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Safely Erase Your iPhone Before You Sell It

A while back I posted about a guy discovering that through forensics you could get tons of data off a used iPhone. There was a method to wipe iPhone data, but it require jailbreaking the iPhone and then doing a much of command line stuff. I doubt the average consumer did it.

So now the same man has delivered a much simpler system. Jonathan Zdziarsk has created an app for the iTunes store that securely erases your data from the iPhone. It is called, of course, iErase.

Zdziarsk describes just how easy it is to use:

Q. I am selling my iPhone / iPod. What should I do?
A. Before running iErase, you should reset all of the information on the iPhone. The most thorough way to do this is with a full restore, or a quick way is to “Reset all Settings” on the phone. The restore process only performs a quick format, however, and doesn’t wipe everything, and the “Reset all Settings” process only deletes your personalized files, and doesn’t even format the device. In both cases, you’ll want to follow up your restore by running iErase. Once your personal data is removed – keychain passwords, configuration files, email, etc., iErase will then wipe over all of that to ensure it is beyond recovery.

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Wipe That iPhone Before You Sell It

I mentioned before that the data on your iPhone can be recovered. That is still true. There is no proven method to securely wipe the iPhone as of this writing.

However, the same man who wrote the scary forensic tool for the iPhone is letting people in on how he prepares items for resale:

* Perform a full restore, but be sure to set the device up as a “new phone”, rather than restore from a backup (of course). This destroys the live file system only, but isn’t really necessary. I do this to be extra safe that no writes to the device occur after wiping (and if they do, will not include any of my personal data).
* Jailbreak the device using something like iLiberty+ and obtain shell access via ssh.
* Find a copy of ‘umount’ for the iPhone. This can be found on the RAM disk, or in other places. Don’t ask me for it. Now force both mount points into read-only mode:

# umount -f /private/var
# mount -o ro /private/var
# mount -o ro /

NOTE: The GUI will be non-responsive when /private/var is mounted read-only, so be sure not to try and use it.

* Wipe both partitions clean by copying /dev/zero over them. Ideally, /dev/random would be better, but it will heat up the CPU considerably and take a much longer period of time. Unless you are trying to hide information from the CIA or some other organization with the resources to perform low-level NAND recovery, a single /dev/zero wipe will suffice:

# cat /dev/zero > /dev/rdisk0s2; cat /dev/zero > /dev/rdisk0s1

* After complete, force the device into recovery mode (Home + Power until “Connect to iTunes”) and then perform another full restore.
* If you are paranoid about a low-level NAND recovery, use /dev/random and repeat these steps about seven times – or simply take a sledge hammer to the device.

To find out more you should visit his website. Remember, it is your identity, and you only get one for free so keep it safe.

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Read This Before You Sell Your Old iPhone for the 3G iPhone

Jonathan Zdziarski has revealed that the iPhone can’t delete personal data, in fact, it keeps tons of important stuff that could lead to identity theft, among other things. Right now his forensic tools are available only to Law Enforcement officials, but he plans to release it to the public. This means that anyone willing to do bad things can get your personal info off the iPhone. Think you can totally wipe your iPhone? Unlikely, even Apple and AT&T don’t clean the iPhone properly.iPhone recovered personal information

A verified detective from the Oregon State Police notified me this afterrnoon that an out-of-the-box refurbished iPhone he purchased contained recoverable personal data including email, personal photos, and even financial information which he was able to recover using my forensic toolkit.

The image to the left is one piece of that personal info that was recovered, posted only because it doesn’t reveal extremely sensitive info. Looks scary to me.

Right now there just isn’t a way to safely delete your personal data from the iPhone. Remember this as you try to unload your old iPhone in the wake of the new 3G iPhone that will probably be coming soon.

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