Apple Unable to Restore Data From iPhone of Florida Teen Lost at Sea

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Apple has been unsuccessful in its attempts to retrieve data from a waterlogged iPhone that belonged to one of two Florida teens who were lost at sea last summer, reports ABC News affiliate WPBF 25.

14-year-old Austin Stephanos' iPhone 6 was found in an abandoned boat off the Bermuda coast in March, eight months after he and friend Perry Cohen, also 14, went missing during a fishing expedition that began at Palm Beach County, Florida, in June 2015.


The two boys' parents, who had been locked in a court battle over the iPhone's fate, recently agreed to hand it over to Apple after the company said it would do everything it could to recover information from it in the hope that it would shed light on the circumstances of the teens' disappearance.

With the iPhone in Apple's possession, a dedicated forensics team disassembled the damaged device, cleaned its components and performed a chemical report as part of an exhaustive diagnostics and repair process. But despite the team of engineers working "around the clock", Apple has been unable to glean any data from it.

The news was released by Austin's father, Blu Stephanos, via a statement read by the family's attorney, Michael Pike. "Although they were unable to restore the phone to a functional state, I want to thank Apple, Inc. for their hard work and generous assistance," Stephanos said.

"If the FBI turned to Apple when they needed help, I see no reason to doubt that every possible means was employed to get Austin's phone working again. It's our understanding that Apple had a team assigned to the iPhone around the clock, and for that we are truly grateful."

Stephanos' statement went on to suggest he would keep the iPhone as a memento of his son, but the parents of Perry Cohen seem intent on exploring other options.

Pam Cohen, Perry's mother, issued a subsequent statement which likewise thanked Apple for its efforts, but she also claimed that Apple had offered to hand the phone to other experts in the field who may be able to pick up where Apple left off and continue the work.

"We look forward to working cooperatively with Austin's family toward this transition," said Cohen. "We are not giving up on the iPhone's potential for evidence until all viable efforts have been exhausted."

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Article Link: Apple Unable to Restore Data From iPhone of Florida Teen Lost at Sea
 
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Shirasaki

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So, what FBI would think? Asking help from Apple next time as long as next case comes out? Or just cease struggle and show some brief respect to our privacy?
 

MH01

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That's a shame, you have to feel for the families here . A slight hope extinguished, though there are companies that specialise in data retrieval that might still have some Sucess
 
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miknos

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The forensic company that unlocked the terrorist's phone could contact the family and take a look at the phone.

I guess they won't because if they can't decrypt the content, the family will reveal it.
 

peterdevries

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The forensic company that unlocked the terrorist's phone could contact the family and take a look at the phone.

I guess they won't because if they can't decrypt the content, the family will reveal it.
This is not about unlocking or decrypting. This is about getting a water-damaged device back to work. The forensic company will not have any additional value here.
 

captain cadet

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This is not about unlocking or decrypting. This is about getting a water-damaged device back to work. The forensic company will not have any additional value here.
Water damage is a complete killer, I dropped a phone in the sea a few years back and it dried out and worked for about 3 weeks longer before stopped working again. I opened it up to find that all the wires had corroded and there were a few places that they were touching...
New phone time
 

x-evil-x

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All the more reason to start pushing waterproof phones. Not sure if days that far under the ocean would help though.
 

69Mustang

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In between a rock and a hard place
Water damage is a complete killer, I dropped a phone in the sea a few years back and it dried out and worked for about 3 weeks longer before stopped working again. I opened it up to find that all the wires had corroded and there were a few places that they were touching...
New phone time
Fresh water is bad enough. Salt water? That phone didn't stand a chance. Sorry for the family, but realistically there was little hope of recovery.
 

PracticalMac

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Salt water is death of anything electrical/mechanical. Even stainless steel will corrode in high salt content.
Even a Galaxy 7 would not last much longer.

The reason is salt is an excellent electrolyte, and the dozens of dissimilar metals in a phone will cause rampant electrolytic corrosion. Battery may even accelerate the corrosion.

Now, IF the memory chip was not breached, it may be possible to hook it into a new motherboard, but that requires robotic precision removing of outer case and attaching microcosmic leads, something I doubt Apple has because they work with components, not manufacturing IC chips.
They could ask foundries like Intel, AMD, etc for help,
 
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miknos

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This is not about unlocking or decrypting. This is about getting a water-damaged device back to work. The forensic company will not have any additional value here.
There's cases of people recovering cameras (SD cards to be more precise) and recover all the data.

I was expecting the chips (ram?) to have certain resistance from water.
 

Amazing Iceman

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There's cases of people recovering cameras (SD cards to be more precise) and recover all the data.

