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Is the DEA Lying About iMessage Security?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the please-see-previous-department-line dept.

Encryption 195

First time accepted submitter snobody writes "Recently, an article was posted on Slashdot about the claim that law enforcement made about being frustrated by their inability to decrypt messages using Apple's iMessage. However, this article on Techdirt suggests that the DEA may be spewing out disinformation. As the Techdirt article says, if you switch to a new iDevice, you still are able to access your old iMessages, suggesting that Apple has the key somewhere in the cloud. Thus, if law enforcement goes directly to Apple, they should be able to get the key."

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Are you kidding? (4, Insightful)

IonOtter (629215) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385839)

The mere fact that you even have to ASK such a question means the answer is "Yes."

Re:Are you kidding? (2)

BlkRb0t (1610449) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385869)

Betteridge says NO though.

Re:Are you kidding? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385929)

Does Betteridge's Law Apply to All Headlines?

Re:Are you kidding? (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385981)

Betteridge is probably right. The messages are likely technically interceptable but not through the means the DEA tried; they didn't ask the right people the right questions.

Re:Are you kidding? (5, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386011)

Getting the key from Apple isn't really "technically interceptible" anyway. The problem, from their end, is likely that they need to subpoena the information from Apple (both past messages and the key for future use), rather than intercept it easily.

Re:Are you kidding? (5, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386321)

This is probably the crux of their complaint - they can't intercept the messages without going through proper procedures, getting a warrant, and leaving a paper trail. This is precisely how things should work.

Re:Are you kidding? (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#43387043)

Exactly. The problem (as far as the DEA is concerned) is that they might be forced to actually obey the law themselves for a change. They much prefer tapping what they want with no oversight.

Re:Are you kidding? (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about a year and a half ago | (#43387249)

Getting the key from Apple isn't really "technically interceptible" anyway. The problem, from their end, is likely that they need to subpoena the information from Apple (both past messages and the key for future use),

This assumes a certain architecture. If the cryptosystem is strong, there is probably a frequent key rotation schedule, in which, the same key that encrypted past messages will potentially be replaced in the future by the time any new messages are exchanged.

It would be ideal, if some portion of this key were secured by the password, e.g. a SCRPT, BCRYPT or PBKDF2 hash of the password, is part of the secret material required to decrypt the key on the client, and any change of the user's password results in key rotation.

It is conceivable that Apple could design a system, in which, the keys would be available on multiple of your devices (because you knew an additional secret), but not available to Apple, to extract or find out what the key is (because Apple denies themselves access to the secret)

Do I think it's designed that way? No... it would not happen by coincidence, for sure.

Could they have designed it that way? Yes

Re:Are you kidding? (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386549)

What question? Oh! I see what you're doing here.
That question that is followed by the "or else..."

Re:Are you kidding? (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386109)

Contrary to Betteridge, the answer to almost any question of the form "is the DEA lying" is yes. They're a worse propaganda machine than every other alphabet-soup agency put together, which is saying something.

Re:Are you kidding? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386099)

People also think that the DEA or any other enforcement arm of the US government doesn't cheat the law to score convictions. That alone means you should never trust anything they say. The federal courts are ridiculously stacked against defendants.

Also bugs in switching devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385855)

There were reports for a while of "wiped" devices bugging out and remembering to receive former owner's messages after being turned in to Apple Stores for replacement.

Who cares (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385873)

Well, drug dealers, terrorists and organized crime care obviously.

Anyone else?

Re: Who cares (5, Insightful)

MrMarket (983874) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385919)

Political dissidents, whistle blowers... and FREEDOM LOVERS.

Re: Who cares (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386067)

Political dissidents, whistle blowers... and FREEDOM LOVERS.

Like Martin Luther King was watched and harassed by the police and the FBI.

And now we have a national holiday honoring him. If I were President, I make every goddam FBI employee work 18 hour days on that weekend - scrubbing the bathrooms with toothbrushes from their anus.

John Lennon - yes, the dead Beetle - was watched by the FBI for - God forbid! - preaching peace!

We are a God fearing Christian Nation! We can't have those wackoes preaching Peace!

Re: Who cares (1)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386259)

John Lennon - yes, the dead Beetle - was watched by the FBI for - God forbid! - preaching peace!

