iPhones have Eyes

On September 12, 2008, in apple, forensics, by Eugene

Here’s an interesting story of unintended consequences. iPhone users, you know how when you press the Home button, the screen you’re looking at shrinks away as the main menu comes up? Well, that’s a pretty simple graphics trick to do, but it does require treating the current screen as an image. So, each time the iPhone needs to perform that user interface magic, it takes a screen shot of whatever you happen to be doing.

That basically means that there is a pretty good record of all your activity throughout the iPhone, including stuff you do in Safari, Mail, or any other apps. In theory, the screen shots are only temporary and get deleted automatically. But just like on any other computer storage device, deleting data usually does not really mean it’s gone.

The article below talks about how computer forensics investigators have been using this unintended consequence to their advantage. It’s actually helped them discover critical evidence in some pretty serious cases.

But from a personal privacy stand point, this kinda sucks. Assuming Apple wants to keep this pretty feature around, one solution would be to securely wipe the screen shot as soon as it’s done being used. Another possibility is to make sure that the image is always written to the same file and location on disk, so that you can only easily recover the most recent one. Anyway, I have a feeling this issue will stick around for a while, so just be aware of the consequence.

IPhone Takes Screenshots of Everything You Do | Gadget Lab from Wired.com.


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