Cloning Someone's iPhone

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by kolax, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. kolax macrumors G3

    Mar 20, 2007
    I got my iPhone 5 swapped at the Apple Store yesterday, and the genius took it through the back for a few minutes after I had entered my passcode.

    I'm being insanely paranoid here, but would it be possible for someone to take a backup of my iPhone, then restore it onto another iPhone and get access to all my stuff?
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Yeah, I'd say its possible. Is likely to occur though, I'm not sure.

    Why did the genius take into the back room after you unlocked it?
  3. kolax thread starter macrumors G3

    Mar 20, 2007
    I've no idea. I felt like questioning him when he came back. Hopefully nothing malicious..
  4. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    This is normal as most the genius's aren't senior. They take it out back for authorisation usually.
  5. scaredpoet, Oct 20, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2013

    scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Apple stores use this device for "cloning" iOS devices:


    It's called the Cellebrite UME36Pro. It's job is basically, take an image of the data from an unlocked cell phone, and transfer it to a new device.

    Apple store employees use these guys whenever a device swap is necessary, and there's doubt as to whether a user has an iCloud backup of their data. If you don't use iCloud, or appear particularly clueless about it, they'll use the Cellebrite devices to transfer data over to any replacements, so you can still walk out of the store with a working iDevice with all your data and apps.

    The devices can also be used when someone is buying an iPhone and wants to migrate their data from a different device, like a dumbphone or some Android/Blackberry/Windows phone models. Contacts info, texts, and basic phone history data can be migrated over. Apps and other platform-specific things, obviously won't transfer.

    For this device to work, the phone HAS to be unlocked. The cloning process takes a couple minutes. The devices aren't supposed to be out in the open like this. Why they were out when I was at an Apple store I'll never know, but I didn't pass up the opportunity to snap a photo. :)

    Now, if you want to take the tinfoil hat perspective: theoretically, yes, a person using this device on your passcode-unlocked iPhone could take all of its contents and store it on an SD card. Could they replicate it on multiple other devices? Yes, they could.

    In fact, there's a law enforcement version of this device that does exactly this, along with some additional software to brute-force through weak 4-digit passcodes, and download the image to a PC for forensic analysis, including looking for fragments of deleted data.

    Would an Apple store employee do that? Well, they're not supposed to. Once they've done what they need to do with your phone exchange, the image is supposed to be deleted. Whether that happens or not of course depends on the Apple store employee being ethical enough to do so. You kinda have to trust that they are.

    If you don't trust them with your data, then your best bet is to use iCloud backups. If you don't trust Apple at all with your data, then make local encrypted backups on your desktop through iTunes. And never hand an Apple store employee an unlocked iOS device, unless it's been wiped.
  6. thelatinist macrumors 603


    Aug 15, 2009
    Connecticut, USA
    I've been to the Genius Bar three times in the last couple of weeks alone) and every time they've had one or two of these devices sitting on the counter. It did not appear they were particularly secretive about it.
  7. kolax thread starter macrumors G3

    Mar 20, 2007
    I took away an uncloned iPhone because I took a backup there and then with my Mac at the desk.

    It was more what was he doing with my phone unlocked through the back. If he was just verifying with a manager, fair enough. Just seems a little dodgy to me.

    I get paranoid when a waiter takes my card away only to come with back my card in the card machine.
  8. ct2k7 macrumors 603


    Aug 29, 2008
    London or Florida
    All the waiters I come across come with the machine and perform the final EPOS functions there and then. My card does not leave my sight.
  9. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Then he probably did nothing to your phone, save verify with a manager like he said.

    Did he have you wipe your phone before you left the store?
  10. kolax thread starter macrumors G3

    Mar 20, 2007
    Yeah most do that for me too. Just when they disappear with my card, it really does annoy me.

    Yes, and I'm overreacting and being paranoid. It was just I thought about what all you could do if you have a backup of someone's iPhone - you'd have a key to their entire life unlocked. Emails, contacts, photos, messages all freely available to read.
  11. 7thson, Oct 20, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2013

    7thson macrumors 6502a


    May 13, 2012
    Six Rivers, CA
    Just to be clear, cloning involves a lot more than copying your data:

    If an Apple employee actually "cloned" your iPhone, the holder of that clone would effectively hijack your mobile account. This is usually done as discretely as possible, as to evade detection, because it's kinda illegal. Unless being performed by law enforcement (see the excellent documentary series The Wire for more on this:cool:). If an Apple store employee did this, it wouldn't be hard to trace it back to them.
    In summary, I really don't think your iPhone got cloned. Is some creepy dude sorting through your email? Well, we all know the answer to that!
  12. JayLenochiniMac macrumors G5

    Nov 7, 2007
    New Sanfrakota
    All you had to do is Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings prior to taking it in.
  13. abz1981 macrumors 65816

    Jan 3, 2011
    dont store porn on your iphone

    this way you wont be paranoid.:D
  14. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005

    People have been giving Apple their Mac admin passwords for years when they drop off their Macs for service.

    With the exceptions of phone call logs and non-iMessage SMS, seems like there'd be a lot more personal data to snoop around with on a Mac than an iPhone?
  15. Indecisi0n macrumors regular


    Feb 19, 2012
  16. cRuNcHiE macrumors 6502a

    Jan 2, 2007
    Whenever I've had an iPhone swapped ,the 'genius' always navigated my phone to the erase page and asked me to press the final confirm erase button before taking it away.
  17. ct2k7 macrumors 603


    Aug 29, 2008
    London or Florida
    Where do they do that in Edinburgh?

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