Can you trust Apple’s iMessage encryption with your life?

  • Release Candidate 6
    We are at a “proposed final” true release candidate with nothing known remaining to be changed or fixed. For the full story, please see this page in the "Pre-Release Announcements & Feedback" forum.
  • Be sure to checkout “Tips & Tricks”
    Dear Guest Visitor → Once you register and log-in:

    This forum does not automatically send notices of new content. So if, for example, you would like to be notified by mail when Steve posts an update to his blog (or of any other specific activity anywhere else), you need to tell the system what to “Watch” for you. Please checkout the “Tips & Tricks” page for details about that... and other tips!


Recently, I was reading Apple Platform Security white paper regarding iMessage security. To cut the long story short, I don't like what I see. I've written an article about Apple's white-paper explanation of iMessage's encryption:

For those who are cryptography/math whiz, do you agree with me? Apple's white paper leaves me more questions than answers.
I frankly don't care. I will explain some reasons....
  • anything I submit onto any digital platform to share with someone else will potentially be copied somehow. Copy-paste, screenshot, photograph
  • if I want to protect something, I will ensure a secret protects it and the counterparty will be trustworthy enough to keep the secret and the something
  • my assumption is that all of these platforms have a capability to have an additional party in the conversation without my knowing - iMessage, WhatsApp, etc. Maybe I feel better when it's open source but, in the end, I am relying on someone else with whom I have no formal service contract to keep secrets
this is something I have mentioned in risk discussions for my job; we consider leveraging WhatsApp for Business to communicate with clients but from my point of view, with the insight available and the massively high levels of trust with Zuck and Facebook, I stated that we could never be sure that there is not an unseen 3rd party in all conversations and we should build a use case around that assumption. The outcome of this is that it is a viable channel but we only put so much trust in it - and we roll and host our own secure chat on-prem for privileged conversations and ensure our clients are moved over to that channel when necessary.
I've long wondered too how Telegram could be banned in a country whilst WhatsApp was not. I suppose best is to use e-mail that you encrypt with your own PGP key, but the challenge is very few (any?) of your broader recipients actually use their e-mail that way. But there is likely a level of communication between providers/telcos and governments that we don't see. Sometimes the license conditions can reveal what has to be complied with by the applicant to operate within a country.
If you're not managing your passwords/keys then someone else is. By all accounts Apple iMessage is simple and easy to use because Apple manages your security so you don't have to. This can only mean that Apple has the keys to your kingdom.