MacOSG: Securely erasing an iPhone/iPod touch (photos)
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacOSG: Securely erasing an iPhone/iPod touch (photos)

Research scientist and security expert Jonathan Zdziarski, recently discovered that the iPhone's restore mode still leaves personal data intact after preforming a restoration. Zdziarski writes, "While the restore process takes long enough to make most people assume the "disk" stored in NAND memory is formatted, it actually isn't.

As part of my work on a forensics toolkit for the iPhone, I decided to test whether user data could survive a full restore in iTunes. There have been rumors floating around that the entire NAND is flashed to 0xFF when the device is restored, but this is untrue - this only occurs in a different part of the iPhone (the NOR), but not the NAND. To confirm this theory, I first deleted any backups of my device and then forced the iPhone into recovery mode. From there, I performed a full firmware restore of my iPhone, ensuring that no backups or syncing were performed. I then performed a basic recovery of the raw disk using the forensic toolkit I put together, and analyzed it. What I discovered was that deleted mail, contacts, and pretty much all of my other personal information was still residing in unallocated space on the device. My personal information was safe and sound, and available to anyone with the right skills to recover it.

What does this mean? This means that when you do a restore through iTunes, it is only the equivalent of performing a "Quick Format" on your iPhone. And for those of you who use "Erase all Content and Settings," this has even less of an effect, as it doesn't even destroy the file system. In both cases, all of the personal information that was sitting on the device prior to the erase or restore is still left sitting in the unallocated blocks of the iPhone's NAND memory. To make matters worse, the restore process is likely to restore the original operating system files over the same location as the old ones, meaning very little data is likely to be corrupted at all."

Zdziarski goes on to report, "A verified detective from the Oregon State Police notified me that an out-of-the-box refurbished iPhone he purchased direct from Apple contained recoverable personal data including email, personal photos, and even financial information which he was able to recover using my forensic toolkit. The photos he sent me (see below) included the individual's name, which I've blurred out myself, but if you've ever had to return a defective iPhone, you might recognize this inbox. The more sensitive information hasn't been posted here for obvious reasons.

What you're looking at here is a partial list of the previous customer's files which were recovered from the iPhone's free space, and a screenshot that the iPhone took itself of the user's inbox, browser window, etc. when its user pressed the 'Home' button. Application snapshots are taken every time a program goes into the background to generate the zoom effects built into the device. And yes, the actual email and other personal data was also available."

Inbox
image























Facebook Activity
image
























Facebook Message
image
























Facbeook Profile
image
























Facebook Profile
image























So what can you do to make sure all your information is erased? Here are a few things to try:

1. Change passwords for all mail accounts that are synced to the iPhone or touch.
2. Make sure the device can no longer open the mail accounts.
3. Do an erase/restore of the iPhone or iPod touch, preferably using another computer or at least another account than the one the device was synced with.
4. Sync as many songs/videos of a non-compromising nature and nothing else to the newly restored device as will fit.
5. A good tool I recommend using to fill the drive up with data (songs/videos), is PhoneView. You can directly access the disk on your iPhone to totally fill it up.
6. After you have filled the drive up, do another erase/restore.
7. Repeat steps 4/5 with different content and erase/restore again. The more times you do this, the more times the data will be overwritten, thus having a less chance of recovery.

iPhoneView Utility
image















Final note: If you're having a problem with your iPhone/iPod touch and you are going to have Apple check it out, more than likely they will keep it and replace it with a refurbished unit, so make sure your iPhone/iPod touch is totally erased before you take it in. Oh, and one more thing. If the photos above look like they may be from your previous iPhone, please email us.

Mac Owners Support Group -- aka MacOSG -- was conceived by Dave Merten, the former 'Focus on Mac Support' guide at About.com. Since it's humble beginning as 'G5 Owners Support Group' back in February 2004, MacOSG has become one of the world's fastest-growing online Apple User Groups, dedicated to helping Mac users from all over the globe.

[url=http://www.macosg.com]MacOSG Home[/url] | [url=http://www.macosg.com/group/index.php]Support Forums[/url] | [url=http://macosg.com/group/viewtopic.php?t=78]Become a Member[/url]
[url=http://macosgpodcast.com]MacOSG Podcast[/url] | [url=http://mac611.com/]Mac611 Mobile Mac Support[/url]

Email us: admin AT macosg.com

image"Macsimum News" is a proud supporter of [url=http://planetgumbo.org/]Planet Gumbo[/url], which feeds the hungry. We urge you to help them in their efforts.

 
AAPL
$124.24
Apple Inc.
+0.86
GOOG
$555.17
Google Inc.
-3.61
MSFT
$41.21
Microsoft Corporation
-0.25
MacNews Search:
Community Search:
view counter

view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter

Bio Inc's New Expansion is Infectin...
Bio Inc., by DryGin Studios, is the real time strategy game where you infect a human body with the worst virus your evil brain can design. Recently, the game was updated to add a whole lot of new features. Now you can play the new “Lethal” difficulty, which chakllenges even hardcore players. If you aren't quite there yet you can still enjoy the “... | Read more »
The Monocular Minion is Here! Despicable...
Despicable Me: Minion Rush, by Gameloft, is introducing a new runner to the mix in their latest update. Now you can play as Carl, the prankster minion. Carl has a few new abilities to play with, including running at a higher speed from the start. Gameloft has also added Eduardo's House as a new area. You'll be able to race through the infamous El... | Read more »
Dungeon of Madness (Games)
Dungeon of Madness 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon of Madness is an action game where you rotate tiles to create our own route. Help the hero by connecting the road so he reaches hostages, then lead them out while also directing monsters into deadly traps.... | Read more »
Filters for iPhone (Photography)
Filters for iPhone 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Jump'N'Shoot Attack (Games)
Jump'N'Shoot Attack 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A mobile game for gamers! Join Louise Lightfoot, the legendary "Master of Jumping and Shooting", on her mission to save the President of Earth 4 from evil space mutants known as the Xatharr!! Collect items to boost attacks... | Read more »
Space Bounties Inc. (Games)
Space Bounties Inc. 1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.4 (iTunes) Description: SuperGameDroid: 4/5 "Satisfying futuristic RPG combat, high replay value, and a heavy dose of nostalgia make Space Bounties Inc. a worthwhile experience." SlimGamer: 9/10 "From the retro graphics to the pitch-perfect... | Read more »
Gamebook: Pocket RPG (Games)
Gamebook: Pocket RPG 1.0.11 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.11 (iTunes) Description: Walk into the Land of Lanthir Lamath ruled by wicked skeletons and fight for your life in a thrilling adventure. It's a book. It's a game. It's a gamebook.Choose your own adventure.Simple rules and gameplay.Running... | Read more »
Kids Can Mix, Match, and Catch with Tata...
Tatadada MixMatch, by Tatadada Ltd, is a mobile version of the classic game of mix & match. The game uses brightly colored creatures to train your children's pattern matching skills and hand-eye coordination. It's aimed at children around age 5 and uses simple swipe controls to make it easy for them to play. They'll be able to select and... | Read more »
The Trace: Murder Mystery Game (Games)
The Trace: Murder Mystery Game 1.2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.2.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: March 16-20, 2015
Spring Roars In At 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Take a look at what we'... | Read more »
All contents are Copyright 1984-2010 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.