Apple Rolls out Post Quantum Security for iOS

By John Russell

February 21, 2024

Think implementing so-called Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC) isn’t important because quantum computers able to decrypt current RSA codes don’t yet exist? Not Apple. Today the consumer electronics giant started rolling out a new PQC upgrade to its popular iMessage function.

Here’s the announcement from Apple’s security research blog today:

“Today we are announcing the most significant cryptographic security upgrade in iMessage history with the introduction of PQ3, a groundbreaking post-quantum cryptographic protocol that advances the state of the art of end-to-end secure messaging. With compromise-resilient encryption and extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks, PQ3 is the first messaging protocol to reach what we call Level 3 security — providing protocol protections that surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps. To our knowledge, PQ3 has the strongest security properties of any at-scale messaging protocol in the world.”

The update will launch in iOS and iPad OS 17.4 and macOS 14.4 after previously being deployed in the beta versions of the software, according to Apple.

PQC efforts have been gathering steam quickly following NIST’s program to pick new quantum-robust algorithms able to defeat efforts by quantum computers’ ability to decrypt existing encryption methods. The Apple blog is actually a nice short refresher on the problem as well as providing a brief guide to the measures it is taking.

Here’s how Apple’s describes its recent work

“More than simply replacing an existing algorithm with a new one, we rebuilt the iMessage cryptographic protocol from the ground up to advance the state of the art in end-to-end encryption, and to deliver on the following requirements:

  • Introduce post-quantum cryptography from the start of a conversation, so that all communication is protected from current and future adversaries.
  • Mitigate the impact of key compromises by limiting how many past and future messages can be decrypted with a single compromised key.
  • Use a hybrid design to combine new post-quantum algorithms with current Elliptic Curve algorithms, ensuring that PQ3 can never be less safe than the existing classical protocol.
  • Amortize message size to avoid excessive additional overhead from the added security.
  • Use formal verification methods to provide strong security assurances for the new protocol.

“PQ3 introduces a new post-quantum encryption key in the set of public keys each device generates locally and transmits to Apple servers as part of iMessage registration. For this application, we chose to use Kyber post-quantum public keys, an algorithm that received close scrutiny from the global cryptography community, and was selected by NIST as the Module Lattice-based Key Encapsulation Mechanism standard, or ML-KEM. This enables sender devices to obtain a receiver’s public keys and generate post-quantum encryption keys for the very first message, even if the receiver is offline. We refer to this as initial key establishment.”

Apple says PQ3 employs a hybrid design that combines Elliptic Curve cryptography with post-quantum encryption both during the initial key establishment and during rekeying. “Thus, the new cryptography is purely additive, and defeating PQ3 security requires defeating both the existing, classical ECC cryptography and the new post-quantum primitives.” That also means the protocol benefits from all the experience we accumulated from deploying the ECC protocol and its implementations.

Apple reported that with PQ3, iMessage continues to rely on classical cryptographic algorithms to authenticate the sender and verify the Contact Key Verification account key, because these mechanisms can’t be attacked retroactively with future quantum computers. To attempt to insert themselves in the middle of an iMessage conversation, an adversary would require a quantum computer capable of breaking one of the authentication keys before or at the time the communication takes place.

“In other words, these attacks cannot be performed in a Harvest Now, Decrypt Later scenario — they require the existence of a quantum computer capable of performing the attacks contemporaneously with the communication being attacked. We believe any such capability is still many years away, but as the threat of quantum computers evolves, we will continue to assess the need for post-quantum authentication to thwart such attacks,” according to the blog.

The Apple blog is a good, quick read. Many companies – IBM, SandboxAQ, Deloitte, Quantinuum, etc. – are rolling out PQC products.

The Apple blog concludes aptly, “End-to-end encrypted messaging has seen a tremendous amount of innovation in recent years, including significant advances in post-quantum cryptography from Signal’s PQXDH protocol and in key transparency from WhatsApp’s Auditable Key Directory. Building on its pioneering legacy as the first widely available messaging app to provide end-to-end encryption by default, iMessage has continued to deliver advanced protections that surpass existing systems. iMessage Contact Key Verification is the most sophisticated key transparency system for messaging deployed at scale, and is the current global state of the art for automatic key verification. And the new PQ3 cryptographic protocol for iMessage combines post-quantum initial key establishment with three ongoing ratchets for self-healing against key compromise, defining the global state of the art for protecting messages against Harvest Now, Decrypt Later attacks and future quantum computers.”

