iMessage Bug Sends Texts to Stolen iPhones

by

It appears that a bug in iMessage allows texts to be sent to a stolen iPhone, even after a remote wipe and disabling the SIM card, reports Ars Technica.

iMessage, introduced in iOS 5, is similar to RIM's BlackBerry messaging service. It sends text, picture, and video messages over Apple's servers instead of via the carrier's SMS service. This can lower the user's text messaging charges and adds features like delivery confirmation. It also allows users of non-cellular devices, like the iPad and iPod Touch, to send and receive text and picture messages -- as featured in a recent iPod Touch television ad.

According to Ars Technica:

Our attention was drawn to this story by Ars reader David Hovis, whose house was recently burglarized and his wife's iPhone 4S was stolen. According to Hovis, his wife deactivated her iPhone with her carrier, remote wiped it, and immediately changed her Apple ID password—"we picked up a new iPhone the next day, figuring that our insurance would end up paying for it," Hovis told Ars.

For most users, this would be the end of the story. The phone number had been transferred to a new device and the old one had been deactivated; what more is there to say? A lot, apparently, and in the form of iMessages. The thief who stole Mrs. Hovis' iPhone had sold the device to an unsuspecting buyer elsewhere in the state, and the buyer had begun sending and receiving iMessages from the phone as Mrs. Hovis—even though the stolen phone had apparently now been activated under a new number.

Hovis sent messages to new "owner" of his wife's old phone, with the messages going to both the old and new phone, but the other person was uncooperative. He discovered a thread on the MacRumors forums with several readers reporting the same issues.

Apple has not commented on the matter, but it's possible that the iMessage servers permanently links the UDID number of a particular handset to a phone number, so it knows what handset to deliver iMessages to. When the phone is remotely wiped, and a new SIM card installed, the iMessage servers don't update and messages continue to be sent to the stolen phone.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
116 months ago
It's a feature to be able to tell the thief pleasantries from time to time.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
116 months ago

If verified that this is a bug then it is something that needs to be fixed. But on the other hand it could be something that could come in handy. Think about it....your iphone is lost or stolen and someone wipes it or replaces the SIM so they can use it. But you are still able to send an iMessage to it. How cool would that actually be if that could actually lead to the phone being returned to you.

The new owner gets to see every iMessage I send/receive. That may result in an occaional returned phone, but the rest of the time it is a huge privacy risk. It could go on forever. Every single iMessage you send/receive will be visible to the thief.
I have been following this issue for a while, and there have been lots of threads about this happening. In some cases users were getting sexually explicit messages from random people.
Apple needs to resolve this problem.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
116 months ago
I guess it makes sense to assume that any person could be identified by N number of UDIDs on the server side of iMessage. (My iPhone, my iPad, my iPod Touch, etc -- that's three right there!)

But for this to be a permanent linkage is clearly a design flaw/oversight. The remote wipe should have nuked the UDID from iMessage's server-side database (or where ever the hell it's stored).
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
116 months ago

It sends text, picture, and video messages over Apple's servers instead of via the carrier's SMS service.


Very often it fails to send pictures.. and I end up having to wait a while or e-mail them
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
116 months ago

I've always wondered something about "Remote Wipe". Can thieves who obtain a remotely wiped iPhone re-sync it and have a fully working iPhone? Because surely it just becomes a factory restored iPhone?

Would love an answer.


I'd also like to know if you can keep requesting a remote wipe - ie. keep erasing the stolen phone over and over again to cause maximum inconvenience for the undeserving new 'owner'.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
116 months ago
This is NOT just stolen phones.

I recently upgraded to a HTC Titan from a iPhone 4 last week. I did the upgrade through the AT&T .01 WP7 sale. I activated the Titan and when I did that, EVERYONE who still has an iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch who has ever sent me a text message before the switch, they are still going to my iPhone because of iMessaging. The iPhone has no service and no sim card installed. It is only on wi-fi and all of the texts go to it still.

I can send someone a SMS from my Titan and their response goes to my iPhone. It is super annoying and no one knows how to fix it.

IMO this is complete ******** really and it needs to be fixed. Currently I am a slave to this iPhone now :/
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...