Apple to launch PQ3 update for iMessage, bolstering encryption against quantum computing

Apple has confirmed its plans to launch its newest iMessage security protocol, named PQ3, in response to what it claims is a future threat from quantum computers, according to a recent PCMag report.

iMessage currently uses end-to-end encryption, ensuring that messages between the sender and receiver are secure and inaccessible to anyone else, including Apple. However, Apple is concerned that the advancement of quantum computers may soon reach a level where they could decrypt iMessage content. Such powerful quantum computers would presumably also be capable of decrypting messages sent through other apps, such as WhatsApp.

Last year, the Technical University of Denmark stated that although quantum computers are already operational, they lack the power to break end-to-end encryption at present, indicating it may take years to achieve this capability due to their current size limitations.

On Wednesday, Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture (SEAR) team wrote about the evolution of encryption on messaging platforms. They explained that traditionally, platforms have relied on classical public key cryptography methods like RSA, Elliptic Curve signatures, and Diffie-Hellman key exchange to secure end-to-end encrypted connections. These methods are grounded in complex mathematical problems that were once deemed too challenging for computers to solve, even with advancements predicted by Moore’s law.

The SEAR team highlighted, however, that the advent of quantum computing could shift this balance. They noted that “a sufficiently powerful quantum computer could solve these classical mathematical problems in fundamentally different ways,” potentially fast enough to compromise the security of encrypted communications.

The team also raised concerns about future threats, stating that while current quantum computers can’t decrypt data protected by these methods, adversaries might store encrypted data now with the intention of decrypting it later using more advanced quantum technology. This strategy, known as “Harvest Now, Decrypt Later,” underscores the potential long-term vulnerabilities in current encryption techniques against the backdrop of quantum computing’s rapid development.

As a result, the tech giant has created PQ3, which it says has been built “from the ground up” to redesign iMessage from a security standpoint, adding a third level of protection to its end users.

When will Apple roll out PQ3 for iMessage?

PQ3 is expected to launch in March with iOS 17.4, as well as iPadOS 17.4, macOS 14.4 and watchOS 10.4.

The simultaneous rollout across multiple Apple operating systems underscores the company’s commitment to addressing the future threat quantum computers pose to end-to-end encryption. Apple is taking proactive steps to ensure that iMessage users on iPhones, tablets, computers, and wearables receive protection as swiftly as possible.

Featured Image: Photo by Mariia Shalabaieva on Unsplash

James Jones

Freelance Journalist

James Jones is a highly experienced journalist, podcaster and digital publishing specialist, who has been creating content in a variety of forms for online publications in the sports and tech industry for over 10 years.

He has worked at some of the leading online publishers in the country, most recently as the Content Lead for Snack Media’s expansive of portfolio of websites, including Football Fancast.com, FootballLeagueWorld.co.uk and GiveMeSport.com. James has also appeared on several national and global media outlets, including BBC News, talkSPORT, LBC Radio, 5 Live Radio, TNT Sports, GB News and BBC’s Match of the Day 2.

James has a degree in Journalism and previously held the position of Editor-in-Chief at FootballFanCast.com. Now, he co-hosts the popular We Are West Ham Podcast, writes a weekly column for BBC Sport and covers the latest news in the industry for ReadWrite.com.

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