We are a God fearing Christian Nation! We can't have those wackoes preaching Peace!

Preaching peace in time of war is clear and present danger to the government's recruitment efforts. It is LITERALLY like shouting fire in a crowded theatre [wikipedia.org] .

This is why it is important to defend the free speech right to shout fire in a crowded theatre. Worst that could happen is everyone walking out calmly and in order. Just because someone think there is a fire doesn't give him the right to push, stomp or strike anyone that stand in his way. If peoples act like ass-holes during emergencies then this is what need to be addressed. Restricting a fundamental freedom in way that will, and was, abused by the state is not a solution.

Re: Who cares (5, Insightful)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386499)

I was with you until you said this:

Worst that could happen is everyone walking out calmly and in order.

That is far from the worst that can happen. That is in fact the best case scenario outside of no one believing them and there truly not being a fire. Provoking people into violent acts of desperation by instilling the immediate fear of death into them, such that their rationality is severely compromised is outright negligent. This is why we have things like temporary insanity and heat of passion defenses.

I feel that you should be perfectly free to shout "Fire!" in a theater. However I also feel that if you end up causing a situation where someone is injured, you should be held liable for your negligent actions. Freedom of speech should not mean freedom from responsibility of that speech.

What if you told a blind person that the light at an intersection was green and there was no traffic, causing them to walk into the street and get run over? Would you push the free speech argument? You didn't kill him; the guy behind the wheel of the car did. That doesn't mean you weren't immensely negligent as a result of what you said.

As a closer example to the theater, what if in that same situation you screamed in front of a blind man "Everyone get out of the way! A car is heading straight for us!" causing him to jump out of the way and into actual traffic? Would you still feel like you were completely free of the burden of responsibility?

Re: Who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386955)

Provoking people into violent acts of desperation by instilling the immediate fear of death into them, such that their rationality is severely compromised is outright negligent.

Shouting fire should not provoke anyone to be violent. In my experience, when there is a fire alarm, peoples look around wondering if it real then move out in order. On the other hand, seeing fire running up the wall and ceiling could cause panic. But this thread is about shouting fire in a theatre, not setting fire to the theatre.

I feel that you should be perfectly free to shout "Fire!" in a theater. However I also feel that if you end up causing a situation where someone is injured, you should be held liable for your negligent actions.

I feel that you are perfectly free to advocate peace in time of war. However I also feel that if you end up danger the government's recruitment efforts you should be held liable for your act of sedition.

How about all the assault on brown peoples flowing the WTC attack? Are the perpetrators responsible for their action, or the media held liable for causing muslim-scare panic? (After you answer don't forget to check what judges decided in the real world)

Shouting fire when there is no fire is being an asshole. But freedom is freedom to be an asshole, and if you don't defend assholes your turn will come eventually. eg: When you advocate peace in war time.

Re: Who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43387051)

What if you told a blind person that the light at an intersection was green and there was no traffic, causing them to walk into the street and get run over? Would you push the free speech argument?

Yes. A blind person is not helpless. If he is outside, by himself, then he is fully responsible for his action. He does not depend on strangers telling them what colour is the light. Stating otherwise is insulting to the blind and otherwise handicapped in general.

Re: Who cares (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386303)

What better proof do you need that your nation fears God, than FBI surveillance of people who preach peace.

Re: Who cares (4, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386349)

We are a God fearing Christian Nation

I thought church and state were separate?

Re: Who cares (1, Funny)

bigtrike (904535) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386979)

Nope, God still gives us our rulers through divine right. Voting is simply a test of faith.

Re: Who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386983)

No [blogspot.com] .

captcha: corrects

Re: Who cares (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386169)

Freedom lovers who really love it will fight for it.
And one countries freedom fighter is another countries terrorist.

Re: Who cares (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386191)

Freedom lovers who really love it will fight for it.
And one countries freedom fighter is another countries terrorist.

The transcripts of your SMS and emails indicate you don't really
believe this.

Re: Who cares (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386227)

Political dissidents, whistle blowers... and FREEDOM LOVERS.

No, a freedom lover wouldn't be using an Apple product in the first place.

google glass for everyone (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385991)

We should just give everyone google glass with a direct feed to all the government agencies. Who would care except drug dealers and terrorists anyway.

