the greatest protocols available today, their contents are likely to be decoded by a quantum computer in the future.

    This is why the cryptographic community has worked hard to develop post-quantum cryptography (PQC). These novel public key algorithms aim to serve as the foundation for future quantum-secure protocols. However, they do not require a quantum computer to function.

    Signal recently added support for the PQXDH protocol, while Apple built its own encryption system, PQ3, which provides the best security against quantum assaults to date. While you’ll have to wait a while to get your hands on a quantum computer, Apple’s PQ3 support will be available next month with the public release of iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS 14.4, and watchOS 10.4. This new cryptographic technique is now being tested in Apple’s developer previews and beta versions.

    Later this year, once the business acquires “operation experience” with PQ3 on a worldwide scale through iMessage, this new protocol will replace the previous one in all supported chats.

    The time to prepare for a post-quantum world is now

    iOS 17.4

    It may appear surprising that Apple is presently concerned about future quantum assaults, but other significant corporations share similar fears as well. Furthermore, given that it has included PQ3 support on its devices, other firms will follow suit with their own quantum-proof protocols.

    Quantum computers have the ability to revolutionize our world even more than the introduction of ChatGPT two years ago. For example, even the finest password managers will struggle to safeguard your credentials unless they follow Apple’s lead. If a quantum computer can easily crack sophisticated cryptographic methods, consider how rapidly your credentials may be compromised.

    We’ll be able to test PQ3 for ourselves once iOS 17.4 is released, but we don’t yet know how or whether this new cryptographic protocol will affect how you use iMessage. It is unlikely, however, and will most likely take the shape of a background update aimed to make your iPhone conversations more secure while maintaining functionality.

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