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Thread: iMessage FYI

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    Default iMessage FYI

    Some kind of service outage has hit Apple authentication servers for iMessage. On Saturday iMessages stopped going through for me, and when I checked iMessage, I was logged out. After several conversations with Apple, I finally got elevated to someone who said "Yeah, it isn't you, it is us. Apple engineers are trying to fix it now. Hopefully it will be fixed soon."

    One of the things I noticed is that iMessage works on my laptop and iPad, but none of those is using my phone # as the send-from. Instead they are using my iCloud address and the phone number has disappeared from preferences on those devices. So beware that if iMessage is working, or appears to be working, the send-from address may be an email tied to your iCloud account and not your phone number.

    I can still text with my phone using SMS by selecting SMS and shutting off iMessage (which otherwise says "Waiting for activation.") But that doesn't work with all recipients for some reason, because they often have iPhones and my phone number is recognized as an iMessage number, so the person sending the text has to know to switch the message to SMS. It doesn't switch automatically, probably because it still arrives on my laptop and iPad.

    Headache.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    I thought Apple made user friendly devices.

    As an alternative you could use delta chat. It is free, open source, doesn't require a centralized infrastructure and instead rely on the federation of all the worlwide email servers, work on any device be it android, ios or a desktop, and even a non delta-chat user will be able to read and answer your message using a regular email problem. Only downside is you need to know your correspondent email address instead of phone number but that seems pretty minor as if you know the later, you probably know the former already in these days and ages. What's not to like ?
    Last edited by sk_tle; 05-08-2019 at 10:30 AM.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    No iMessage outage reported: Apple - Support - System Status

    The thing not to like about delta, is, like email, it is inherently unsecure. In that regard, iMessage does a very good job (only glaring issue is being unable to verify there wasn't a key share).
    Only better is Signal and Signal-using messenger (WhatsApp, and if you enable the right options, than also Skype & Facebook Messenger –though all three leak metadata).
     

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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by snotrockets View Post
    No iMessage outage reported: Apple - Support - System Status

    The thing not to like about delta, is, like email, it is inherently unsecure. In that regard, iMessage does a very good job (only glaring issue is being unable to verify there wasn't a key share).
    Only better is Signal and Signal-using messenger (WhatsApp, and if you enable the right options, than also Skype & Facebook Messenger –though all three leak metadata).
    Yeah I know. I asked about that, and the Senior Tech guy said that's right, the service is up and working. Just that a percentage of users got locked out of the iMessage authentication servers. He said it was definitely not my phone but Apple's problem. I am not sure I believe him, but he said iMessage was out on his phone too and that it was a known issue. Engineers were working on it.

    Sounds suspiciously like someone got into something they should not have been able to get into, and Apple shut down some authentication servers and that affected a group of users who then were left out in the cold. But what do I know. I told him it felt like a security lock - like I was locked out of something - and he said yeah.

    I have since got SMS to work reasonably well, but iMessage is still not authenticated so remains non-functional. I can use iMessage on my laptop and iPad but only if I use one of my iCloud email addresses as the "send from" and none of those messages show up on my iPhone. And vice versa, I can use my phone number to send text messages by SMS, but none of those messages show up on my laptop or iPad. Not a big loss, but it does make some record keeping a bit more complicated.
    Last edited by j44ke; 05-08-2019 at 07:36 PM.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by snotrockets View Post
    No iMessage outage reported: Apple - Support - System Status

    The thing not to like about delta, is, like email, it is inherently unsecure. In that regard, iMessage does a very good job (only glaring issue is being unable to verify there wasn't a key share).
    Only better is Signal and Signal-using messenger (WhatsApp, and if you enable the right options, than also Skype & Facebook Messenger –though all three leak metadata).
    Delta-chat provides encryption when both devices are using the app (pretty much like imessage, sms and all things relying on gsm, 3/4/5g protocols are unsecure). It may be vulnerable at the very fisrt message sharing the encryption key in case of someone eavesdropping but that's would come from your email provider and the trust you put int it. Every single email provider I know uses TLS encryption. From experience 99.99999% of internet users put a lot of trust in their email providers as they share sensitive data to it including recovery access to 100% of their accounts to online services.

    Signal, Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook. They all rely on a centralized infrastructure. This is not what I call security. When we talk about security in information technology it is not only about confidentiality but also reliability. I'd probably trust Tox, Riot/Matrix before whatsapp or Signal.
    Last edited by sk_tle; 05-09-2019 at 02:52 AM.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    Yeah I know. I asked about that, and the Senior Tech guy said that's right, the service is up and working. Just that a percentage of users got locked out of the iMessage authentication servers. He said it was definitely not my phone but Apple's problem. I am not sure I believe him, but he said iMessage was out on his phone too and that it was a known issue. Engineers were working on it.
    Based on my experience it sounds like some ip from your providers have been automatically blacklisted by some ip reputation service apple is using to protect their auth servers. We have the same issue in our company with some external users from a specific phone providers being prevented access to some of our services once in a while because their ip reputation is bad.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by sk_tle View Post
    Based on my experience it sounds like some ip from your providers have been automatically blacklisted by some ip reputation service apple is using to protect their auth servers. We have the same issue in our company with some external users from a specific phone providers being prevented access to some of our services once in a while because their ip reputation is bad.
    That sounds interesting.

