• | 5:00 pm

Apple will soon protect iMessage users from future quantum computing attacks

The tech giant today is announcing PQ3, an encryption protocol meant to future-proof your messages against incredibly advanced hackers.

Apple will soon protect iMessage users from future quantum computing attacks
[Source photo: kuu akura/Unsplash]

Within the next few decades, perhaps sooner, quantum computers will revolutionize the computing landscape by being able to carry out tasks thousands or even millions of times faster than today’s most powerful supercomputers. When that happens, a quantum computer of the future will easily be able to crack today’s end-to-end encryption technologies, leaving our messages in secure messaging apps like Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal vulnerable to malevolent nation states and bad actors.

Even though sufficiently reliable quantum computing technology is 10 to 20 years off, today’s security researchers worry that bad actors could already be preparing for the day when they can easily crack people’s end-to-end encrypted messages by using an attack scenario known as “harvest now, decrypt later.” This type of attack sees bad actors collect people’s encrypted messages today and store them until a quantum computer in the future can easily crack the encryption and thus reveal the contents of the messages.

But Apple wants to put a stop to that before it ever happens. Today the company announced a new encryption technology that will come to its iMessages platform next month and will help mitigate the risk of messages being decrypted by tomorrow’s quantum computers.

Called PQ3 (post-quantum cryptographic protocol level 3), the protocol uses highly advanced mathematics that can run on today’s classical computers (like our iPhones) yet still be resilient against decryption efforts on tomorrow’s quantum computers by securing both the initial key establishment used by the app and the ongoing message exchange. As is to be expected with anything related to encryption and quantum computing, the PQ3 protocol’s underlying technologies are incredibly complex, but Apple has now released multiple papers diving into the protocol for those who wish to understand it on a more fundamental level.

But in short, the takeaway is that Apple’s new PQ3 protocol for iMessages means that the company isn’t only keeping your messages as secure and private as is possible today. It is also already implementing solutions to keep your messages safe from those who will try to use the most advanced computing technologies of tomorrow to gain access to them.

Apple says the PQ3 protocol will be rolled out to iMessage next month with the public releases of iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS 14.4, and watchOS 10.4. The company also says that PQ3 for iMessages is just the first implementation of encryption protections against quantum computers. It’s like similar protocols will roll out to other Apple services, like iCloud Drive, at a later date.

  Be in the Know. Subscribe to our Newsletters.


Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com More

More Top Stories: