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iMessage bug revealed after stolen iPhones still receiving texts to old number


What may turn out to be a bit of a SecurityGate for Apple unless quickly patched is a bug that has been revealed over stolen iPhones running iOS 5 and iMessage.

See, what happens is this: your phone is stolen, with its SIM card intact. You scramble to remotely wipe the device (you DO have that feature enabled, right?) and, once completed you’re home free, right? I mean, you’ve called your carrier to disable the SIM card and reactivate it on a new phone, and, presumably, you’re hunky dory (besides having your phone stolen).

But what seems to be happening is that users who have had their iPhones stolen are watching in horror as the thief sends and receives iMessages, even if that phone is no longer registered with the number. There appears to be nothing that can be done at this point except registering a new Apple ID at the expense of your apps, music and movies.

What’s worse is that the issue does not appear to be working the same in all cases. Users with stolen iPhones claim that texts and phone calls sent to the old SIM card do not work (obviously, because the number has been reactivated on a new SIM) but the stolen phone is receiving iMessages on both the old and new number, even though the old one is nowhere to be found on the phone.

Why is this happening? There is a possibility that Apple is storing a device’s UDID (unique identification number) on their servers and, when the stolen iPhone is remotely wiped it briefly registers with Apple’s servers through SMS (even though the SIM is deactivated and shouldn’t have access to the network, but that’s not entirely true since it will attempt registration and then be rejected), so it may take a second wipe until the issue goes away. The thief probably does not know this, and will continue using the phone after that first wipe, receiving iMessages from the old and presumably newly-activated SIM card.

Regardless of the why, it is happening, and it is quite concerning. Jesse Hollington of iLounge suggests getting around this issue entirely by putting a SIM Pin on your SIM card, meaning that a 4-digit number will be needed before the SIM negotiates with the network, preventing the deactivated SIM from briefly re-registering in the first place after a remote wipe.

Has this happened to you, or someone you know? Tell us your story in the comments!

Source: Ars Technica

  • Jay

    What a nightmare!

  • Mike

    My friends iPhone still try and send my Galaxy S2 LTE iMessages ever since I switched to it a month ago. I wonder if this is related to this in anyway.

  • Saad

    Yup..still happens to me. I went from an iPhone 4 w/ iOS5 to the Samsung Galaxy S2 LTE. Deactivated my old microsim to get new LTE sim. However, I still get iMessages on my iPhone…what’s going on here???

  • Malek

    well it hapend to two of my friends when they sold there iphones, what happens exactly is when you activate the ios5 the imessage registers the phone number and even if you change sim or change phone number the imessage will not change until you do a wipe and make as a new iphone on itunes but if you do a restore same issue will stay…

  • Malek

    I also tried it without sim you will still only imessage on wifi so if ur friend have an io5 and send you a msg you will get it on ur iphone unless there is no data connection if not you will get it as a regular SMS

  • idonkey

    So much SecurityGate for Apple! It Changes Everything! Got da love it!

  • InfinitiGuy

    There’s no problem, you’re just holding it wrong.

  • iTards

    Apple solution : Don’t let anybody steal your iPhone and you won’t have this issue! so simple! anyways what type of messages would be delivered to the stolen iPhone.. Hey lets to go Starbucks? or lets go buy makeup?

  • Mike

    That happened to me. I simply put my sim card into another phone, took it out and put it back into mine, and they continued to receive my texts. I promptly turned off iMessage and haven’t used it since.

  • Techie

    It’s because your appleID, phone number and UCID are all stored on apples server.
    iMessage is nothing like BBM at all where only a PIN is stored and every phone has an individual pin, not based on user account.

    Another issue with iMessage (and the reason I turned it off), if you are in a group conversation say with 3 or more people even if you delete the conversation on your phone, you still receive every single message. There are ONLY 2 ways to stop the constant updating of msgs is 1)pray everyone deletes the conversation or 2)turn off iMessage.

    Complete FAIL! So glad I’m getting a Nexus.

