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#433625 - 24th Sep 2010 1:08pm Every click you take, they'll be watching you

Every click you take, they'll be watching you

Got an iPhone in your bag? Chances are you may be storing even more personal information than you realise, and some of it could be used against you if you're ever charged with a crime.

A burgeoning field of forensic study deals with iPhones specifically because of their popularity, the demographics of those who own them and what the phone's technology records during its use.

''Very, very few people have any idea how to actually remove data from their phone,'' said Sam Brothers, a mobile-phone forensic researcher with US Customs and Border Protection, who teaches law-enforcement agents how to retrieve information from iPhones in criminal cases.

''It may look like everything's gone,'' he said. ''But for anybody who's got a clue, retrieving that information is easy.''

Two years ago, as iPhone sales boomed, a former hacker, Jonathan Zdziarski, decided law-enforcement agencies might need help retrieving data from the devices.

So he set out to write a 15-page manual that turned into a 144-page book, iPhone Forensics. That, in turn, led to Zdziarski being tapped by law-enforcement agencies nationwide to teach them just how much information is stored in iPhones and other smartphones - and how that data can be gathered for evidence in criminal cases.

''These devices are people's companions today,'' said Zdziarski, 34. ''They organise people's lives. And if you're doing something criminal, something about it is probably going to go through that phone.''

An estimated 1.7 million people have bought the latest iPhone version, released in June. Before that, Apple had sold more than 50 million iPhones, according to company figures. Clearing out user histories isn't enough to clean the device of that data, said John Minor, a communications expert and member of the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners. ''With the iPhone, even if it's in the deleted bin, it may still be in the database,'' he said. ''Much is contained deep within the phone.''

Some of that usable data is in screenshots. Just as users can take and store a picture of their iPhone's screen, the phone itself automatically shoots and stores hundreds of such images as people close out one application to use another. ''Those screen snapshots can contain images of emails or proof of activities that might be inculpatory, or exculpatory,'' Minor said.

Most iPhone users agree to let the device locate them so they can use fully the phone's mapping functions, as well as various global positioning system applications.

The free application Urbanspoon is primarily designed to help users locate nearby restaurants. Yet the data stored there might not only help police pinpoint where a victim was shortly before dying, but also might lead to the restaurant that served the victim's last meal.

''Most people enable the location services because they want the benefits of the applications,'' Minor said. ''What they don't know is that it's recording your GPS co-ordinates.''

Bill Cataldo, an assistant Michigan prosecutor who heads the homicide unit, said iPhones are treated more like small computers than mobile phones. ''People are keeping a tremendous amount of information on there.''

Cataldo said he has found phone call histories and text messages most useful in homicide cases. But Zdziarski, who has helped federal and state law-enforcement agencies gather evidence, said those elements are just scratching the surface when it comes to the information police and prosecutors soon will start pulling from iPhones.

Even people who don't take pictures or leave GPS co-ordinates behind often unwittingly leave other trails, Zdziarski said.

''Like the keyboard cache,'' he said. ''The iPhone logs everything that you type in to learn autocorrect'' so that it can correct a user's typing mistakes.

Apple doesn't store that cache very securely, Zdziarski contended, so someone with expertise could recover months of typing in the order in which it was typed, even if the email or text it was part of has long since been deleted.

Adam Gershowitz, who teaches criminal procedure at the University of Houston law centre, said the new technology brings with it concerns about privacy - especially when it comes to whether investigators have the right to search someone's iPhone after an arrest.


Every time an iPhone user closes the built-in mapping application, the phone snaps a screenshot and stores it.

iPhone photos are embedded with tags and identifying information, so photos posted online might include GPS co-ordinates of where the picture was taken and the serial number of the phone that took it.

Even more information is stored by the applications themselves, including the user's browser History, which could prove useful to police.

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#433626 - 24th Sep 2010 1:18pm Re: Every click you take, they'll be watching you [Re: ]
Nigel Offline

Wise One

Registered: 26th Mar 2010
Posts: 850
Loc: Wirral
Nice .......
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever ...


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