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Cellphones IT

Criminals Remote-Wiping Cell Phones 191

Posted by samzenpus
from the this-phone-will-self-destruct dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Crafty criminals are increasingly using the remote wipe feature on the Apple iPhone and other business handsets, such as RIM's BlackBerry, to destroy incriminating evidence, the head of the UK's Serious Fraud Office Keith Foggon has warned. Foggon told silicon.com that the move away from PCs towards using mobile phones was causing a headache for crime fighters who were struggling to keep up with the fast pace of new handsets and platforms churned out by the mobile industry."
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Criminals Remote-Wiping Cell Phones

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  • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:03PM (#24867283)
    ...who took one look at this and thought "good."
    • by kabocox (199019)

      ...who took one look at this and thought "good."

      I did. I thought hmm, I'd want all the data loaded from a CF card that would be set to wipe if either an incorrect or emergency password were entered. Heck, you could even have a secure CF card that was guaranteed to wipe once its emergency code was sent. Basically, you've got to reformat and copy from another card if you want to reuse it. Or if you really want to go scifi you could have the card and phone turn to dust once the emergency code is entered.

      Heck,

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:35PM (#24867597)
      Yeah, after the bean burrito special I really wish I could wipe remotely too.
    • Indeed. And this has very little to do with the remote wipe feature. If I have access to a laptop, I can wipe the data there, too. If police get access to my smartphone, they should be able to turn on "airplane mode" and prevent anyone from wiping it.

      In fact, it might be a bit suspect for them not to disable the wireless connection as their first act. Imagine if they confiscated your laptop and then immediately connected it to the Internet and left it connected. How could they claim to have secured an

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      Just days ago, I tried so hard to explain why insecure smart phone can be the most evil thing and one can simply own your real life, identity with it. That happens on a technical site. I just couldn't explain to iPhone owners why their data or simply the smart device itself matters.

      There are also opposite camp of idiots who thinks running pirated antivirus with root access to their device is a security solution!

      I think the "phone" in "smartphone" confuses people. If they understand it is a mini laptop with

  • Good. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mactard (1223412) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:04PM (#24867295)
    That just means the police need to work a little harder to make a case. It doesn't make it impossible though. The next hope is that they don't outlaw these devices or something. The Brits are a bit jumpy.
  • News At 11 (Score:5, Funny)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:09PM (#24867353) Homepage
    Criminals destroy evidence that could be used against them. News At 11.
    • by Nymz (905908) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:01PM (#24867869) Journal
      Let's give the 11 o'clock news some credit. I'm sure they would realize this is computer crime, and use the more accurate and appropriate term. "Hackers destroy evidence that could be used against them."
    • I actually RTFAd, and there's no evidence whatsoever in the article of criminals actually, you know, doing this sort of thing. It's a forensics expert saying that this cell phone feature "could be exploited by lawbreakers." Gee. And he even says it's not a big problem if it actually ever does happen as it's easily countered by any forensics shop: "He added the unit took precautions to guard against the feature being exploited. 'Because we isolate the devices immediately, and never reconnect them to their

    • And after commercial break: Criminals give new uses to existing technology! :(

  • photos (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bbdd (733681) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:13PM (#24867405)

    Don't forget to view the photos. I thought the photos were more interesting than the article.

    http://software.silicon.com/security/0,39024655,39270417,00.htm [silicon.com]

    • Encryption (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Boogaroo (604901)

      Here's an interesting bit too. Looks like they try simple password protection breaking, but...

      The team does not attempt to crack high-grade encryption, relying instead on the threat of a prison sentence for individuals refusing to hand over passwords or decrypted files.

      • Re:Encryption (Score:4, Informative)

        by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @01:47AM (#24870089)

        Except that a Vermont judge recently ruled [cnet.com] that password(s) contained in one's head are protected under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. [wikipedia.org] just like any other information in your head. It was discussed right here [slashdot.org] on Slashdot.