Link to Apple blog, https://security.apple.com/blog/imessage-pq3/

Link to HPCwire backgrounder on PQC, The Race to Ensure Post Quantum Data Security, https://www.hpcwire.com/2022/07/21/the-race-to-ensure-post-quantum-data-security/

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industry updates delivered to you every week!

Intel’s Silicon Brain System a Blueprint for Future AI Computing Architectures

April 24, 2024

Intel is releasing a whole arsenal of AI chips and systems hoping something will stick in the market. Its latest entry is a neuromorphic system called Hala Point. The system includes Intel's research chip called Loihi 2, Read more…

Anders Dam Jensen on HPC Sovereignty, Sustainability, and JU Progress

April 23, 2024

The recent 2024 EuroHPC Summit meeting took place in Antwerp, with attendance substantially up since 2023 to 750 participants. HPCwire asked Intersect360 Research senior analyst Steve Conway, who closely tracks HPC, AI, Read more…

AI Saves the Planet this Earth Day

April 22, 2024

Earth Day was originally conceived as a day of reflection. Our planet’s life-sustaining properties are unlike any other celestial body that we’ve observed, and this day of contemplation is meant to provide all of us Read more…

Intel Announces Hala Point – World’s Largest Neuromorphic System for Sustainable AI

April 22, 2024

As we find ourselves on the brink of a technological revolution, the need for efficient and sustainable computing solutions has never been more critical.  A computer system that can mimic the way humans process and s Read more…

Empowering High-Performance Computing for Artificial Intelligence

April 19, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) presents some of the most challenging demands in information technology, especially concerning computing power and data movement. As a result of these challenges, high-performance computing Read more…

Kathy Yelick on Post-Exascale Challenges

April 18, 2024

With the exascale era underway, the HPC community is already turning its attention to zettascale computing, the next of the 1,000-fold performance leaps that have occurred about once a decade. With this in mind, the ISC Read more…

Intel’s Silicon Brain System a Blueprint for Future AI Computing Architectures

April 24, 2024

Intel is releasing a whole arsenal of AI chips and systems hoping something will stick in the market. Its latest entry is a neuromorphic system called Hala Poin Read more…

Anders Dam Jensen on HPC Sovereignty, Sustainability, and JU Progress

April 23, 2024

The recent 2024 EuroHPC Summit meeting took place in Antwerp, with attendance substantially up since 2023 to 750 participants. HPCwire asked Intersect360 Resear Read more…

AI Saves the Planet this Earth Day

April 22, 2024

Earth Day was originally conceived as a day of reflection. Our planet’s life-sustaining properties are unlike any other celestial body that we’ve observed, Read more…

Kathy Yelick on Post-Exascale Challenges

April 18, 2024

With the exascale era underway, the HPC community is already turning its attention to zettascale computing, the next of the 1,000-fold performance leaps that ha Read more…

Software Specialist Horizon Quantum to Build First-of-a-Kind Hardware Testbed

April 18, 2024

Horizon Quantum Computing, a Singapore-based quantum software start-up, announced today it would build its own testbed of quantum computers, starting with use o Read more…

MLCommons Launches New AI Safety Benchmark Initiative

April 16, 2024

MLCommons, organizer of the popular MLPerf benchmarking exercises (training and inference), is starting a new effort to benchmark AI Safety, one of the most pre Read more…

Exciting Updates From Stanford HAI’s Seventh Annual AI Index Report

April 15, 2024

As the AI revolution marches on, it is vital to continually reassess how this technology is reshaping our world. To that end, researchers at Stanford’s Instit Read more…

Intel’s Vision Advantage: Chips Are Available Off-the-Shelf

April 11, 2024

The chip market is facing a crisis: chip development is now concentrated in the hands of the few. A confluence of events this week reminded us how few chips Read more…

Nvidia H100: Are 550,000 GPUs Enough for This Year?