Re:google glass for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386143)

They already have access to our browsing history, stored indefinitely by our ISPs. They can track us everywhere we go through our phones. They have live access to our webmail providers. They have access to any webserver storing our information. They get backdoor access to encrypted communications, such as Skype and 'trusted' CAs. But, by God, google glass for everyone would be excessive.

Re:Who cares (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386107)

Everyone should. Not because they're breaking a law, but because laws are changing. And rapidly so. What is very legal today may be illegal tomorrow. And then try to prove that you stopped the behaviour just because it became illegal. What is that you say? They have to prove that you still did it after it became illegal? You think you'd be the first to be in jail because there is "strong evidence" (read: someone hinted at it) that you did again what you did before?

Closed proprietary software is NEVER secure! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385877)

While I won't make the argument that free software is always more secure it's at least verifiable.

Re:Closed proprietary software is NEVER secure! (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386275)

So by that argument, closed classified encryption, used for DoD communication, is not secure?

Re:Closed proprietary software is NEVER secure! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386413)

Correct. As long as I cannot verify the encryption, then I cannot say it is secure; secure being relative to my needs and concerns. As the U.S. government is one party I would want to keep my encrypted information from, the DOD or any other agency having potential access means that their encryption cannot be considered seriously for my interests.

Re:Closed proprietary software is NEVER secure! (1)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386295)

Really? Is it? Could you tell by looking at some pgp source whether it has been compromised or not? Maybe you could but the majority of people reading this could not and if that's true of slashdot what hope does the rest of the wold have?

Re:Closed proprietary software is NEVER secure! (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386369)

Just because software is closed and proprietary doesn't mean you don't have access to the source code. It just means that access may be covered by a license.
If you're going to pay security experts to analyse the entirety of the code, the price of that license is probably insignificant.

It's American company so the answer is obvious (5, Insightful)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385893)

If you're using software created in the US by a commercial company you can bet the government has access to it. Who would believe any different?

Re:It's American company so the answer is obvious (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386337)

Lots of people believe different because some US companies supply software based on stuff like openssh and truecrypt.

Here's the fundamental problem with this sort of theory - if the US can decode something, chances are other people can too.

Re:It's American company so the answer is obvious (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386805)

OpenSSH buys you very little. The key management has always been poor, especially the host key management, which is replaced and updated without signatures and is subject to more man-in-the-middle attacks due to the ediots who leave unsecured hostkeys and personal keys lying around on poorly secured filesystem.

OpenSSH ignores the user environment. Theo de Raadt's attitude is that if you don't trust the host you're on or the one you're connecting to, you're screwed anyway, so why bother implementing even the most basic steps (such as a more useful chroot cage for upload/download areas, proper management tools for updating locally recorded hostkeys, or *)turning off* the default support for passphrase free personal or host keys. There is *no excuse* for the default behavior passphrase keys for critical SSH servers, they should require a hands-on "start this server and unlock the keys" operation as Kerberos and Apache have done for years. Otherwise, it's like putting a really, really big lock on a door with the hinges on the outside.

Yes and no (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385899)

I think one of the main problems law enforcement has with iMessages is that it is ridiculously easy to get a pen register from a telco for a phone number. This is a list of the calls made to/from that number and a list of SMS/MMS to/from that number. iMessage bypasses SMS/MMS if both the origin and destination device are iMessage capable, so those interactions do not show in a pen register. The same could be said for many other text/chat services, but iMessage is the default texting client for a large number of people and does not require the user to do anything special to message others without the telco knowing, unlike many other services.

iMessage isn't that special, the memo could just as easily been talking about FaceBook messages, which also won't appear in a pen register.

Erdos+Bacon=Pen register results in probable cause (3, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386371)

And getting a pen register dataset can mean enough linkages can be shown to a "known drug dealer" or a "known felon" that they will then have probable cause to get a warrant, even if the number of linkages is so high that you're not the "friend of a drug dealer" or even the "friend of a friend of a drug dealer" but even "(friend of a)^5 of a drug dealer".
.
When you get links that are that long, you can ensnare everyone in the world, whether or not they are truly guilty of anything, just from guilt by association. See the comment [slashdot.org] about 6-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon or the one about [slashdot.org] Bacon numbers and Erd''os Numbers.

