Automating iPhone remote wipe

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Starfox, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. Starfox macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2011
    Is there a way to automate the process of remote wiping my iPhone? I'd ideally like a way to ask for my phone to be wiped in case of an emergency (by sending an SMS or a tweet to a designated number / account).

    The reason I want to build something like this is for human rights activists in countries like Egypt and Syria who often get their phones searched illegally leading to the exposure of info that more often than not puts people's lives in danger. A user-friendly method would be great.
  2. Zxxv macrumors 68040

    Nov 13, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A406 Safari/7534.48.3)

    Have someone designated to remote wipe the phones sat in a safe house monitoring who gets caught.
  3. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Find my iPhone does this already. You log into iCloud, select the Find My iPhone option, and can locate, lock or wipe your phone remotely.

    It's also possible to set the iPhone up to wipe itself after 10 failed lock code entries.
  4. Starfox thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2011
    This is like me telling you that I want to build a jar opening machine and you telling me that I can open jars using my hands.

    Are you saying that as they're being arrested or kidnapped, activists should stop, log on to iCloud and remote wipe their devices? If they have that much time and freedom they might as well just erase all content and settings from the device itself.

    I'm thinking of running Lion Server with profile management and some sort of scripting to automate the remote wipe process. Is it possible for device owners to limit the privileges they give me should they choose to use this service? Can they enable me to *ONLY* remote-wipe their devices and not access their data or mess with their other preferences in any way?
  5. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Sometimes the best tools don't need to be re-invented.

    Are you saying that it'll be any easier for them to say "sure Officer Oppressor Sir, before you drag me away, let me go borrow someone else's cell phone and send a surreptitious text or push notification to my mobile that you're confiscating to wipe any useful information you might glean from it."? DOn't you think that might be the least bit suspicious?

    Actually, that might be the best thing to do. Or set a complex lock code and have the authorities try and play with that for a while, hoping they get it right in 10 tries or lose all the data on the dvice.

  6. SporkLover macrumors 6502

    Nov 8, 2011
    Just a thought, why not password protect it, and set it to wipe after 10 incorrect tries?
  7. Starfox thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2011
    Most of the time when people are being arrested they have enough time and access to their cellphones to send out a text message or two. Heck, a friend of mine, @NadimX, sent an SMS as he was being *KIDNAPPED*. So it's not that impractical.

    Setting a passcode isn't effective since the authorities in those regions tend to use torture to extract it from the phone's owner.
  8. Givmeabrek macrumors 68040


    Apr 20, 2009
    What might the authorities do to the poor victim if they found out he has wiped the phone?? :eek:
  9. Starfox thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2011
    They'll beat the **** out of him anyway, but now they'll have less phone numbers of other people to kidnap and beat the **** out of.
  10. scaredpoet, Dec 30, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011

    scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Sooooo would that not indicate then that the user could just wipe the phone directly, since they have access to it? It's four taps from the home screen to wiping the iPhone.

    Perhaps this isn't being explained well enough, but it seems like what you're proposing is that a political prisoner-to-be access some remote location and initiate a commend to do the wipe. However, iCloud was shot down... so how is any other remote service going to be any easier to access?

    And having momentary but direct access to your iPhone, as suggested in another scenario, would completely obviate the need for anything remote since you can do the wipe right from the phone.

    In any case, Apple doesn't just give any app or predetermined SMS carte blanche to wipe the filesystem for security reasons (you don't, for instance, want Idarat al-Amn al-Amm to discover this API, and wantonly issue commands to wipe all iPhones of suspected protestors in Syria).

    The one non-Apple system that WOULD have remote wipe access would be an MS Exchange server, but security keys would have to be exchanged in advance, and would also imply that you have control of other aspects of the phone as well (configuration, restrictions to do things like install/uninstall apps, etc.). Outside of iCloud or MS Exchange, you'd have to jailbreak.

    Oh, one other wrinkle for anyone with an iPhone in a politically sensitive situation: starting with the iPhone 3GS and iOS 3.0.x, "wiping" the iPhone doesn't actually wipe the data from the device. It used to on previous models, but a full wipe would take forever (up to an hour on a 32GB model). What's done now is that the the file system is hardware encrypted, and a "wipe" consists of destroying the encryption key used to unlock the filesystem. The idea is: no security key, no access to the encrypted data. A new key and filesystem are created as part of the reset, and the old filesystem is slowly overwritten with use.

    The problem here is, you obviously have to hope that no weaknesses exist in the hardware encryption scheme. If a loophole ends up being discovered, it could be possible to decrypt the filesystem and access your data. So far no such security compromises have been discovered. But that's no guarantee it will in the future.

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