Research done by security expert Tom Landesman and anti-spam company Cloudmark claims Apple’s iMessage is responsible for over 30% of all spam messages on mobile devices. The researcher says iMessage’s reach across the iOS and Mac, and its accessibility, is why the platform has become a prime target for spammers.
That fusion of the desktop and mobile world makes it particularly easy for scammers to write a Mac OS script that can send messages to all types of devices just as fast as Apple will allow. “It’s almost like a spammer’s dream,” says Landesman. “With four lines of code, using Apple scripts, you can tell your Mac machine to send message to whoever they want.”
While spammers usually require your mobile phone number to send spam texts, if you’ve added your email address to iMessage, the spammers can send spam using that address too. The research shows that iMessages read receipts feature aids spammers by allowing them to generate a list of verified users.
All that is required to open an iMessage account is an email address, making it simplicity in itself to setup a spamming account.
Wired does note that Apple has made moves to make it more difficult for spammers, such as adding rate-limiting to the iMessage network, and offering users a way to report iMessage spammers and get them banned from the service. However, they also note that reporting spammers can be a bit of a pain, as you have to email Apple a screenshot of the spam, along with the phone number or email address of the spammer, and the date and time it was sent.
Wired also reports that Apple moves slowly when notified of a spammer:
“But if Apple is doing anything to take these spammers off the network, it’s moving slowly. WIRED reported one spam address to Apple on Wednesday of last week. As of Monday afternoon, it was still active on the iMessage network. We also checked three other email addresses used in spam campaigns over the past few days. They were all still active too. The spammers, by the way, did not respond to our iMessage requests for interviews.”
If you’re getting spam messages, there are a few things you can do in addition to reporting them. You can turn off alerts from any iMessage users who aren’t listed in your contacts (Settings –>Notification Center –> Messages –> Show Alerts from My Contacts), however you may miss important messages from folks who aren’t in your list yet.
There is also the nuclear option of completely turning off the iMessage service on your device (Settings –> Messages –> iMessage), however that is a drastic solution.