Apple owns it, Apple can access it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385901)

Don't be ridiculous. You are only a guest in Apple's garden.

Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (5, Informative)

kc9jud (1863822) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385913)

Just because your messages are accessible on a new device, it does not necessarily mean that your messages are readable or key is accessible by Apple. For instance, if the decryption key for iMessage were encrypted with your Apple ID password, then your key could be transferred around between devices, but Apple or the DEA would still have to brute-force/social engineer/whatever to get your password and decrypt the key. Whether or not it's actually set up that way...

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43385971)

Yes, that COULD be. In reality there are password reset methods and no company will ever tell a customer that they have just lost all their messages, photos, etc. because they forgot their password. Wake the fuck up.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (4, Interesting)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386181)

BlackBerry phones are encrypted as OP suggests, so when a user forgets a password, then there is nothing BlackBerry can do to help the user.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386225)

Yes, that COULD be. In reality there are password reset methods and no company will ever tell a customer that they have just lost all their messages, photos, etc. because they forgot their password. Wake the fuck up.

Actually, if you turn on two factor authentication then that is exactly what Apple will do. For authentication, there are three items that can be used: Your password, a 16 digit key that you should stash away in a secret place, and a device (iOS or Mac) that you registered with Apple. Any two of these, and you can do anything. With only one thing, there is nothing you can do, and nothing that Apple can do to help you.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386425)

That means means Apple won't help you. They could, but they would compromise the added benefit of the two factor service. It's not a technical limitation.
Apple have your registered device ID's. Apple have that 16 digit key they gave you that you stash away. The only thing they may not have is your password. But they might, you don't know that.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385973)

Yeah, brute force is something the government is very good at.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385989)

Does a password reset lose the key?

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385997)

That would be saner than just storing the key; but I suspect that virtually everybody's password is substantially less entropic than all but the most horrible and obsolete cryptographic keys...

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386007)

What happens if you forget your password? .-)

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386025)

Even if were set up that way, we already know Apple wipes [malicious] apps without user intervention/approval. It's not much of a stretch to assume they could [already have the capability to] surreptitiously download and run an app that snoops your private keys, since these keys must be in the clear on the user's iWhatever for iMessage to work in the first place.

Re: Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386217)

Name one app that has been removed from someone's device, just one.

Removing from the App Store doesn't count because it stays on your device and in iTunes, if you use it.

Re: Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (0)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386379)

No, it is removed from your device. This is done rarely because Apple screens most apps for malware before being put on appstore/iTunes. But, if one slips by, they can and have removed it.

Re: Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386733)

I'd actually be curious if you could cite any examples of them having done this. I have several apps on my iPhone that were later pulled by Apple from the iTunes Store (including an app that purports to be a simple flashlight but actually allows the user to use the iPhone as a mobile hotspot without having to have pay for a tethering plan with their carrier), but I'm not aware of any that were pulled from user's devices. I'll readily agree that they do have the ability, but I can't recall them ever having exercised it.

Re: Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

GizmoToy (450886) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386839)

You're correct. We know they have the ability, but they've never done it. They're not stupid. They know people are watching and that doing so will create a huge uproar. It would have to be something that's a serious threat to either Apple or their customers before they'd pull the trigger on it. Something they can hold up and say "We took extraordinary measures to protect our customers from this very serious threat," rather than something that would end up in the news like "Apple unilaterally removes purchased content from customer devices." The latter would be trigger at least a couple news cycles of Apple bashing, and fodder for competitors for months/years to come. Remember the uproar when Amazon did this with eBooks on the Kindle? They talked about that in the news for *weeks*.

Re: Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386735)

It's done so rarely that it has never been done. Do some research, it's never happened.

They can, but they haven't.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386035)

Except apple stores passwords for iTunes in plaintext.

I received an email from apple reminding me that i had $10 in iTunes funds availalble.

Only problem is where my username should have been was my password in plaintext.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386173)

Protip: don't make your username your password.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386189)

In all fairness the password was "notapassword," but still.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year and a half ago | (#43387177)

Perhaps you shouldn't use your username as your password too. ;)

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386239)

As a user does not lose access to all their old stuff after a password reset then I think it is safe to say that while they "could" do that, they definitely DO NOT.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386541)

Your messages are readable and accessible by Apple.
They're probably also stored in plain-text too.
How do you think they deliver the message in a readable, plain-text format to the recipient?
How do you think they store in while the recipient is off-line?

