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IPhone Takes Screenshots of Everything You Do


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If you've got an iPhone, pretty much everything you have done on your handset has been temporarily stored as a screenshot that hackers or forensics experts could eventually recover, according to a renowned iPhone hacker who exposed the security flaw in a webcast Thursday.


While demonstrating how to break the iPhone's passcode lock in a webcast, iPhone hacker and data-forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski explained that the popular handset snaps a screenshot of your most recent action -- regardless of whether it's sending a text message, e-mailing or browsing a web page -- in order to cache it. This is purely for aesthetic purposes: When an iPhone user taps the Home button, the window of the application you have open shrinks and disappears. In order to create that shrinking effect, the iPhone snaps a screenshot, Zdziarski said. The phone presumably deletes the image after you close the application. But anyone who understands data is aware that in most cases, deletion does not permanently remove files from a storage device. Therefore, forensics experts have used this security flaw to successfully nab criminals who have been accused of rape, murder or drug deals, Zdziarski said.


"There's no way to prevent it," Zdziarski said during the webcast. "I'm kind of divided on it. I hope Apple fixes it because it's a significant privacy leak, but at the same time it's been useful for investigating criminals."


And though the handset only snaps screenshots when users press the Home button, Zdziarski said this is only one way forensics experts collect evidence. Other methods include taking data from the iPhone's keyboard cache, Safari cache, Google Maps lookups and so on. Experts and hackers can also recover deleted photos or e-mails from months ago.


In addition to exposing the privacy leaks, Zdziarski walked webcast attendees through the steps required to bypass an iPhone's passcode in order to gain full access to it.


Here's the good news: It didn't look all that easy; it took Zdziarski nearly an hour to demonstrate the process, and it would likely take inexperienced hackers far longer. To make a long story short, the process involved using Pwnage to create a custom firmware bundle and tweaking it with rather arcane methods to delete the iPhone's passcode protection.


Despite the intricacy of the method, Zdziarski stressed that anybody with the time and digital sophistication has the ability to break the iPhone's security.


"This flaw can only be exploited by somebody with physical access to a device, but your phone could get into the hands of someone with more malicious intent," he said. "Obviously, you don't want to trust any of your data to a passcode."


Apple did not return phone calls for comment.



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Data doesn't leave memory when it's deleted, you mean it actually stays there for a few seconds? Well color me shocked, and paint Apple as the evil one, this horrible practice that's obviously a government spying conspiracy MUST BE STOPPED!!!! :P

Actually... data does in fact remain after deletion. Which is why file recovery programs exist and are generally quite effective.


When a file is deleted, essentially only the pointer to this file on the file system is deleted, not the data. The file system frees up the area of the pointer for later use, however it is generally much quicker to skip the section for this data and write a file in a free/longer segment to prevent fragmentation.


Secure deletion utilities available essentially write over the exact areas in which the file is stored with random data, or in some case zeros (though this is less secure.)

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I've always thought - if it's really true that all our cellphones are spying on us, then the truth will come out eventually when someone find the code in the iPhone.


Although the juicy stuff would probably be internal in the baseband or whatever they call it, and not accessable to the O/S.


If I was a criminal, I *would* buy an iPhone, and make sure there was lots of evidence proving what a nice guy I really was... and puppies... me patting puppies. With a date-stamp for alabai purposes :-p


Seriously though - better the devil you know. Don't be an Orwellophile.

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