Data Recovery Company DriveSavers is advertising a new service that claims it can recover sensitive data from a locked smartphone, including notably difficult-to-crack iOS devices. The company's service, called Passcode Lockout Data Recovery, is advertised for regular users and not apparently designed for law enforcement or any other type of official cybersecurity business. yet The Verge was unable to directly verify the efficacy of the tool, and the offer goes against many promises made by Apple about the security of its storage.
"The first-of-its-kind service has been offered exclusively to consumers who have forgotten device passwords, they have been locked out after too many inaccurate attempts, and for those who need access to data stored on the device of a deceased family member," reads the company's press release. "Other companies offer similar service to law enforcement. DriveSavers is the first to offer a Passcode Lockout Data Recovery service to consumers. The DriveSavers service is not available for law enforcement and requires proof of ownership prior to unlocking a device. "
In an email to The Verge, and DriveSavers spokesperson says the service costs $ 3,900 per device, but the company claims it will return your phone or tablet to you unlocked. "Depending on the situation, we may request death certificates, probate documents, court documents, or other legal documents. In the case of a death, we verify who is the executor of the state through interview and documentation, "the spokesperson said.
The company says the service is primarily designed for the family members of the deceased to access locked devices, but it would not disclose exactly how it can overcome security protocols on iOS or Android devices. DriveSavers is also advertising its service for Windows machines, and the devices of many manufacturers such as Huawei, Lenovo, LG, and ZTE.
Of course, these claims invite some serious skepticism. Apple's iPhone is protected by a passcode lock system that even the FBI was able to bypass itself, instigating an infamous showdown between Apple and the agency two years ago over the unlocking of the iPhone 5C's San Bernardino shooter. (Apple has refused to build a special version of its operating system for the FBI that would include a backdoor. The FBI sued but eventually dropped the case.)
That's because the passcode on an iPhone is encrypted, so even Apple can not access a device once it's locked. There are ways to remotely wipe the device, but retrieving information such as texts, photos, and other on-device data not stored in the cloud is supposed to be technically impossible, not without exploiting a high-level vulnerability.
The FBI ultimately bought the service of a third-party company, reportedly upwards of $ 1 million, the details of which a federal judge ruled the FBI did not have to ultimately disclose to the public for fear it could be used by foreign adversaries. However, the exploit used in that case is believed to no longer work, as it relied on the software architecture of a older version of iOS.
There are methods to retrieve information from a locked iPhone via iCloud by going through Apple directly with a search warrant, but that's not a standard procedure for your everyday consumer, and it does not seem to be what DriveSavers claims to have access to. There are also ways to spoof fingerprint data to access a device via Touch ID, as well as methods of law enforcement have exploited weaknesses in the way iOS treats USB devices, most notably the GrayKey hacking tool used by some law enforcement agencies until Apple developed a method to block it completely.
DriveSavers does not seem to be employing any of these methods that we know of right now, but it's a possibility that the company does have some one-of-a-kind tool that lets it read the data.