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Apple buffs up iMessage security with quantum computer-proof encryption

Apple is preparing for attacks that could happen in the future.

Published onFebruary 21, 2024

iMessage on an Android phone
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • Apple is creating a new form of encryption for iMessage.
  • This new layer of encryption aims to prevent harvest now, decrypt later attacks.

Today’s encryption is good enough to defend against most encryption cracking attempts. But will today’s encryption hold up when pitted against more powerful computers in the future? Apple is not waiting to find out and is updating the security protocol for its messaging app to handle attacks from quantum computers.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is introducing a new form of encryption meant for iMessage called PQ3 cryptographic protocol. This new encryption layer will work alongside the company’s existing encryption tools.

PQ3 was designed to prevent what’s known as harvest now, decrypt later attacks. This is an attack where the perpetrator — like a nation-state hacker — extracts as much encrypted data as they can get. They then sit on that data, waiting for a future when quantum computers are powerful and reliable enough to crack the encryption.

The day when quantum computers become capable enough to tear through most encryption is referred to by experts as “Q-day.” There’s no agreement on when Q-day will arrive, with some believing it could happen in the coming decades. Given that Apple is taking this precaution now suggests that the company believes this day will come sooner than later.

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