The message is sent over an encrypted channel though. That's the only thing the DEA are complaining about, they can't easily intercept the message without the knowledge/co-operation of another party (you, Apple or the recipient in this case).

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386611)

If it's done, it could be something like this:
Encrypt message with key.
Encrypt key with password.
Encrypt key with FBI password.
Store both encrypted keys and the encrypted message.

Guess who has access to your message. No brute force required.

Re:Key in cloud != Key accessible by Apple (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year and a half ago | (#43387159)

Spot-on. Though I should point out that iMessages are definitely not encrypted using the password at the time that they're sent, though they are later on in the process you described.

I'm too lazy to look up links right now, but there was an issue a few months (years?) back, where stolen iPhones had iMessages going to them still, even though the victims had received new phones and changed their passwords. If the password alone was the key, that wouldn't have been happening. That said, the backups that are stored in iCloud (or on your PC) — and which are used to migrate data to a new iDevice — are encrypted with the user's password, just as you said. iTunes makes this clear to anyone who encrypts their local backups, stating very plainly that losing the password will mean losing all of the data. In the case of someone resetting their password (which is a common question in many of the responses you've received), their next backup would simply make use of their locally-stored data and would be encrypted with the new password. It's simple, and there's no need to worry about losing the stuff in iCloud, since you'd be replacing it with the new backup regardless. If you happened to lose your iDevice at the same time that you reset your password, you may be SOL. I couldn't say.

As for how iMessages are sent, I suspect it's a bit more complicated, otherwise we wouldn't have seen that issue with stolen iPhones receiving iMessages. The way I figure it, if User 1 has two iDevices (which we'll call A and B) and User 2 owns iDevice C, we don't want C directly sending to A and B, since then 2 would have knowledge about how many devices 1 owns based on the number of copies he has to send (not to mention that they'd have to send multiple copies, which wastes battery life and the time of the user). So, we can assume that iDevice C will only send one copy of the iMessage, but how can it get to iDevices A and B without C knowing about A and B or Apple being able to read it, which would defeat the device-to-device encryption Apple has said it does?

My guess is that each Apple ID has a public/private key, as does each iDevice. When User 1 logs in for the first time on his iDevices, each of the iDevices registers their public keys with Apple. When iDevice C later wants to send an iMessage to User 1, Apple sends C the public key for User 1. C then sends a copy of the iMessage encrypted with 1's public key to Apple, and Apple then makes copies for iDevices A and B and applies an additional level of encryption on those copies, this time encrypting them with the public keys for A and B, respectively. When the iMessages arrive at A and B, they each use their own private keys to decrypt the iMessage, then use User 1's private key to complete the decryption process.

As for where User 1's private key comes from and how it gets to the iDevices without Apple knowing it, the first iDevice that a user logs in with could generate a private key for the user and then upload it encrypted with the user's password, just like how the backups we discussed earlier work. As such, any new devices that the user would log in with would immediately register their public keys with Apple and receive the user's private key, meaning that they're capable of receiving messages for the user in the manner previously described. It'd also explain how stolen iPhones could continue receiving messages, even after a password reset.

As you said, "[w]hether or not it's actually set up that way..." I couldn't say, but it'd be one way that Apple could set up a system that wouldn't break with password resets, could be migrated from device to device, would provide device-to-device encryption, and would minimize the amount of resources consumed by mobile devices while sending messages.

Probably talking about two different things... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385965)

Unless the DEA is actively 'leaking' in order to attempt to move people into a vulnerable channel with a false sense of security(not impossible; but I'm inclined to suspect that the higher level drug runners take their paranoia seriously, or they wouldn't have lasted long enough to level up, and the lower level ones are probably more often foiled by the fact that they need to solicit customers, any one of which could be a plant), I'd be inclined to a more prosaic explanation.

With SMS, architectural security during transmission is somewhere between pitiful and nonexistent and the entity that handles the messages during their voyage is the phone company, which has substantial legal incentives to, and a long history of, supine cooperation with the authorities.