I was expecting the chips (ram?) to have certain resistance from water.
It's not just water, it's sea water. A powerful corrosive; just look at the photo showing the back of the phone.
[doublepost=1463066145][/doublepost]
Salt water is death of anything electrical/mechanical. Even stainless steel will corrode in high salt content.
Even a Galaxy 7 would not last much longer.

The reason is salt is an excellent electrolyte, and the dozens of dissimilar metals in a phone will cause rampant electrolytic corrosion. Battery may even accelerate the corrosion.

Now, IF the memory chip was not breached, it may be possible to hook it into a new motherboard, but that requires robotic precision removing of outer case and attaching microcosmic leads, something I doubt Apple has because they work with components, not manufacturing IC chips.
They could ask foundries like Intel, AMD, etc for help,
If they add nickel to the outer shell, it may not corrode, but that doesn't prevent all the other components from corroding.
 
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cale508

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What I don't understand is, and correct me if I'm wrong, how this iPhone is gold with a black display. Or these are 2 different iPhone(s)?
 

jonnysods

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This is so sad for the family, the unknown is torturous. As a father of three, I can't even begin to put myself in their shoes.

And the hard thing about the phone is that it was covered in sea water. The longer your leave it, surely the salt will eat away at the internals rendering it more useless.
 

Richdmoore

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Water damage is a complete killer, I dropped a phone in the sea a few years back and it dried out and worked for about 3 weeks longer before stopped working again. I opened it up to find that all the wires had corroded and there were a few places that they were touching...
New phone time
My understanding is that after a cvr/fdr (airplane "black box") is recovered from water/ocean it is stored in a container of water until it can be properly cleaned just before trying to recover the data. It is said to help prevent corrosion or other problems that might prevent data retrieval.

I wonder the condition of the phone when found on the boat (submurged in water, rain exposure only etc) and if any additional precaution to preserve the electronics were taken.
 

peterdevries

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There's cases of people recovering cameras (SD cards to be more precise) and recover all the data.

I was expecting the chips (ram?) to have certain resistance from water.
Sure, but Apple's home engineers are the best placed to get that information out. They know the technology and all its intricacies. A third party always hass less information about this than the original producer.
 

PracticalMac

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Sure, but Apple's home engineers are the best placed to get that information out. They know the technology and all its intricacies. A third party always hass less information about this than the original producer.
SD is sealed with large contacts, robust.
The memory chip in phone is soldered in with tiny leads or pins that could be corroded though.
It would take a foundry level organization to work with the IC core itself.
 

gnasher729

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Nov 25, 2005
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Couldnt they just restore a working iPhone from the kids latest iCloud backup?
They want information that might be on the phone what happened when the kids took the water to the sea. That wouldn't be in the backup.
 

FieldingMellish

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Sorry to say, but just look at that phone. Attempting the valiant effort to obtain data from that thing is similar to the fruitless search for survivors in a clearly flattened building. Everyone's hopes are up and then they're dashed. I had an iphone that got casually wet and it went bonkers.
 

thermodynamic

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So, what FBI would think? Asking help from Apple next time as long as next case comes out? Or just cease struggle and show some brief respect to our privacy?
Um, Apple has helped the FBI 70 times.

Apple has freely given source code to China, many times, even under the reason of security - if Apple can help China, it can help the USA too. I've posted numerous links enough times in the past, that's the sad reality: Apple is playing double standards.

Don't forget the privacy lawsuit from 2010 or so because Apple didn't give a damn about your privacy and what apps did with your data back then. It only cares about how it can profit from your data and doing as little work to protect it until pressured to do so. I'd bet real money there's a lot more that's open and you don't realize it.
 

Shirasaki

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May 16, 2015
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Um, Apple has helped the FBI 70 times.

Apple has freely given source code to China, many times, even under the reason of security - if Apple can help China, it can help the USA too. I've posted numerous links enough times in the past, that's the sad reality: Apple is playing double standards.

Don't forget the privacy lawsuit from 2010 or so because Apple didn't give a damn about your privacy and what apps did with your data back then. It only cares about how it can profit from your data and doing as little work to protect it until pressured to do so. I'd bet real money there's a lot more that's open and you don't realize it.
China is unique, somewhat too "outstanding". To operate in this country, double standard is definitely necessary. You know what Microsoft does to push their windows 10 sale by designing specific version of 10 for Chinese government.
But you are right to say they may just put minimum effort on protecting privacy while silently selling your data to someone else. Those are guys with knowledge and more powerful than most of us. "Knowledge is power", so they have plenty of room to play around while most of us can see nothing much from it.
 
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