    I just spent the last 45 minutes wading through support levels with ATT until I got someone who knew what I was talking about. They said all is good with my account, my device (which he accessed briefly - always spooky) and my access to any server required for running iMessage. So his conclusion is that it is something with Apple, which is what the Senior Tech at Apple said too. So I am in a holding pattern until whatever it is gets figured out. Annoying but not life threatening.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by sk_tle View Post
    Delta-chat provides encryption when both devices are using the app (pretty much like imessage, sms and all things relying on gsm, 3/4/5g protocols are unsecure). It may be vulnerable at the very fisrt message sharing the encryption key in case of someone eavesdropping but that's would come from your email provider and the trust you put int it. Every single email provider I know uses TLS encryption. From experience 99.99999% of internet users put a lot of trust in their email providers as they share sensitive data to it including recovery access to 100% of their accounts to online services.
    Well, you can find many differences to a word, but reliability and security are not the same.

    Email was never designed to be reliable; modern IMs are, and all the above (Signal, FB, Apple) have pretty good SREs, which I trust more than whoever runs the email server at an ISP. In fact, running an e-mail server is hard. My employer runs a few, and the guys running them are miserable for a very good reason –the protocol was never designed with the modern internet in mind.

    Security is different, and another thing that email wasn't designed for. TLS is encryption in transit between servers, not end-to-end. So while a random switch in the network can't read the content, everybody else can. There's a reason delta don't just assume encryption in transit and uses PGP/Autocrypt on top, but the latter automatically regresses to unencrypted messages without notice, and the former lacks some features you expect from a modern encrypted messaging (basically deniability and forward secrecy).

    iMessage & Signal aren't that different (iMessage is described in page 58+ here: https://www.apple.com/business/site/...rity_Guide.pdf, Signal here: https://signal.org/docs/). Both are unrelated to SMS, and according to friends who know more than me*, both aer very sound, with the main issue being that Apple can add new keys to an existing chat, without the user noticing. Signal apps are better about such MITM attacks –you get notified when a new key is added, and forward secrecy makes sure previous conversation can't be read, which is a problem with PGP.
     

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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    I used Signal for several years and it worked reasonably well. But I couldn't get my friends to switch over so eventually I went back to iMessage. And iMessage got better. I suppose Signal is probably better now as well.
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    That sounds interesting.

    I just spent the last 45 minutes wading through support levels with ATT until I got someone who knew what I was talking about. They said all is good with my account, my device (which he accessed briefly - always spooky) and my access to any server required for running iMessage. So his conclusion is that it is something with Apple, which is what the Senior Tech at Apple said too. So I am in a holding pattern until whatever it is gets figured out. Annoying but not life threatening.
    first, i am assuming you followed the first rule of electronic toy problems ... reboot.

    second ... have you tried putting the phone in airplane mode and turning on wifi? first validate you have service by bringing up a web page. once you are in business, try sending an imessage. if it goes through, apple is fine and you need to get back with the att folks. if no, att is off the hook and keep on it with apple.
     

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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    I used Signal for several years and it worked reasonably well. But I couldn't get my friends to switch over so eventually I went back to iMessage. And iMessage got better. I suppose Signal is probably better now as well.
    This is a few years old and still very true. Having relative and friends in several continents, the tool of choice differ depending on countries, cultures, whatever and I use a number of them. This is ridiculous. A few years ago some of the industry giants such as Google and Facebook (and probably others) decided to use XMPP, a common open protocol to built their infrastructure. We dreamed it could allow for an universal federated network of instant messaging apps. Sadly instead of working together to make the protocol and clients evolve together they diverged so the tools couldn't talk to each other.

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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    Okay, so last night just before I gave up on the world and went to bed, my iPhone buzzed and I had an iMessage from a friend. I checked settings and all logged in on the iPhone and the MacBook and iPad list my phone # as "send from" once again. Interesting.

    The one thing I kept thinking about was a series of messages that I sent last weekend to our neighbor while he was in China. He was afraid he'd left something on in the apartment and there were plants that needed watering and so forth that they'd forgotten to ask anyone to take care of. We sent 5 or 6 messages back and forth, and reading back over those messages, they did look like some kind of code. And then shortly afterwards, the iMessage on my phone stopped working. So the paranoid part of my brain was thinking somehow I'd gotten locked out by NSA TSA BSA USA SSA or whatever.

    But seems like it was just an Apple problem. Or was it.....
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    Default Re: iMessage FYI

    iMessage (and all of iCloud) in mainland China is not operated by Apple, but by a Chinese company that was co-founded by the government of Guizhou:
    Learn more about iCloud in China mainland - Apple Support

    I'm not sure which DCs handle non-Chinese iCloud account when they try to connect from China.
     

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