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ICE iPhone seizure shows extent of government's data retrieval abilities

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
Smartphones such as Apple's iPhone have turned into indispensable aspects in their users' lives, but a recently discovered court document demonstrates how authorities can use the seemingly innocuous devices as remarkably detailed tracking tools.

iOS Enterprise


The American Civil Liberties Union recently uncovered a court document connected to a drug investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The document (available here) contains a detailed list of the information federal agents were able to extract from one suspect's iPhone during a single data extraction session.

The list includes call logs, iMessage and chat data, contact information, installed applications, stored voicemails, passwords, and IP connection data. It also has information on 659 geolocation points, including the cell phone towers and Wi-Fi connections the iPhone had connected to.

At issue is the legal standard for conducting this sort of deep examination of mobile handsets. Given the massive amount of personal information users now keep on smartphones and similar devices, the ACLU argues that law enforcement should have to obtain a warrant in order to perform this type of search. In the example provided, federal agents first obtained the iPhone in the course of a warranted search, then secured another warrant before scanning the phone.

phone search
List of data points recorded from the extraction session.


"The type of data stored on a smartphone," the ACLU argues, "can paint a near-complete picture of even the most private details of someone's personal life."

The report says that standards governing cell phone searches are not solid, and that courts disagree on whether law enforcement should have to obtain a warrant. Reportedly, there have been many instances ? in searches incident to arrest as well as cases originating at the U.S. border ? where police have argued they do not need to obtain a warrant.

In order to avoid such warrantless searches, the ACLU recommends setting a long password ? not a four-digit PIN code ? to lock a device. The organization also recommends against relying on the pattern-based lock system common to Android devices, as Google can bypass such security measures if it is forced to do so by the government.
post #2 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"The type of data stored on a smartphone," the ACLU argues, "can paint a near-complete picture of even the most private details of someone's personal life."

 

 

Regarding the location tracking, logs are not proof that the phone was in possession of the accused, someone else could have had possesion of the phone at various times.

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post #3 of 34
They got two warrants--that sounds like how it should work. (Warrentless examination is clearly in violation of the Constitution.)

(And if your phone is kept password-locked, are there still holes that allow unencrypting the info? I seem to recall it used to be possible.)


Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60

Regarding the location tracking, logs are not proof that the phone was in possession of the accused, someone else could have had possesion of the phone at various times.



They don't have to prove it though: once they know (pretty nearly certain) where you were, then that leads to other evidence and proof. For instance, what if a politician wanted to hassle people who campaign against his sponsors' pet bill. The phone could tell the police that it--and therefore probably YOU--were at a protest that lacked a permit. Once they "know" that, they can seek photos, witnesses, whatever to make it solid proof.
Edited by nagromme - 2/27/13 at 5:47pm
post #4 of 34
If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

Seriously, this isn't rocket science....
post #5 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

Seriously, this isn't rocket science....

But if you are trying to be known as the one who is doing something illegal it might be best to not turn it off and perhaps have the phone go on a trip (perhaps secretly in someone's bag) while you do your deed.

I seem to recall there was a Bourne move where they figured out which guy to hone in on because they were had turned off their phone during a certain time frame. Did I see that or am I making this up?

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #6 of 34
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post
If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

Seriously, this isn't rocket science....

 

Does it matter? According to Schmidt, they "pretty much know what you're thinking" anyway. 

 

Now all we need is for Clippy-esque helping software to become relevant again. "It looks like you're trying to cause mass mayhem. Would you like some help with that?"

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post #7 of 34

This is why career criminals use disposable phones.  They're not stupid enough to use a smartphone for all their crimes.

post #8 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

But if you are trying to be known as the one who is doing something illegal it might be best to not turn it off and perhaps have the phone go on a trip (perhaps secretly in someone's bag) while you do your deed.

I seem to recall there was a Bourne move where they figured out which guy to hone in on because they were had turned off their phone during a certain time frame. Did I see that or am I making this up?

I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.
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post #9 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.

Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.

There's still quite a bit of charge left even if the phone turned itself off. We'd lose all our data if the battery went completely dead. I don't think there's a little digital watch type battery like motherboards have to retain basic data when there's no power, but on second thought there just might be on phones with removable batteries. Oh and Abby is HOT
Edited by dasanman69 - 2/27/13 at 8:05pm
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"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
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post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

Seriously, this isn't rocket science....

