| Thursday July 31st 2014

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Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillance


DEA badgeThe fuss iMessage’s encryption has created answers a question that I’ve often pondered. It’d be trivial to build powerful, public key encryption into our email programs. The first messages would exchange keys and from that point on, every email would be private. Why hasn’t that been done? Probably because anyone who talks about creating such an app gets a visit from spooky people in the FBI or DEA.

An internal Drug Enforcement Administration document seen by CNET discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that because of the use of encryption, “it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices” even with a court order approved by a federal judge.

The DEA’s warning, marked “law enforcement sensitive,” is the most detailed example to date of the technological obstacles — FBI director Robert Mueller has called it the “Going Dark” problem — that police face when attempting to conduct court-authorized surveillance on non-traditional forms of communication.


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