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Hack through smartphone security by sticking it in the freezer

Smartphone security has become a fast growing industry in its own right, with big computer security software manufacturers like McAfee and Norton stepping into the mobile space alongside mobile-only companies like Lookout, but even with a myriad of locking methods and remote wipe functionality, sometimes simple solutions are all that’s needed to bypass such advanced measures.

Frosty Galaxy Nexus

Step in a common household freezer which is all that’s apparently needed to suspend your private, previously thought to be protected information from a more easily attainable height. As a result of work carried out by researchers at Erlangen University in Germany, it’s transpired that it’s possible to pull information from a smartphone after it’s been left in the freezer for some chill out time. By chilling a Samsung Galaxy Nexus down to -15º Celsius in their lab, the team were able to take advantage of the effects of “remanence”.

Typically when voltage to a smartphone’s RAM is cut off, it wipes any data which may have been cached on it, but by cooling the smartphone and by proxy; the RAM, that data remains present for a few seconds longer before being wiped. As such, the team were able to fast reboot the phone in those few seconds and perform a memory dump, resulting in all sorts of precious information being copied off the phone, irrespective of any software-based lockscreen or security measures in place.

Galaxy Nexus frost 2

The memory dump offered up all manner of information including images, emails and browser history along with things like WiFi passwords and decryption keys for select pieces of encrypted software on the device. Obviously this isn’t the most orthodox hacking method around, but it’s been proven to work on computers and now smartphones alike. We can’t say we like the idea of it, but at least we know to wise up with regards to what we keep on our phones. No matter what security you may have in place, a keen hacker with a little know-how and a freezer might be able to break into your content.


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