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Dancing on the Lip of the Volcano: Chosen Ciphertext Attacks on Apple iMessage
Christina Garman, Matthew Green, Gabriel Kaptchuk, Ian Miers, and Michael Rushanan, Johns Hopkins University
Apple’s iMessage is one of the most widely-deployed end-to-end encrypted messaging protocols. Despite its broad deployment, the encryption protocols used by iMessage have never been subjected to rigorous cryptanalysis. In this paper, we conduct a thorough analysis of iMessage to determine the security of the protocol against a variety of attacks. Our analysis shows that iMessage has significant vulnerabilities that can be exploited by a sophisticated attacker. In particular, we outline a novel chosen ciphertext attack on Huffman compressed data, which allows retrospective decryption of some iMessage payloads in less than 218 queries. The practical implication of these attacks is that any party who gains access to iMessage ciphertexts may potentially decrypt them remotely and after the fact. We additionally describe mitigations that will prevent these attacks on the protocol, without breaking backwards compatibility. Apple has deployed our mitigations in the latest iOS and OS X releases.
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