Feeds

Thanks for nothing, Apple, say forensic security chaps

iPhone factory reset removes all traces of everything, forever

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Felons wanting to best forensic investigators need only perform a factory reset of all current model iPhones, say forensic security experts.

Apple's decision to encrypt data on the iPhone is responsible for this state of affairs because a factory reset erases the decryption key required to reveal the handset's contents, according to Jason Solomon, a forensics investigator with Sydney-based Klein and Co.

"This means we can't get a full physical image of the phone," Solomon said. "The whole phone is encrypted and the keys are stored on the device, so when you erase the phone you erase the key and [forensics] can't decrypt it."

Solomon has faced cases where iPhones have been factory reset ahead of investigations, but he said evidence for possible cases could be salvaged because the time and date of the factory reset was recorded on the device.

Forensics folks' best hope to get anything out of an iPhone is to jailbreak it, said Perth-based forensics professional Chris Coutis. Doing so provides access to the bootloader and therefore offers the chance to take a critical sector-level image.

"Even if we can't do forensics today, as soon as a jailbreak drops, the game changes completely," Coutis said.

The technique forensics pros use to jailbreak iPhones created a RAM disk from which probing software could be loaded. The process did not erase user data.

But none of the currently-available iPhones are easily jailbroken.

Apple sold 43.7 million iPhones in the second quarter of this year alone, beating analyst predictions. Of the most popular smartphones on the market, the forensic-busting iPhone 5S came in top spot followed by its sibling the iPhone 5C. The iPhone 4S took fifth spot.

iPhone woes will play a small part in a talk Coutis will give this Sunday at Perth's WAHCKon conference, where he also plans to pour cold water on the myth that forensics procedures require expensive kit. Coutis will instead tell the conference a trawl of GitHub can suffice to source tools capable of analysing mobile phone chipsets or working around devices locked down by users with unusual technical prowess.

Coutis will also discuss the feasibility of warm and cold boot attacks in which DRAM chips could be read by attackers with physical access to a machine.

In warm boot attacks, RAM could be copied using the dd command onto an external drive, while the latter technique required chips to be cooled using compressed air which preserved the stored data and then physically removed and placed into a new machine.

He said both attacks could be performed cheaply but would generally only work on lower end or older machines. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.