As it turns out, the same mechanism that provided iOS 7 with a potential back door can also be used to help secure your iOS 7 or 8 devices should it ever fall into the wrong hands. This article is a brief how-to on using Apple’s Configurator utility to lock your device down so that no other devices can pair with it, even if you leave your device unlocked, or are compelled into unlocking it yourself with a passcode or a fingerprint. By pair-locking your device, you’re effectively disabling every logical forensics tool on the market by preventing it from talking to your iOS device, at least without first being able to undo this lock with pairing records from your desktop machine. This is a great technique for protecting your device from nosy coworkers, or cops in some states that have started grabbing your call history at traffic stops.
With iOS 8’s new encryption changes, Apple will no longer service law enforcement warrants, meaning these forensics techniques are one of just a few reliable ways to dump forensic data from your device (which often contains deleted records and much more than you see on the screen). Whatever the reason, pair locking will likely leave the person dumbfounded as to why their program doesn’t work, and you can easily just play dumb while trying not to snicker. This is an important step if you are a journalists, diplomat, security researcher, or other type of individual that may be targeted by a hostile foreign government. It also helps protect you legally, so that you don’t have to be put in contempt of court for refusing to turn over your PIN. The best thing about this technique is, unlike my previous technique using pairlock, this one doesn’t require jailbreaking your phone. You can do it right now with that shiny new device.
There’s been a lot of confusion about Apple’s recent statements in protecting iOS 8 data, supposedly stifling law enforcement’s ability to do their job. FBI boss James Comey has publicly criticized Apple, and essentially blamed them for the next hundred children who get kidnapped. While Apple’s new security improvements have made it a lot harder to get to certain types of data, it’s important to note that there are still a number of techniques that can be employed against iOS 8, with varying levels of success. Most of these are techniques that law enforcement is already doing. Some are part of commercial forensics tools such as Oxygen and Cellebrite. The FBI is undoubtedly aware of them. I’ll outline some of the most common ones here.
I’ve included some tips for those of us who are concerned about data security. Security researchers, journalists, law abiding activists, diplomats, and many other types of high profile individuals should all be practicing good data security, especially when abroad. Foreign governments are just as capable of performing the same forensics techniques that our own government is capable of, and there is an overwhelming amount of information suggesting that all of these classes of individuals have been targeted by foreign governments.