updated 11:18 am EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
iMessages sent via SMS still vulnerable, agency says
The US Drug Enforcement Administration is complaining that it can't intercept content on Apple's iMessage service, even with a warrant, according to an internal note obtained by CNet. "On February 21, 2013, the DEA San Jose Resident Office (SJRO) learned that text messages sent via iMessages between Apple products (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and iMac) are not captured by pen register, trap and trace devices, or Title III interceptions," the DEA writes. "iMessages between two Apple devices are considered encrypted communication and cannot be intercepted, regardless of the cell phone service provider."
The agency does say that if a message ends up being delivered via SMS it becomes easier to obtain, but cautions that this "seems to be more successful if the intercept is placed on the non-Apple device." DEA officials are said to have first learned about issues with iMessage when a surveillance effort under the Federal Wiretap Act didn't net all of the target's text messages. Further investigation revealed that the person was using iMessage, which was skipping the need for sending texts through the person's carrier, Verizon.
The news could be a boon for both criminals and average people concerned about avoiding government snooping. iMessage is, however, limited to running on Macs and iOS devices; the only way people who don't use the service can interact is via phone texting.