        As for threatening law enforcement officers: say nothing, know your rights, and keep your cool. The law enforcement officer is NOT your friend and you shouldn't speak to them or answer their questions. You have a right to remain silent and you should use it. BTW every attorney that I have ever heard opine on the subject has said that it is better to say nothing than to answer some of the questions but not others. Don't let them scare you into giving up your rights with their Gestapo crap. Remember, if they are questioning you, especially if they are threatening, then there is NO way that you are NOT going to be held (i.e. arrested) for a while anyway until the matter either goes before a judge or they have to let you go (48 hours max w/out cause before any attorney can force them to let you out), so don't be dumb and tip your hand right at the start. Also, remember that if you ever get your equipment back then you can never use it or those passwords again (who knows what bugs they may have planted before releasing it back to you). You basically have to wipe and start over on new hardware.

        Disclaimer: IANAL so if you find yourself in a situation like the one above find yourself one that you can trust and let them do the talking, but remember that the police are NOT your friends.

        • by stewwy (687854)

          Except that a Vermont judge recently ruled [cnet.com] that password(s) contained in one's head are protected under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. [wikipedia.org] just like any other information in your head. It was discussed right here [slashdot.org] on Slashdot.

          As for threatening law enforcement officers: say nothing, know your rights, and keep your cool. The law enforcement officer is NOT your friend and you shouldn't speak to them or answer their questions. You have a right to remain silent and you should use it. BTW every attorney that I have ever heard opine on the subject has said that it is better to say nothing than to answer some of the questions but not others. Don't let them scare you into giving up your rights with their Gestapo crap. Remember, if they are questioning you, especially if they are threatening, then there is NO way that you are NOT going to be held (i.e. arrested) for a while anyway until the matter either goes before a judge or they have to let you go (48 hours max w/out cause before any attorney can force them to let you out), so don't be dumb and tip your hand right at the start. Also, remember that if you ever get your equipment back then you can never use it or those passwords again (who knows what bugs they may have planted before releasing it back to you). You basically have to wipe and start over on new hardware.

          Disclaimer: IANAL so if you find yourself in a situation like the one above find yourself one that you can trust and let them do the talking, but remember that the police are NOT your friends.

          yeah right but its not 48hours in the uk anymore.....you try keeping quiet for 42DAYS

      • by jimicus (737525)

        Here's an interesting bit too. Looks like they try simple password protection breaking, but...

        The team does not attempt to crack high-grade encryption, relying instead on the threat of a prison sentence for individuals refusing to hand over passwords or decrypted files.

        Yep, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act gives them that power. If they believe you know how to get access to something that they can't (eg. you know a password), you are obliged to tell them or you face 3 years in prison.

        You'll note that the wording of the above paragraph turns "innocent until proven guilty" on its head. Furthermore, how on Earth can anyone prove that they have forgotten (or indeed never knew) a password?

        There was another clause to the effect "tell anyone that you've been coerced

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazntwich (208070) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:25PM (#24867481)

    If the only evidence the police have on said 'criminal' is a string of bits on his cell phone, they probably didn't have much of a case anyway, and likely shouldn't be arresting this criminal.

    I genuinely hope small time 'criminals' continue getting these sorts of victories to the point that our police forces are forced to admit they have failed in the war on consensual acts between adults. The change certainly isn't going to come about while our various wars continue to make a tidy profit for those at the top.

    • by Sockatume (732728)
      What about eBay scammers? Extortionists? Kidnappers? Somebody who just won't stop sending you a picture of their wang? In some cases communcations evidence can be very significant indeed.
      • by Sockatume (732728)
        Heck, the article notes that smartphones are used by "enterprise", so that's corporate crime in there as well.
      • by Rix (54095)

        I imagine police forces would have a lot more cooperation on those things if so many people weren't worried that they'd turn on them for smoking the wrong thing.