 

use a prepaid, using cash sim which makes it harder to track via the Federally required tracking via the cell company. turn on passcode lock with an alphanumeric password and the whole 'erase after 10 attempts' on. plus icloud to remote wipe it after they snatch but before they get to a computer to try anything. sure it might not be perfect but it could make things harder. 

post #12 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.

 

not true. if you know what to do you can remove an iphone battery or at least disconnect it. really easy on a 4 series. get a pentalobe for like 5 bucks from Fixit.com for the back plate. triple zero driver for the battery connector plate. only thing you have to be careful about is static. but then again, if you do screw it up and it's under warranty get it replaced. just dont tell them you opened it yourself

post #13 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

not true. if you know what to do you can remove an iphone battery or at least disconnect it. really easy on a 4 series. get a pentalobe for like 5 bucks from Fixit.com for the back plate. triple zero driver for the battery connector plate. only thing you have to be careful about is static. but then again, if you do screw it up and it's under warranty get it replaced. just dont tell them you opened it yourself

I should have said easily done, I stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out.
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"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #14 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

There's still quite a bit of charge left even if the phone turned itself off. We'd lose all our data if the battery went completely dead. I don't think there's a little digital watch type battery like motherboards have to retain basic data when there's no power, but on second thought there just might be on phones with removable batteries. Oh and Abby is HOT

You're killing me today! You do not lose all your data by removing the battery. It' saved to NAND and the OS is very good about backing up constantly and writing all necessary changed to "disk" before the battery shuts down.


PS: This is a personal preference but I don't see what others see in Abby's looks. I love the character but don't find her attractive. Kate Beckinsale, now that's another story. I watched that horribly written Total Recall film because she was in it.

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post #15 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.

Did you see the latest Bourne movie with Jeremy Renner? That might be it. I'll try to look it up tomorrow simply because I have to know even if that means spending days combing through spy movies (you might have noticed I don't let things go 1biggrin.gif).

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #16 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

Seriously, this isn't rocket science....

 

You would think right?

post #17 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.

 

You would think the Department of Defense and Homeland Security would have those guys at NCIS arrested as many times as they "hack" into their databases. 

post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


You're killing me today! You do not lose all your data by removing the battery. It' saved to NAND and the OS is very good about backing up constantly and writing all necessary changed to "disk" before the battery shuts down.


PS: This is a personal preference but I don't see what others see in Abby's looks. I love the character but don't find her attractive. Kate Beckinsale, now that's another story. I watched that horribly written Total Recall film because she was in it.

 

She is one woman that has aged very well.  I became a fan since I saw the first Underworld movie.  She does latex proud.

post #19 of 34
I think this is an interesting article that puts in light how unwise criminals are to use iPhones or other smart phones. It's about a SIM & phone swapping system for criminals.

http://gawker.com/5878862

'Smart devices' constantly spy on their users, trusting remote data wipe to 'somewhere in the Cloud' is madness when your life may depend on the info not leaking to police (or rivals). A simple grounded tin can act as a sufficient faraday cage that prevents any signals getting into it, blocking the wipe in seconds of an arrest.

The iTunes backup is also another potential failure point, why use a device that logs everything in handy xml & SQLITE files?
post #20 of 34
Sooooo drug lords don't really use to watch The Wire, do they?
post #21 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

You're killing me today! You do not lose all your data by removing the battery. It' saved to NAND and the OS is very good about backing up constantly and writing all necessary changed to "disk" before the battery shuts down.


PS: This is a personal preference but I don't see what others see in Abby's looks. I love the character but don't find her attractive. Kate Beckinsale, now that's another story. I watched that horribly written Total Recall film because she was in it.

I'm a sucker for a girl that has bangs and especially if she's a brunette.
"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

federal agents first obtained the iPhone in the course of a warranted search, then secured another warrant before scanning the phone.

Yeah right! Who believes for a second that they didn't access the phone before applying for and being granted a warrant to do so??

Having worked for an emergency service before I know exactly the kind of culture that exists. They think they're above the law and who polices the police anyway?
post #23 of 34
Quote:
Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.

 

That was just typical TV show writing, using fake tech to advance the story.  

