An Apple patent could ensure that thwart any attempts at iPhone surveillance by the police or any other authority, according to a report by UK-based Telegraph. The patent, which is available online on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website has the title, “Subscriber Identity privacy protection.”
Apple’s new patent could ensure that the encryption techniques “protect subscriber identity in messages communicated between a wireless device and a cellular wireless network.” As the report in Telegraph explains, Apple’s technology would ensure that signals between the iPhone and mobile towers are encrypted and would hide the identity of the device.
Watch our iPhone XR review
This kind of encryption would foiling attempts by police, who can track iPhones, including location and calls with devices called ‘Stingray boxes’. These Stingray boxes can mimic phone towers and be used to track phone location and listen in on calls, and have been used by police forces in the United Kingdom, according to the report.
The boxes are also referred to as “IMSI” catchers. By posing as a mobile phone, the device can trick a mobile device, like an iPhone to connect with them, and then be used by the authority to spy on the user.
Apple’s patent could change all of that, as it will apply end-to-end encryption to the phone’s unique ID, when it travels across the network, says the report. The encryption will not mask the content of the messages, but make it harder to trace the device from which the message was sent, according to the report.
Apple’s patent description says certain messages which are sent between the cellular wireless network and the wireless device include the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) “in a clear, readable, unencrypted format”, which makes this “open to snooping by passive listening or active request and reply capture techniques.”
This IMSI is what allows the user to access the services provides by the mobile network operator, and this identity includes mobile country code, mobile network code, as well as mobile subscriber identification number (MSIN).
The patent says that the new tools would encrypt the mobile subscriber identifier, such as a mobile subscriber identification number (MSIN) portion of the IMSI, and it will use the secret and public encryption keys for messages between the device and the cellular wireless network entity.