U.S. Secret Service blames iMessage for lost texts during January 6 insurrection

Undo send iMessage in iOS 16
Undo send iMessage in iOS 16 (Image credit: Apple)

The United States Secret Service has been under intense scrutiny since it admitted to losing a number of text messages on January 6, the day of the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Now, it appears that Apple's iMessage feature may be partly to blame for the lost messages.

As reported by Politico, the Secret Service says that they have discovered that members of the institution who used iMessage on their work phones were the ones that were lost. According to spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi, the Secret Service is now reevaluating disabling iMessage for members on their work phones to avoid this kind of data loss in the future.

“This is actually something we are looking at very closely. Director James Murray has ordered a benchmarking study to further examine the feasibility of disabling iMessage and whether it could have any operational impacts.”

Why was iMessage turned on in the first place?

According to the DHS inspector general, the Secret Service lost text messages about the January 6 insurrection due to them wiping members' phones. The agency was reportedly switching to a new mobile device management service and iMessages, which could not be backed up with the previous service, were lost if members did not perform a manual backup before the switch.

One of the key questions to come out of this revelation will surely be: why did the Secret Service have iMessage enabled in the first place? The agency is known for its cybercrime investigations, so cybersecurity experts are shocked that the institution could overlook such a prominent issue when it comes to preserving communication data.

iMessage is an end-to-end encrypted messaging service and always has been. When you send an iMessage to someone else, no one, including Apple, has access to that information. That changes if you message with someone on Android, as those messages still use SMS, a non-encrypted standard. That has led Google to urge Apple to adopt RCS, a new messaging standard that does offer better features and privacy between Apple and Android devices.

For all of us who know our companies have full access to our Slack messages at work and there is no privacy to be had for employees using company tools, it's quite shocking that the Secret Service permitted its members to communicate with no oversight from the agency.

We'll have to wait and see what changes the Secret Service makes in response to these findings, but it is likely that the agency will turn off iMessage on work devices and back up that form of communication as it does for email.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.