With iMessage, it looks pretty much like SMS on the handset; but it's all just data to the telco, and Apple presumably included some SSL/TLS or similar implementation that isn't totally broken, meaning that going through the telco is totally useless(this would also be why the leaked memo specifically mentioned that iMessages sent to non-Apple devices, which would be crunched into SMS at some stage, were still often recoverable).

The fact that Apple can, apparently, retrieve your iMessage history for you suggests that, indeed, a subpoena of Apple would leave you in the open; but I imagine that the DEA is much more familiar with, and pleased by, the 'service-oriented' attitudes of the phone companies, who are extremely forthcoming with customer information, with very low bars to clear, and minimal pesky judicial process.

Certainly not a good idea to trust anything that the service operator can 'recover' or 'restore' for you to be secure(since it can't possibly be); but the DEA jackboots probably do encounter significantly greater hassle with a message that is never available to the notoriously friendly telcos. You are still up shit creek if they are building a case against you specifically(or if Apple caves and starts providing bulk access at some future time); but casual fishing is likely to be more difficult.

Re:Probably talking about two different things... (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386155)

Right. They're lazy and want to have it delivered on a platter. With this method they have to get off their asses and do work.

Re:Probably talking about two different things... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386633)

Laziness is the optimistic option... The pessimistic possibility is that they are currently doing a nontrivial amount of surveillance that meets the (somewhere between low and nonexistent, depending on how you ask) standard of evidence for pen registers and similar; but would not meet the standards that would apply if they had to ask a judge to let them demand the goods from Apple.

Re:Probably talking about two different things... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386167)

Higher level drug runners have nothing to worry about, until they outlive their usefulness. They are well protected government employees.

laugh (1)

koan (80826) | about a year and a half ago | (#43385969)

TinFoilHat: They brought Steve into the fold a long time ago, gave him top secret clearance and then asked him to make device no one could do without, that they could use to track and listen to people.

This just in: Toil Foil Hoodies selling like hotcakes.
http://kottke.org/13/04/the-anti-drone-hoodie [kottke.org]

FTA: (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386013)

I'd like to think that law enforcement is above attempting such tricks, but unfortunately that might just be naive these days.

Might be?? I would say extremely so.. An indication the writer has no knowledge of history... Or maybe just something he has to say to avoid legal issues, or worse..

PGP (1)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386015)

I've been wondering the same thing about older news stories, on how the FBI was unable to crack PGP encryption. That too might be disinformacija.

Re:PGP (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386093)

That too might be disinformacija.(sic)

Got news for ya, buddy. So is their story about 9/11, but we had to reopen the opium [bbc.co.uk] supply line somehow.

Re:PGP (4, Interesting)

Arancaytar (966377) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386299)

If they were the only ones who said so, I'd be inclined to distrust it too. However, RSA has been around for 36 years now with no serious challenges, so either there is a world-wide conspiracy that controls every single mathematician (or several that between them control all the mathematicians), or it's unbroken.

It's also possible that there are a few mathematicians decades ahead of current research that all work for various governments, but considering how much of mathematical work is derivative now, it seems far too unlikely that some unaffiliated researcher wouldn't have stumbled across the discovery independently.

(Well, or the NSA has a working quantum computer that can do work on a useful scale, which goes back to "decades ahead of current research".)

Re:PGP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386559)

but considering how much of mathematical work is derivative now

Ever since Newton's time, in fact.

Re:PGP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386647)

A background in mathematics is integral to understanding that last pun.

Re: PGP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386435)

You guys want something REALLY SECURE, look up www.silentcircle.com. No one can break that including the government.

Cryptocop

don't know about imessage (3, Insightful)

Trailer Trash (60756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386045)

But they've never lied about the effects of drug usage, right?

Right?

Um, right?

The drug war is suckled on lies (2)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386057)

Every government statistic or statement on the drug war is not to be believed. There might be some truth in some of it, but after 80+ years of lies, it's not the way to bet.

The DEA is not the NSA. (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386065)

They're quite knowledgeable about DRUG TRAFFICKING. Expertise in other areas relevant to law enforcement should not be assumed. Apple either has a copy of your key or can crack their own encryption when they need to. The NSA could probably crack it too, but why would the DEA go to the NSA and why should the NSA concern itself with helping the DEA crack cases? That's not their job.

