DEA Complains Apple iMessages Not Accessbile

Via CNet, the DEA is complaining it can't access Apple iMessages with a pen register or wiretap order. Here's the text of the memo CNET obtained:

In 2011, Apple® Inc. developed iMessage®, an instant messaging service capable of sending plain text, pictures, movies, locations, and contacts. On February 21, 2013, the DEA San Jose Resident Office (SJRO) learned that text messages sent v1a iMessages® between Apple products (iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, and iMao:ID) are not captured by pen register, trap and trace devices, or Title Ill interceptions. iMessages between two Apple devices are considered encrypted communication and cannot be intercepted, regardless of the cell phone service provider.



The significance of the !Message transmission is investigators may erroneously believe they have a complete record of text transmissions if they are unaware that iMessage communications between smartphones are not captured or provided by the cell phone service providers. This issue came to DEA SJRO's attention while preparing a Title Ill affidavit Because DEA SJRO became aware of the iMessage issues, it was able to articulate in the Title Ill affidavit that the target telephone was in fact using text messaging with criminal associates.

While it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices, iMessages between an Apple device and a non-Apple device are transmitted as Short Message Service (SMS) messages and can sometimes be intercepted, depending on where the intercept is placed. The outcome seems to be more successful If the Intercept is placed on the non-Apple device.

But CNET reports Apple holds the encryption keys and could turn the content of iMessages over if served with a search warrant instead of a pen register or wiretap order. So I wouldn't assume iMessages are safe.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Snooping on Americans (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Western Dem on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:07:47 PM EST
    is a major component of the unconstitutional Patriot Act. I've always thought that the Bush Admin had been spying on elected Democrats for a couple of years before anyone knew they were recording cell phone calls. Hence the fast and furious bipartisan support of the Patriot Act. How much dirty laundry do they still have on congressional Democrats today?

    A fair amount, I expect (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by sj on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:27:17 PM EST
    How much dirty laundry do they still have on congressional Democrats today?
    Maybe even a great deal.  I've often wondered about (for example) Dennis Kucinich's about face on the ACA.  But don't limit your wondering to congressional Democrats.  I expect that all congressional members (just like the rest of society) have something that they would not like to be made public.

    Should have bought Apple stock (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by ruffian on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 04:26:06 PM EST
    when it dropped a few weeks ago. This should sell a few phones! Glad to know my boring messages are safe.

    Paging Coral Gables... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 12:48:39 PM EST
    buy some Apple stock right now bro! ;)

    No message is safe, but these Apple i-thingies certainly seem safer, even if it is just an extra hoop to jump through before Big Brother can have a peak at your personal communications.

    So, if the DEA (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by Zorba on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:02:20 PM EST
    is supposed to be going after illegal drug deals, why are they even worried about Apple iMessages?  I thought that all the drug dealers with more than two neurons to rub together used disposable phones, and changed them frequently.
    I'm betting it's more than the DEA that's upset, and I'm thinking it's because it makes it harder for all the agencies to snoop on anyone they d@mned well feel like.

    As you said... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:21:19 PM EST
    more than two nuerons...I'm amazed how cavalier some bush doctors are about using the cell to text and call, especially the youngsters. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    But I guess as cell phones and texting has become as natural as breathing for the youngsters, it's easy to get lax and take silly chances.  

    So if you're gonna be foolish, be foolish with Apple;)


    That sure as heck (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Zorba on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:40:51 PM EST
    isn't very bright.
    I wish that people would realize that whatever they put out there, whether emails, text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and so on, is just not going to be private.  And even the Apple iMessages will only be private until someone from the government finds a friendly and compliant judge who will issue a search warrant that they can serve Apple with.  Whereupon, so much for their encryption.

    I hear ya sister... (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:55:51 PM EST
    I grew up fearing the arrival of the Orwellian telescreen...only to find these kids today breaking their piggybanks and standing on line for days to buy the latest greatest version of the telescreen, and let Big Brother in voluntarily.

    Maybe it's us? ;)


    We have a friend, (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Zorba on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:43:14 PM EST
    a rather cynical type, who is always saying "humans are a near miss."
    Big Brother is everywhere.
    (And I also cannot believe all the people on cell phones in public, who are talking to someone about very private things, which can easily be overheard.)

    I'm happy they can't hear (none / 0) (#9)
    by fishcamp on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:10:55 PM EST
    quite as much while on my iPhone.