  • boojay

    Oh Apple, you continue to find ways to suck even more

  • Gustavo Bravo

    Damn this means update soon. That means No Jailbreak for iOS 5.0.2 or whatever is gonna be

  • Dimitri K.

    I wonder if Apple will fix this because if they don’t then i am sure a lot of users will drop iPhone’s for other type of phones. This could cause a lot of problems for Apple.

  • Gab

    You should also mention that this would happen if you resold the iphone.

    Only mentioning stealing plays down the issue.

  • Bad Apple

    Bad, bad, bad Apple. I am not as secure as you tried to tell me??? So, now my girlfriend cannot send me hot stuff no more since it will go to my wife’s phone and mine?
    Gotta quit Apple… Bad, bad, bad Apple…

  • T1MB1T

    THIS WOULD NOT HAPPEN IF IT WAS ON WIND!!!! THE BEST CARRIER! WE WILL BUY YOU alllll

  • Bazzing

    I guess this means they will have to release a third version of iOS 5.0.1 to fix this bug.

  • shaggyskunk

    that sucks IF your phone is stolen, BUT I’d be pretty happy if I could use both my galaxy Sll & my V9x with the same SIM (legally cloned ). Same number on both phones would be cool, and the Telecom wouldn’t lose any money, because all usage would still be billed to me.

  • Craig

    This happened when I switched to my nexus from my iphone 4, since I gave my old phone to my wife. I tried everything including turning off imessage, deleting all contacts, having my friend delete all contacts, then re-enabled imessage with no luck. I eventually had to go in and completely wipe the phone and factory restore after activating my wife’s new sim. After the restore it finally started sending the texts to my new phone instead of through imessage on the old one.

  • Jcad

    Wait, this is news? I thought the whole point of imessage was it was done through apple id, it has nothing to do with your sim card or phone number. How do people think it works through i touches and ipads. Just because you nuked your sim doesnt mean it killed that saved apple id on your phone

  • Slype

    @Jcad,

    I think the issue is that if Apple offers a service to do a remote wipe, you would expect it to wipe it entirely. Apparently it does not and the implications are potentially very damaging for the consumer who sells their phone without wiping it properly or for the person who loses their phone.

    A lot of damage can be done to a person’s reputation and/or even allow the perpetrators to do some social hacking with it.

    A remote wipe, should be a remote wipe. Did they let a summer intern code it? Pretty major flaw IMO (how did they miss something like that?)

  • RvO

    Wouldn’t changing your Apple ID’s password solve any issue related to the remote wipe being incomplete?

  • Yaz

    Problem occurs when u r using same number/email id on more den 1 iphone/ipod touch. I played n did the steps mentioned below n it solved the problem for me… give a try… hopefully it wil work for u…

    To fix the problem go to:

    Settings > Messages > Receive At… from there u can change the phone number/email id or delete wateve u want.

    Same goes to Facetime as well…

  • YoYo

    I used to get iMessages… Then I took and arrow in the knee

  • Betty Koyle

    Poor RIM.. RIP

    • sp

      poor RIM?

      I dont get it?

      What does iMessage have to do with RIM?….unless Apple STOLE that tech from RIM….

      Sigh… Apple Sheep

      So glad I changed over to Galaxy SII

  • Ryan Maloney

    Similar things are happening to me but the problem im having is that other peoples imessages are showing up on my iphone while in a convo with a friend. I was talking to a friend who had just got a 4S and all of a sudden someone is in the convo with us talking as if it was a group message. Anyone else having this issue?

  • natasha

    Creepy. They just want to keep you as a customer for life! To turn you into an I sheep :(

  • Jessica

    This happened to my boyfriend. It’s terrible. Going to apple right now to try and figure something out…

  • Patterson

    Thats why you stay away from Apple products and get yourself a reliable android phone.

  • MrMarvelous

    Lol this is amazing, I think I would be pretty irritated if I had this problem.

  • Lunchbox

    This totally did happen to me!! I work at a phone store and had put my apple Id and sim into a demo phone at work. A kid was playing with it and kept saying he was texting someone. I thought nothing of it until I was cleaning and to my horror saw one of my texts pop up on the screen. Not cool apple not cool

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