By Brian X. Chen
September 11, 2008
Your iPhone is watching you.
If you've got an iPhone, pretty much everything you have done on your
handset has been temporarily stored as a screenshot that hackers or
forensics experts could eventually recover, according to a renowned
iPhone hacker who exposed the security flaw in a webcast Thursday.
While demonstrating how to break the iPhone's passcode lock in a
webcast, iPhone hacker and data-forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski
explained that the popular handset snaps a screenshot of your most
recent action -- regardless of whether it's sending a text message,
e-mailing or browsing a web page -- in order to cache it. This is purely
for aesthetic purposes: When an iPhone user taps the Home button, the
window of the application you have open shrinks and disappears. In order
to create that shrinking effect, the iPhone snaps a screenshot,
The phone presumably deletes the image after you close the application.
But anyone who understands data is aware that in most cases, deletion
does not permanently remove files from a storage device. Therefore,
forensics experts have used this security flaw to successfully nab
criminals who have been accused of rape, murder or drug deals, Zdziarski
"There's no way to prevent it," Zdziarski said during the webcast. "I'm
kind of divided on it. I hope Apple fixes it because it's a significant
privacy leak, but at the same time it's been useful for investigating
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