What Is iMessage Contact Key Verification and How Does It Work?

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One of the many areas that Apple stands out in is security. The company has done quite a lot to make sure its devices and operating systems are as secure as possible.

A great example of this is iMessage. This instant message service is one of the most popular features on any Apple device, and that’s because of how well it works and how secure it is. 

And what’s more, Apple is already working to make it even more secure thanks to a new feature. Although it might not be critical for every iMessage user, this new feature is called Contact Key Verification, and it’s meant to help you make sure you’re talking with the right person in iMessage.

If you need it, you’ll find it extremely useful. Here’s everything you need to know about it. 

What Is iMessage Contact Key Verification?

Apple announced iMessage Contact Key Verification in December 2022, which it describes as a feature to “provide users with important new tools to protect their most sensitive data and communications.”

Contact Key Verification is a safety feature that people can use to make sure they’re messaging the right person. iOS will do this with the help of Verification Codes, which we will talk about in a moment, but Apple is also introducing other security measures.

For instance, you can now use a Security Key for your Apple ID. Introduced in iOS 16.3, users have the option to require a physical Lightning, USB, or NFC security key in order to sign in to their Apple ID account. The iPhone has supported security keys since iOS 13.3, but this is the first time you’ve been able to use one to protect your Apple ID.

This will make sure that you’re the only person who has access to your Apple ID and all the data stored in iMessage. Moreover, this can also reassure you that the other person is actually who they say they are since their account would be considerably more difficult for a hacker to get into.

How Does iMessage’s Contact Key Verification Work?

At the time of writing, Apple hasn’t explained all the details as to how Contact Key Verification will work. However, we already have some information about it from Apple’s announcement.

For one thing, people who have enabled Contact Key Verification will automatically get notifications if there’s a possible attacker trying to get into Apple’s cloud servers. 

So basically, if someone, even if it’s a state-sponsored attacker, tries to get into a conversation without any other party noticing them, you would get a notification letting you know what’s happening.

Additionally, if you’re using the Contact Key Verification feature, you’ll have the ability to compare Verification Codes with someone else, so you know for sure you’re talking to the right person. 

You can compare these codes in person, on FaceTime, or with a secure call. 

Is the iMessage Contact Key Verification for You?

As Apple says, Contact Key Verification isn’t for everyone. And most of us average folks won’t really need to use it at all.

This feature is meant to help people who face “extraordinary digital threats.” So, unless you’re a journalist, a human rights activist, a member of the government, or someone with a high profile, this feature will be overkill for you. 

Still, whether it’s you, or someone you know, it’s always good to keep this feature in mind for when you need it, even if Apple hasn’t released it yet. 

Can You Use the iMessage Contact Key Verification Right Now?

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Contact Key Verification feature isn’t available yet. And it seems we might need to wait until 2024 to see it.

When Apple announced this feature, it said that this feature would be “available globally in 2023.” While the year isn’t over yet, we haven’t heard any updates about it, nor seen any new signs of it in the iOS 17.1 betas. To be fair, Apple isn’t a company that’s constantly updating us on their future projects, but since this feature was seemingly supposed to arrive in iOS 16, chances are it’s been delayed.

There were a few hints that Apple might be getting ready to launch this feature with iOS 16.6, but we haven’t had any big updates since, so it’s possible that Apple was just privately testing this feature.

So, unfortunately, we don’t know when it will drop, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated once it does.

There Are Other Ways to Keep Your iPhone Protected

Even though it isn’t for everyone, the upcoming Contact Verification Key will surely come in handy for the people who really need it.

But just because you aren’t part of that group doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of your iPhone. There are plenty of other ways to keep your iPhone safe, including using a VPN, creating strong passwords, and avoiding shady links, messages, and websites. You can also set up a physical security key with your Apple ID if you want an extra layer of protection, as Apple rolled that out in iOS 16.3, along with Advanced Data Protection to add end-to-end encryption for your iCloud data.

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