August 17, 2023

The GPU Squeeze continues to place a premium on Nvidia H100 GPUs. In a recent Financial Times article, Nvidia reports that it expects to ship 550,000 of its lat Read more…

Synopsys Eats Ansys: Does HPC Get Indigestion?

February 8, 2024

Recently, it was announced that Synopsys is buying HPC tool developer Ansys. Started in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1970 as Swanson Analysis Systems, Inc. (SASI) by John Swanson (and eventually renamed), Ansys serves the CAE (Computer Aided Engineering)/multiphysics engineering simulation market. Read more…

Intel’s Server and PC Chip Development Will Blur After 2025

January 15, 2024

Intel's dealing with much more than chip rivals breathing down its neck; it is simultaneously integrating a bevy of new technologies such as chiplets, artificia Read more…

Choosing the Right GPU for LLM Inference and Training

December 11, 2023

Accelerating the training and inference processes of deep learning models is crucial for unleashing their true potential and NVIDIA GPUs have emerged as a game- Read more…

Comparing NVIDIA A100 and NVIDIA L40S: Which GPU is Ideal for AI and Graphics-Intensive Workloads?

October 30, 2023

With long lead times for the NVIDIA H100 and A100 GPUs, many organizations are looking at the new NVIDIA L40S GPU, which it’s a new GPU optimized for AI and g Read more…

Baidu Exits Quantum, Closely Following Alibaba’s Earlier Move

January 5, 2024

Reuters reported this week that Baidu, China’s giant e-commerce and services provider, is exiting the quantum computing development arena. Reuters reported � Read more…

Shutterstock 1179408610

Google Addresses the Mysteries of Its Hypercomputer 

December 28, 2023

When Google launched its Hypercomputer earlier this month (December 2023), the first reaction was, "Say what?" It turns out that the Hypercomputer is Google's t Read more…

AMD MI3000A

How AMD May Get Across the CUDA Moat

October 5, 2023

When discussing GenAI, the term "GPU" almost always enters the conversation and the topic often moves toward performance and access. Interestingly, the word "GPU" is assumed to mean "Nvidia" products. (As an aside, the popular Nvidia hardware used in GenAI are not technically... Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Shutterstock 1606064203

Meta’s Zuckerberg Puts Its AI Future in the Hands of 600,000 GPUs

January 25, 2024

In under two minutes, Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, laid out the company's AI plans, which included a plan to build an artificial intelligence system with the eq Read more…

China Is All In on a RISC-V Future

January 8, 2024

The state of RISC-V in China was discussed in a recent report released by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The report, entitled "E Read more…

Shutterstock 1285747942

AMD’s Horsepower-packed MI300X GPU Beats Nvidia’s Upcoming H200

December 7, 2023

AMD and Nvidia are locked in an AI performance battle – much like the gaming GPU performance clash the companies have waged for decades. AMD has claimed it Read more…

Nvidia’s New Blackwell GPU Can Train AI Models with Trillions of Parameters

March 18, 2024

Nvidia's latest and fastest GPU, codenamed Blackwell, is here and will underpin the company's AI plans this year. The chip offers performance improvements from Read more…

Eyes on the Quantum Prize – D-Wave Says its Time is Now

January 30, 2024

Early quantum computing pioneer D-Wave again asserted – that at least for D-Wave – the commercial quantum era has begun. Speaking at its first in-person Ana Read more…

GenAI Having Major Impact on Data Culture, Survey Says

February 21, 2024

While 2023 was the year of GenAI, the adoption rates for GenAI did not match expectations. Most organizations are continuing to invest in GenAI but are yet to Read more…

The GenAI Datacenter Squeeze Is Here

February 1, 2024

The immediate effect of the GenAI GPU Squeeze was to reduce availability, either direct purchase or cloud access, increase cost, and push demand through the roof. A secondary issue has been developing over the last several years. Even though your organization secured several racks... Read more…

Intel’s Xeon General Manager Talks about Server Chips 

January 2, 2024

Intel is talking data-center growth and is done digging graves for its dead enterprise products, including GPUs, storage, and networking products, which fell to Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire