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View Full Version : iPhone users, a security question for you



vagough
05-08-2013, 03:20 AM
Hi all --

I want my main murder victim to have an iPhone, and I want it to be hard—not impossible, just hard—for the police to access his phone after he's found dead. Couple of questions for you:

--Is passcode lock something that you use?

--Are there other security apps out there that you use to keep unwanted people from accessing info on your iPhone either if you leave it lying around or if it gets lost?

Thanks in advance (from this non-smart phone user)!

melindamusil
05-08-2013, 05:52 AM
The short version:
1)Yes
2)Yes but I don't use them.

Longer:
The 4-digit passcode lock is reasonably secure. I'm certainly satisfied with it. However, there ARE quite a few apps available to increase security, and of course if you work at NORAD or something, I'm sure you would want those. Those can let you use the camera to take a picture of the thief, use the GPS to locate the phone, add additional passwords or layers of security, securely save your passwords to various online websites, filter email spam, and so on.

However, that passcode lock is pretty secure in itself. Here's a recent story of a person trying to access an ipad with a 4-digit passcode.
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2013/04/ipad-survives-ride-lodged-in-cars-bumper/
If you've got police, pretty much the only way they're going to get past that passcode is by getting a warrant and getting the passcode from Apple or the cell phone carrier. The request for a warrant could easily become caught up in bureaucracy, forcing them to wait a few days/weeks.

kuwisdelu
05-08-2013, 06:00 AM
If you've got police, pretty much the only way they're going to get past that passcode is by getting a warrant and getting the passcode from Apple or the cell phone carrier. The request for a warrant could easily become caught up in bureaucracy, forcing them to wait a few days/weeks.

Unfortunately, that's not quite true. (http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2011/01/why-you-should-always-encrypt-your-smartphone/2/) They can't force you to give them the passcode, but it's not very difficult to get past a 4-digit passcode using forensic tools, and in many states the police will do just that, without obtaining a warrant. This is being challenged in court, of course, but it's happened in many places, and some courts have found it unconstitutional and others have not. Using a complex password (which is an option on any iPhone) will make it more difficult to decrypt, however.

Medievalist
05-08-2013, 06:20 AM
If it's a standard a four-character passcode?

Ten minutes or less to crack. And if you've got the right tools, you don't have to crack the passcode.

And that's all I'm saying about that.

jclarkdawe
05-08-2013, 06:22 AM
You're going at this question the wrong way. Start with what are they looking for on the phone? Phone records are easier to get from the phone company, for instance.

Next question is where does the person back up their phone? Many iPhone users use iCloud, which is easily available through Apple and a subpoena.

Unless your phone user is seriously into security, hacking an iPhone isn't hard. And nearly every phone has a couple of backdoors for law enforcement to get in.

How long do you want to delay the police?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Buffysquirrel
05-08-2013, 04:19 PM
I don't use the passcode lock on mine. I figure it's easy to break so why bother? In my time-travel story they're trying to get past the lock because they have the phone and some bones and they want to know who the phone belongs to. So they take it to Forensics people et voila.

Maybe the criminal used the Where's my iPhone? app to remotely wipe the phone. So they get in and there's...nothing.

jclarkdawe
05-08-2013, 04:43 PM
Wipe my phone just stops a casual hacker. It's easy to work around.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Buffysquirrel
05-08-2013, 06:15 PM
Wipe my phone just stops a casual hacker. It's easy to work around.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Wouldn't slow them down at all? Eh, well, at least you didn't say the scenario I used in my book was ridiculous! lol

Medievalist
05-08-2013, 06:26 PM
Wipe my phone just stops a casual hacker. It's easy to work around.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

The factory reset zeros out then re-writes.

Medievalist
05-08-2013, 06:27 PM
I don't use the passcode lock on mine. I figure it's easy to break so why bother?

It isn't designed to stop a hacker; rather, it's primary purpose is to prevent use of the phone as a phone to make calls and purchases.

Buffysquirrel
05-08-2013, 09:22 PM
It isn't designed to stop a hacker; rather, it's primary purpose is to prevent use of the phone as a phone to make calls and purchases.

I see. Well, I think the lack of credit might do that atm :D.

vagough
05-09-2013, 04:59 AM
If it's a standard a four-character passcode?
Ten minutes or less to crack. And if you've got the right tools, you don't have to crack the passcode.
And that's all I'm saying about that.

Got it. Thanks!


You're going at this question the wrong way. Start with what are they looking for on the phone? Phone records are easier to get from the phone company, for instance.
Next question is where does the person back up their phone? Many iPhone users use iCloud, which is easily available through Apple and a subpoena.
Unless your phone user is seriously into security, hacking an iPhone isn't hard. And nearly every phone has a couple of backdoors for law enforcement to get in.
How long do you want to delay the police?

Best of luck,
Jim Clark-Dawe

Great points, Jim. I hadn't thought of it that way. Sounds like more mulling time is needed on this angle.

To all who responded, many thanks!