DEA can't TAP it (5, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386071)

The issue is not that the DEA cannot lawfully acquire the messages... It's that THEY HAVE TO ASK , EVERY TIME.

Most taps are just "wide open" until the warrant expires and the telco turns the tap off... There is very little oversight. Many online services give law enforcement more of an "open ticket" to keep coming back for email or Facebook as often as they need. While the line isn't "tapped" LEOs can refresh every twenty minutes if they want.

They are attepting to bully Apple into allowing a MITM or wide open ticket to people's accounts. The first post on this very carefully NEGLECTED to mention that Apple COMPLIES with lawful requests. Which they most certainly would. The issue is that Apple won't open a giant backdoors and look the other way while LEOs look up their ex-girlfriends, or people with fancy cars to pick on. Apple is probably making them request transcripts with dates and times... And then APPLE SENDS it to them.

Re:DEA can't TAP it (2)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386185)

Well, according to Apple's own (scanty) information on iMessage and on third party analysis, it looks like it is some sort of end to end encryption with Apple serving as the cert authority. it may well be that Apple cannot intercept the messages as the system is currently designed and can only reissue a certificate by killing the old one (and thus alerting the user because their iMessage stops working). That is by no means certain, but if it is not the case then Apple might have a false advertising lawsuit headed their way.

Re:DEA can't TAP it (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386187)

The issue is that Apple won't open a giant backdoors and look the other way...

Why not? I mean, aside from the possibility of getting caught...

Re:DEA can't TAP it (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386451)

Like getting caught stopped AT&T?? Didn't they make what the NSA asked for legal after-the-fact AT&T got caught?

There is a technical issue that Apple doesn't support redirecting messages...although they could allow the DEA to have an additional iMessage device. Apple probably "could" do it.

The REAL issue is that there is NO LEGAL MANDATE for Apple to do so. Aple running a chat program is legally no different than YOU running a chat program. Apple is not a telecommunications provider or an ISP, nor do they get the legal protections of those classes. If you are going to hold Apple to this standard, then you would have to tap EVERY instance of Blackberry Messenger or Microsoft Lync... Even PRIVATE ones operated by your company.

The DEA is hijacking the discussion to get something that has Congress has not wanted to pass multiple times. The DOJ has been able to push telcos and Microsoft around because of monopoly rules and applying laws based on their "class" as common carriers or ISPs. This is the classic "there should be a rule" because they have got what they wanted from "lawbreakers" so now non-lawbreaking companies should comply too.

Re:DEA can't TAP it (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386699)

The REAL issue is that there is NO LEGAL MANDATE for Apple to do so.

Actually we don't know that. Secret laws and all. There could be a gag order to keep them from mentioning it, like a national security letter. With all this secrecy, we don't have a clue of who knows what, leaving us to assume the worse, which is the recommended way of dealing with any of this.

Well color me surprised. (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386165)

Because who could have possibly seen THAT coming. Seriously, this is my shocked face.

So, post m4ssages on pubic bulletin boards (1)

ivi (126837) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386199)

'looking like a "Lawnmower for Sale" but with message
encrypted into tel.# & eMail address

Better, encrypted into photos for an apartment / house
ad (on a free-ad web site)

Dump your eDevice(s)

QED

Do it yourself (3, Informative)

chowdahhead (1618447) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386209)

It may not be the most elegant solution, but hosting your own Mumble server works pretty well for secure private IM and voice chat. There's a really slick Android client called Plumble, and I believe iOS has a basic one as well. The built-in authentication and encryption is sufficient, and the newer builds support the OPUS codec.

Not necessarily (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386211)

The fact that old iMessages transfer to new iDevices is not proof of external keys. The method for secure transmission may decrypt on receipt. If so, then already received messages would be transferable. New messages would use the new key combination.

And, if Apple takes this route, they have no keys and no unencryptd data to give to anyone. Simplifies the issue for them quite nicely.

Just as encryption for email like PGP, it is then in your hands. If they can't get your device, then intercepted messages are useless.