 

Abby said that even if the phone was turned off and the battery was dead, she could check its status because of a "trickle charge".  Trouble is, the radio wouldn't be working if the phone was in the"off" state, plus most phones won't even turn on if the battery is below a certain charge level.

 

Anyway, then she got back an "error code" that said his battery had been removed.  Uh huh.  I suppose you could create a custom phone with a battery door switch that sends a signal whenever it's opened, but I don't know of any such device. (Logging when the battery goes back in is easy.)

 

Upshot: It was fake, just like the idea that it takes x number of minutes to trace a call.  Landline and cell calls are logged for billing the moment they're made, and rough cell phone location is always known whenever the phone connects to a tower.  So hanging up right away won't prevent logging.   The only thing that takes time, is finding those entries in the logs.  If the carrier has made the effort to write some nice search and status tools, that could be very fast.


Edited by KDarling - 2/28/13 at 6:41am
post #24 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

That was just typical TV show writing, using fake tech to advance the story.  


Abby said that even if the phone was turned off and the battery was dead, she could check its status because of a "trickle charge".  Trouble is, the radio wouldn't be working if the phone was in the"off" state, plus most phones won't even turn on if the battery is below a certain charge level.

Anyway, then she got back an "error code" that said his battery had been removed.  Uh huh.  I suppose you could create a custom phone with a battery door switch that sends a signal whenever it's opened, but I don't know of any such device. (Logging when the battery goes back in is easy.)

Upshot: It was fake, just like the idea that it takes x number of minutes to trace a call.  Landline and cell calls are logged for billing the moment they're made, and rough cell phone location is always known whenever the phone connects to a tower.  So hanging up right away won't prevent logging.   The only thing that takes time, is finding those entries in the logs.  If the carrier has made the effort to write some nice search and status tools, that could be very fast.

I have a BB issued to me by my employer. It has frozen up on me and turning it off does not reboot the OS which means it's really going into a stand by mode than powering off, even when it powers down due to a dead battery it boots up rather quickly only when I actually remove the battery does the OS have to completely reboot.
"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

I have a BB issued to me by my employer. It has frozen up on me and turning it off does not reboot the OS which means it's really going into a stand by mode than powering off, even when it powers down due to a dead battery it boots up rather quickly 

 

Right, it's really a deep standby mode waiting for the "on" button.  Nothing runs, and the radios are off.

 

Meaning if the show character's phone was off, it could not be pinged.  And certainly neither the phone nor the network could give back an error code saying the battery had been removed!   At most, the network would note that it had no recent update to the home location register.

 

Quote:

only when I actually remove the battery does the OS have to completely reboot.

 

Right again.  If you remove the battery (or if it goes completely dead), the OS will have to completely reboot.

 

For several years I wrote Blackberry field applications, and I did special code to log radio information whenever there was an app comm error.  It was interesting to note how errors increased when the battery got very low, because the phone could not "talk" loud enough to stay connected if on the fringe of a heavily used cell.  So the data connection would go in and out, and sometimes time out.

 

Back on topic, I don't think the police should be able to scan our phones without warrants.  Too much personal stuff involved.

post #26 of 34

We need some super programmers or perhaps the device manufacturers, to create a way to instantly wipe the communication and data logs from portable devices. If it just left all of the programs or aps in place without any location data or messages then it would be saving us from big brother. All of us need this protection whether we know it or not.

With enough data from enough people, statistical information can predict our every move. This is profiling on the highest level. One day your choice of information sources will put you on a watch list just because you clicked on a few news pages with certain types of articles. With todays data tracking technology I'm sure you could imagine how this could be done.

Google already is giving us search results based on the information they have gathered from our previous web surfing. What lengths do you think Homeland Security will go to with huge funding behind them?

post #27 of 34
Wow, this is scary.

I'll forego all of my comments about the legality (or lack thereof ) of any authorities accessing a cell phone.

But is it really possible for them to do this if you have taken all appropriate precautions?

For example, I use a passcode lock. I have set the phone to wipe after 10 failed passcode attempts. I have remote-wipe enabled. I do NOT back up my phone to iCloud, I only back it up to my Mac. My Mac is password-protected and I use Filevault 2 on the entire drive. All of my backup drives are similarly encrypted.

Given all of those precautions, is it STILL possible for them to hack into and gain access to my iPhone's contents?