      • by pitchpipe (708843)

        Somebody who just won't stop sending you a picture of their wang?

        What's wrong with a good Wang? [wang2200.org]

  • by Dieppe (668614) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:31PM (#24867551) Homepage

    ...that could be used against them?

    Honestly, if the only case the prosecution has is possible evidence on an iPhone, their case is pretty shaky to begin with. Do REAL WORLD investigation you Nazi-a-holes, not worry about virtual evidence that you might or might not be able to get to!

    • Agreed; they make it sound like such a hardship and yet they can't even point to a single instance of a criminal ever actually doing this (plus they name an easy fix in the first few paragraphs of the article). Gee, guys, think how hard it must have been for investigators before iPhones, when they had to actually look for physical evidence and talk to complaining witnesses in order to document crimes.

  • If you are really paranoid, you'll want your laptop or cell phone to:

    • encrypt everything but the bootstrap code
    • store part of the encryption key off-device, such as on a memory stick
    • store part of the encryption key on-device and destroy it after a certain number of failed access attempts or after a specified time period since the last authorized access
    • the on-device key could not be copied without tampering with the device
    • tamper-resistant, preferably destroying the on-device part of the key if the device is ta
  • Given that we have crimes which are commited pretty much entirely via communications (eBay scams, 419 scams, harrasment, extortion, stock mischief, etc. etc.) should it be particularly surprising that some forensic scientists are interested in preserving the evidence that the communications took place?
  • Are these guys terrible at their jobs, or do the iPhone and Blackberry come with a way to remotely execute "shred"? Most of the data that is remotely "wiped" should be perfectly salvageable....
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BSDevil (301159)

      If you manually enable "Content Protection" on your BlackBerry, doing a Security Wipe will take on the order of hours, and will overwrite the data several times with different patterns to the point that it's not recoverable by anyone, even RIM (if you don't have that mode enabled, a Security Wipe will only erase user-specific information, and it would be relatively trivial to recover it).

      If you're on a BES (meaning your BlackBerry was issued and is controlled by your workplace), your BlackBerry administrato

    • Shred is for HD's, not flash. Learn the difference. It seems you are terrible at your job if you do not know the difference.
  • by Ilgaz (86384) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:44PM (#24868209) Homepage

    Sorry it sounds like a "In Soviet Russia" thing but it is true.

    Symbian/WinMobile smart phones have tools to lock the handset remotely or in case of new Kaspersky antivirus/security or other 3rd solutions, you can remotely instruct phone to delete all personal data irrecoverably and lock itself. I am almost sure Blackberry, being an enterprise focused device must have similar option.

    Once the Apple decided not to allow background running processes, they lost that possible solution. Not just they don't allow anyone to implement it, they don't implement it themselves too.

    It is a completely fool safe thing. User sends a previously set SMS to device, device locks itself. Or in Kaspersky case, it doesn't just lock itself, it wipes its data and optionally transforms itself to a white hat (for you) rootkit/trojan and sends the number of first SIM card plugged to device to previously set number.

    • by nxtw (866177) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:14PM (#24868513)

      Symbian/WinMobile smart phones have tools to lock the handset remotely or in case of new Kaspersky antivirus/security or other 3rd solutions, you can remotely instruct phone to delete all personal data irrecoverably and lock itself. I am almost sure Blackberry, being an enterprise focused device must have similar option.

      Remote wipe is a feature of BlackBerry/BES and Windows Mobile/Exchange. No third-party software is needed, unless your phone isn't connected to a BES/Exchange server. When the phone receives the wipe signal, all data stored on the device will be wiped.

      The iPhone has remote wipe, but I don't think it has encryption of any of the content stored on the device.