Re:Not necessarily (1)

gnoshi (314933) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386399)

True, but it does provide an avenue to check for external keys.
I don't have an iThing so I can't check, but if you can activate a new device and receive your iMessage messages while the previous device on which those messages were held is switched off, then at best the messages are protected by a password. It may be the passphrase for an encryption key, but it is still just a password. If you can get Apple to reset the password, and then activate a new device and receive your iMessage with your old device being off the whole time, then Apple must be able to read the messages (because the password can't be the key, or be a passphrase for the key, as the key is accessible with the password being changed).

There are also other permutations: if the old device must be on to configure iMessage on a new device, then there may be a key transferred from device to device. Without knowing the specifics of iMessage, I can't predict many other tests.

Without a Warrant (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386229)

If they go to Apple _WITH_ a warrant, Apple can surely provide them with the information (well, I'd be shocked if they couldn't comply with a warrant).

That's not what the DEA wants, however - they want to be able to read the messages _WITHOUT_ a warrant. I imagine that is where they are having difficulties intercepting and reading iMessages.

Haters That Hated And I Busted Because You Busted (-1, Troll)

dan chancey (2890545) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386257)

IT Pros Don't Play With Peoples Bull S And They Reward Honesty So One Good Thing You Can Learn From Me Is My Mirror Is Windows 11 So These Boy and Girls Hating Have Nothing But A Hard Time Buying New Software And Rigs And Getting All Mad lol I See Who Blogged And Hated Me And What I Stand For And I Don't Believe you deserve To Be In My Domains Network

It is strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386269)

Apple claims to use "a minimum" of 128-bit AES to encrypt your backups, which includes every iMessage you've ever sent/received (unless you delete them of course).

They claim to never provide the encryption keys to third parties. That sounds pretty clear to me, they won't give it to law enforcement. I am not a lawyer, but my understand is if it's encrypted then there are restrictions in place for how law enforcement can access it. A court order would probably be needed at the very least.

They don't go into much detail about how the AES key is generated. Presumably either your iCloud login password (or forgot password questions) or your phone's PIN code will be used.

Re:It is strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386427)

There are Law Enforcement exceptions to just about every law on the books, including those that enforce contracts and regulate behavior.

What about Blackberry? (2)

shking (125052) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386273)

Remember the fuss just a year ago when India and other gov'ts complained about Blackberry? How is this different?

What could happen... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386279)

It is of course quite possible as some people mentioned that it is harder, but not impossible, for the police to get access to iMessage messages than they like, and they interpret this as "we can't read iMessage" (whenever we like). It is also quite possible that they are just lying and want all the drug dealers to use iMessage because they have complete access.

It is also possible that Apple has absolutely no way to read your iMessages. I would think that making iMessage safe against hacker attacks would be harder if there is already a way to access iMessage that is open only to Apple, and I can't see how buying able to read iMessages would be in Apple's interest.

The Government Lying to You? (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386339)

That unpossible!

Note: Chrome thinks that unpossible is actually a word?

Re:The Government Lying to You? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43387163)

That's because it is an actual word. See also:

"But none returns. For us to levy power
Proportionable to the enemy is all unpossible."
- Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Second

probably just bending the truth (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43386373)

They can probably not decrypt iMessage traffic without some other information or hooks; but they almost certainly have that.

No they arent. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386615)

You guys are really sad and pathetic. Are you the president? Chief of staff? Work for the CIA? Infact do any of you even so much as scrub a toilet for the pentagon? No you do not. So what exactly do you know about the government? Nothing that's what. You make assumptions, make up fairy tales, assume the worst and you all talk about those things as if you have real factual tangible proof. When in reality you don't know squat and just sit around on the internet and say how the government lies to us.

I just wish they would pull every person from the internet that has outright lied about "what the government does" and sue them.

Come back when you have proof they are lying about something.

WHAT THE (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43386823)

For the love of rms, people, the original article was about the DEA lamenting that their illegal unwarranted dragnet efforts via communication service providers couldn't intercept the messages because of the way CALEA was written. If they want the contents of your iMessages, they merely have to subpoena Apple for your devices' master keys and they can connect to it as long as it's on a network someplace (see: Find My Phone, Notifications) and read the #%^*#%^*#%^* iMessages.

Stop amplifying noise and amplify signal instead.

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