I have nothing of significance to hide (except personal-stuff like medical records, calendar, letters, etc.), and I am a firm believer in protecting our country. However in these days of warrantless searches, detaining and keeping people in custody without due process (and many other violations of the Constitution), I am really uncomfortable with the amount of access the gov't has into anyone's life.
post #28 of 34
Quote:
Given all of those precautions, is it STILL possible for them to hack into and gain access to my iPhone's contents?

Hmm maybe. The question is do the men in black helicopters have a good reason to try to access your data?

 

You have to realise that if your machine is online it could be exploitable when you are using iTunes to backup the data may be accessible to the outside world, or to any device on that network. Your ISP may be compromised, your iPhone may also suffer from the 'emergency dialler hack'…

 

Also consider that passwords can be stored in RAM, which should be encrypted. RAM remains readable so long as it is powered, however it can be frozen, removed quickly & read on another machine, then combed for passwords etc. RAM may also be accessed & edited via 'DMA firewire hacks' too. Sleep images also store a lot of 'state info' that could be important. (start googling :^)) 

 

My guess is the encryption should stop 'them' reading the RAM contents, however I expect 'they' know a lot more tricks than me.

 

Depending on how paranoid you are you can take extra precautions to limit possible access, in fact the NSA has produced a few guides to secure OS X & iOS. 

https://www.nsa.gov/ia/mitigation_guidance/security_configuration_guides/operating_systems.shtml#AppleMac

 

They don't seem to have ones for 10.7 or 10.8, do you trust their advice? 

There was also a company making similar guides called 'A Corsaire White Paper: Securing Mac OS X' but they also are getting old now.

 

I suspect it would be easier for 'them' to 'rendition' you & get you to give up your passwords anyway. If 'they' can get Stuxnet into an Iranian facility your medical files & bank balance may not be much of a challenge.

post #29 of 34

If your not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear. But make no mistake that by having a cellphone big brother might be watching. If need be your every move can and will be tracked.

post #30 of 34
Originally Posted by BUSHMAN4 View Post
If your not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear.

 

Up bhp bup, that's not a valid argument. 

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post #31 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Up bhp bup, that's not a valid argument. 

Sure it is. Are you worried about all the other ways law enforcement can spy on you?
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"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #32 of 34
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post
Sure it is. Are you worried about all the other ways law enforcement can spy on you?

 

Not really.

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post #33 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by David291 View Post

Given all of those precautions, is it STILL possible for them to hack into and gain access to my iPhone's contents?

 

Yes. There are multiple companies which sell phone forensic kits, from fairly simple and portable, to having the ability to work with even half-broken devices.

 

Check out an example here at Cellebrite doing an extensive iPhone extraction (skip to 1:20).  Pause at the directory listing at the end to see what is available for viewing.  Basically it reads the storage while in DFU mode.

 

 

They can extract the following types of information, both existing and previously deleted:

 

Decoded data: Call logs, Voicemails, Contact lists, Locations (WiFi, cell towers and GPS fixes), Images, Video files, Text messages (SMS), MMS, Emails, Notes, Installed applications and their usage, User dictionary, Calendar, Bluetooth devices pairing history, Maps cache
 
Application data: Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, Fring, MotionX, AIM, TigerText, Facebook Messenger, Twitterrific, Textfree, Google+, Facebook, Foursquare, Garmin, TomTom, Waze, TextNow, Dropbox, Yahoo Messenger, Ping Chat, Twitter, Touch (new ping chat), Find My iPhone, LinkedIn, iCQ, Kik Messenger, Google Maps, Kakaotalk, QIP, Evernote, Vkontakte, Mail.ru
 
Internet browser data: Safari, Opera Mini - bookmarks, history and cookies
 

They note that if they do not have your password, they cannot decode emails and keychain passwords.

 

post #34 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

Seriously, this isn't rocket science....

But if you are trying to be known as the one who is doing something illegal it might be best to not turn it off and perhaps have the phone go on a trip (perhaps secretly in someone's bag) while you do your deed.

I seem to recall there was a Bourne move where they figured out which guy to hone in on because they were had turned off their phone during a certain time frame. Did I see that or am I making this up?
You are correct about Bourne, I am pretty sure it was the Bourne Ultimatum, and there was a crooked CIA agent who against standard protocol had turned off his phone.
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