      BlackBerry has content encryption and the latest Windows Mobile (6.1) has encryption for the entire user-writable storage area. The key is stored on the device, encrypted with a password. BlackBerry overwrites the key in RAM when the device is locked (that is, when the device is inactive for a certain amount of time or when it is placed in its holster); since WM's encryption operates at a lower level, the key does stay in memory while the device is powered on. Either way, cutting power to the RAM will erase the decrypted copy of the key. Both support encryption of storage cards as well.

      As long as the device is set to automatically lock itself out and there is no way to bypass the lock screen [engadgetmobile.com], there's not a whole lot you can do to a fully encrypted WM6.1 device without resorting to a RAM attack [tgdaily.com] or finding a weakness in the implementation. Since the BlackBerry will erase the unencrypted copy of the key when the device is not active, it's secure against searching for the key in RAM, too.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        I don't know about BES as much, but in Exchange, you can trigger the remote wipe function two ways. The user can do it by logging into Outlook Web Access (usually www.blarf.com/owa), hitting options, finding their device and selecting it to be wiped. The Exchange admin can also do it from the management console. You get a confirmation once the device is wiped, so you can delete the device from the "wipe as soon as it connects" list and repurpose if you recover it.

        Exchange's wipe works because the device

  • I love my Treo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zorque (894011) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:12PM (#24868495)

    I have a program on there that'll reformat the hard drive and zero everything else out, as well as disabling the SIM card, if I text it a certain phrase. Of course, it isn't all that helpful if whoever gets ahold of my phone just turns the radio off or removes the antenna so it can't receive that message, but I guess I have to count on criminals not knowing much about PalmOS since it's apparently a dying platform or something.

    • by tekrat (242117)

      What program is that? (Link please).
      I love the idea of being able to program my phone to self destruct if needed.
      This way if my phone is ever stolen, I can immediately brick it.

  • It seems that law enforcement sees itself as more and more godlike when it comes to assume power over mere mortals they are investigating. This arrogance has to be stopped dead, because if left to themselves, they will expect total compliance and disclosure upon request to anyone without any safeguard whatsoever against abuse.

    We have to resist indomitably, in order to drive the point home that our information is not a plaything to be rummaged through at will; if the administration of justice suffers for it,

    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      Have you reached the point yet, as I have, where the next person who says, "If you aren't doing something wrong, what are you afraid of" is liable to get a quick kick in the arse in lieu of an extended lesson in civics, freedom, rights and responsibilities?

      • by Pig Hogger (10379)

        For more than thirty years I have endured my sheep of parents getting shafted left and right, and whenever I wanted to point out they were shafted and that they happenned to have right, I was laughed-off.

  • A quick history lesson.
    Most of the UK's 'cell' tech came from ex Government Communications Headquarters workers.
    It was designed on the lessons learned by the UK gov in 1970's in Ireland.
    Interception, tracking, impersonation.
    The idea that the UK gov ever lost this 'network' is really lol.

    The work and deaths of Adamo Bove, head of security at Telecom Italia
    and Costas Tsalikides, Vodafone's network planning manager in Greece,
    show that all aspects of cell phone use are wide open to all.
  • that the world isn't completely a police state, yet. Let them figure out how to fix their 'problem'.

  • Automatic wipe when certain *signals* aren't received periodically???

    Maybe the crooks already thought of it...

    If not - don't read this - my idea has been stored in printed form, in a sealed mason jar, under the front porch.

  • Foggon believes that the unit's years of experience in unearthing evidence from everything from 186s to MacBooks will mean it will have a key role to play in any central UK e-crime policing unit.

    186s? That will come in very handy if they happen to catch a criminal mastermind happens to be carrying around a BBC Master 512, Tandy 2000 or Wang Office Assistant in his pocket.

  • by BigGar' (411008) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @11:35AM (#24874547) Homepage

    Since every time something like this comes out all kinds of FUD pops up about data erasure, etc...
    A classic paper on secure data deletion & recovery:
    http://www.cs.cornell.edu/people/clarkson/secdg/papers.sp06/secure_deletion.pdf [cornell.edu]

    Enjoy

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