CareCredit - Women's Health April 2024

Apple Launches Security Upgrade to Combat Potential Quantum Computing Attacks

Apple building

In a move to improve the security of its iMessage app, Apple is upgrading its encryption system to fend off potential quantum computing attacks.

The new system, called PQ3, is designed to prevent hackers from conducting a “harvest now, decrypt later” attack, where they steal messaging data today and decrypt it in the future using advanced computers, Bloomberg reported Wednesday (Feb. 21).

The fear of quantum computing attacks has been described as a “cybersecurity Armageddon” by IBM executive Ana Paula AssisSandboxAQ CEO Jack Hidary predicts that such attacks could cause a “train wreck” for security by the end of the decade, according to the report.

Quantum computers are superpowered computers that use principles of quantum mechanics to perform incredibly sophisticated operations by taking advantage of parallel processing capabilities, PYMNTS reported in May.

Long the realm of science fiction, these powerful machines will likely be commercially viable within the next decade, if not sooner. 

In response to warnings about the potential of quantum computing attacks, Apple has developed PQ3, which it said has the strongest security properties of any messaging protocol in the world, per the Bloomberg report. The new security protocol has already been added to beta versions of iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS 17.4, and watchOS 10.4, with a full rollout to all users expected in the coming weeks.

When announcing the new security protocol in a Wednesday blog post, Apple said PQ3 is “the most significant cryptographic security upgrade in iMessage history.”

“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,” Apple said in the post.

The Level 3 of security for the new system is higher than the prior protocol for iMessage, which was ranked at Level 1, according to the Bloomberg report.

In addition, Apple’s Contact Key Verification system, which allows users to verify their communications with others, will also be included in the Vision Pro headset with the visionOS 1.1 software update, the report said.