imessageIt 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

FakeWozniak Avatar
139 months ago
It's a feature to be able to tell the thief pleasantries from time to time.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dave420 Avatar
139 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)
f00f Avatar
139 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)
3bs Avatar
139 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)
Googlyhead Avatar
139 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)
obyte Avatar
139 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)

Popular Stories

cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
ios 16 battery indicator 2

Everything New in iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage in Status Bar, Find My Changes and More

Monday August 8, 2022 12:53 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the fifth beta of iOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, introducing some small but notable changes to the iOS operating system. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've rounded up everything new in the fifth beta below. Battery Percentage in Status Bar The battery icon in the status bar now displays the exact battery percent, a feature that ...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
airpods pro black background

Beyond iPhone 14: Five Apple Products Expected to Launch Later This Year

Monday August 8, 2022 9:43 am PDT by
While the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 are expected to be announced in September as usual, there are several more Apple products rumored to launch later this year, including new iPad and Mac models and more. Beyond the iPhone and Apple Watch, we've put together a list of five Apple products that are most likely to be unveiled by the end of 2022. Second-Generation AirPods Pro Apple...