Vulnerabilities / Threats
3/19/2013
02:14 PM
50%
50%

Beware Smartphone Lurkers: Cloud Storage File Remnants

Security investigators recovered Box, Dropbox and SugarSync files and unique file IDs, via forensic dump of iPhone and Android smartphone memory.

9 More Cloud Computing Pioneers
9 More Cloud Computing Pioneers
(click image for slideshow)
Cloud storage service apps leave recoverable traces of files on smartphones.

That finding comes from recently published research, "Using Smartphones as a Proxy for Forensic Evidence contained in Cloud Storage Services," conducted by University of Glasgow computer science PhD student George Grispos -- backed by computer forensics and e-discovery lecturer Brad Glisson and software engineering lecturer Tim Storer, both also of University of Glasgow -- which was presented at this year's 46th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

The researchers said they'd expected to find "that smartphone devices will retain data from these storage services," but didn't know to what extent any leftover "artifacts" might include recoverable information. So they studied three popular cloud storage service apps running on the iPhone and on an HTC Desire running the Android operating system.

Here's what they found: "Using mobile forensic toolkits, data can be recovered from a smartphone device which has accessed a cloud storage service," they said. "The results from the experiment have shown that it is possible to recover files from the Dropbox, Box and SugarSync services using smartphone devices." In addition, artifacts left by those services' mobile apps in some cases allowed the researchers to gain a "proxy view" of files not stored on the device, but stored by the cloud service.

[ Companies have to protect their assets, but where do they cross the line into overzealous prying? See Monitoring Vs. Spying: Are Employers Going Too Far? ]

The extent to which they could recover files varied based on the operating system studied. "On the HTC Desire, both deleted and available files were recovered. The forensic toolkits recovered 9 files from Dropbox, 15 from Box and 11 from SugarSync," the researchers said. "On the iPhone, depending on application and device manipulation either 5 or 7 files were recovered from Dropbox, 7 or 15 from SugarSync and 5 from Box. No deleted application files were recovered from the iPhone."

Interestingly, the investigators could also use the Box app's file artifacts that they recovered to access copies of files that were no longer stored on devices, but still stored with Box. This required recovering file IDs for Box files that had been accessed, as well as authentication tokens linked to a specific Box user's account. With both pieces of information, the researchers could create a URL which accessed the Box API to download copies of files not present on the device, all without logging into the service. This digital forensic investigation technique worked on both the iPhone and Android devices.

Just to be clear, the researchers confined their study to these -- now superseded -- smartphone apps: "Dropbox (iOS version 1.4.7, Android version 2.1.3), Box (iOS version 2.7.1, Android version 1.6.7) and SugarSync (iOS version 3.0, Android version 3.6)."

What can smartphone users do to obscure any cloud-based files they've viewed? According to the researchers, clearing the cache led to them recovering fewer Dropbox and SugarSync files, but had no effect on the Box files. The researchers also reported that their file recovery success on the Android device depended, predictably, on whether the file had been saved for offline use, and if so, whether or not it had been saved to an external memory card, then deleted and overwritten, at which point it was unrecoverable.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Andrew Hornback
50%
50%
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2013 | 4:28:13 AM
re: Beware Smartphone Lurkers: Cloud Storage File Remnants
From my point of view, this makes the use of an appropriate MDM solution all that much more important in an organization with a BYOD policy that also leverages these kinds of cloud services. Being able to do a full out "device nuke" in the event of a device loss becomes critical in light of these findings.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-6090
Published: 2015-04-27
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in the (1) DataMappingEditorCommands, (2) DatastoreEditorCommands, and (3) IEGEditorCommands servlets in IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 SP6 before EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.3 before 6.0.3.0 iFix8, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.5 iFix...

CVE-2014-6092
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 before SP6 EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.6, and 6.0.5 before 6.0.5.6 requires failed-login handling for web-service accounts to have the same lockout policy as for standard user accounts, which makes it easier for remote attackers to cause...

CVE-2015-0113
Published: 2015-04-27
The Jazz help system in IBM Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management 4.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Quality Manager 4.0 through 4.0.7 and 5.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Team Concert 4.0 through 4.0.7 and 5.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Requirements Composer 4.0 through 4.0.7, Rational DOORS Next Generation...

CVE-2015-0174
Published: 2015-04-27
The SNMP implementation in IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 8.5 before 8.5.5.5 does not properly handle configuration data, which allows remote authenticated users to obtain sensitive information via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-0175
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 8.5 Liberty Profile before 8.5.5.5 does not properly implement authData elements, which allows remote authenticated users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.