Apple has issued a comment on research from QuarksLab that claims ‘Apple can read your iMessages if they choose to, or if they are required to do so by a government order.’
QuarksLab presented a white paper at the Hack in the Box conference detailing how a man-in-the-middle attack would work to decrypt messages. They note that since Apple controls ESS servers, and all iMessages are routed to Apple’s PUSH servers, Apple is able to perform MITM:
● Apple sends fake public RSA / ECDSA key to the sender
● Apple can then decipher, alter the payload of the message and sign it before sending to its final destination.
They conclude, “So, yes, there is end-to-end encryption as Apple claims, but the weakness is in the key infrastructure as it is controlled by Apple: they can change a key anytime they want, thus read the content of our iMessages.”
Independent security researcher Ashkan Soltani tells AllThingsD that while it would be difficult for outside attackers, the research appears sound.
“I think what their presentation demonstrates is that it’s very difficult, but not impossible, for an outside attacker to intercept messages if they’re able to control key aspects of the network,”said Soltani. “Probably not something that just any actor can do, but definitely something a state/government actor or Apple themselves could do, if motivated.”
Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller addressed concerns with the following statement:
“iMessage is not architected to allow Apple to read messages,” said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller. “The research discussed theoretical vulnerabilities that would require Apple to re-engineer the iMessage system to exploit it, and Apple has no plans or intentions to do so.”
Despite Apple’s statement, Soltani remarked, “We’ve recently seen indication of companies like Skype or Lavabit being forced to enable interception capabilities in their system, so it would be naive to think that Apple wasn’t at least approached by the government at some point.”
In addition, QuarksLab hinted that it might be possible for the NSA to replace Apple to perform the MITM. “Clearly, not the many people have such capabilities. Maybe 3 letters agencies… Who knows.”
more at QuarksLab
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