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Thursday, April 21, 2011

iOS Data ‘Glitch’ Was Already Known And Being Used By Law Enforcement


Turns out I wasn’t being so paranoid in saying that the iOS 4 data ‘glitch’ might have been Apple’s way of helping law enforcement circumvent the subpoena's that are normally necessary when investigating someone's data.

According to a young man by the name of Alex Levinson who works with computer forensics, the story that broke yesterday about Apple tracking users location data, wasn’t news to people working in the his field. He posted on his blog 3 major issues with the new ‘discovery’.

Levinson’s first beef is with people thinking that Apple is collecting the data, he wants to emphasize that Apple does not ‘harvest’ the data from your device, he says the data is collected by iOS mostly for applications running on the phone that need it for such things. You can see how this makes sense, especially if you’ve used Foursquare or Geo-tagged a Tweet.

His second beef is  that the data is neither new, nor hidden. He states that before the iOS 4 was storing the information on consolidated.db., previous versions of the operating system held the data on a file called h-cells.plist.

Third, Levinson is angry that know one in the major media noticed that this ‘discovery’ was published by him and Sean Morrissey months ago in a book they wrote called iOS Forensic Analysis. Not only that but the company that he works for Katana Forensics, has had a program that does the same thing Warden’s does and then some which is currently being used by law-enforcement in computer forensics investigations. Which leads me….

Back to my paranoid cap, if this has been known for some time and been around since before iOS 4 that proves it’s not a ‘glitch’ as some have rumored, but rather it’s intentional data collection done for a purpose. Although Levinson gives a good reason for the data being collected (for use by applications) it still dosen’t make much sense to me that the data is being collected for extended periods of time. I know some apps need to know your current location. but I don’t know of any app that needs to know where you were 6-12 months ago, I do know a lot of police and other law enforcement that would love to know that in order to build a case, and it would be pretty helpful to them to not have to pay for it or go through those annoying subpoenas.

Just thought I’d feed the paranoia wheel a little. As a side note I found a little interesting bit of information in my research, T-Mobile is the on U.S cell phone service provider that dosen’t keep a detailed user data base persistently. It’s not that they don’t want to, they just cant do it for technical reasons.

Until Apple makes it easy to take out their battery, I’m going to have suspicions.

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