Monday, February 6, 2012

Retrieving a Stolen iPhone in Under 72 Hours

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Within 53 hours I was able to get a stolen iPhone safely into police custody. Here's a rough timeline of the steps I went took to get the phone back to the rightful owner:

Saturday, 2/4/2012 @ 8:45 AM -- iPhone was "lost" (i.e., stolen).
  • Called stolen iPhone and it rang four times before going to voicemail, suggesting that it was powered on and had reception. Used the "Find iPhone" app to locate the phone using the Apple ID credentials of the stolen iPhone, but it was unable locate the phone.
  • Using the "Find iPhone" app, sent lock code to stolen iPhone to ensure that it was locked and required an unlock code to access the phone.
  • Using the "Find iPhone" app, sent messages with sound to the stolen iPhone stating that the phone was lost and to call ###-###-#### (my Google Voice number). No response.
  • Shortly thereafter the iPhone was powered down by the "someone" who had possession of the phone.
  • I had the owner of the stolen iPhone change passwords to accounts accessed by the iPhone (e.g., Gmail, Dropbox, etc).
  • Setup the email account used as the Apple ID of the stolen iPhone to forward a copy of all mail from "" to an account I setup at Boxcar. The reason for doing this was to have push notifications sent to my phone moments after the stolen iPhone would be powered on and receive the commands that I sent from the "Find iPhone" app.
    • There's a Boxcar iOS app that I installed on the device that I was doing the tracking from.
  • Opted not to report the phone as stolen with AT&T yet since I wanted to be able to continue tracking the phone. 
  • Also opted not to remotely wipe the iPhone via the "Find iPhone" app for the same reason.
  • The "Erase all data on iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts" option was turned off on the iPhone. This was a good thing since it prevented the stolen iPhone from being wiped by 10 failed passcode entries and becoming un-trackable. 

Sunday, 2/5/2012 @ 10:00 AM -- the iPhone was powered on by "someone" and the location of the phone was identified.
  • I received a push notification from Boxcar showing that an email from was received. That meant that the stolen iPhone was powered on and was now locatable.
  • Used both the "Find iPhone" and "Find Friends" iPhone apps by Apple to track the location of the phone.
    • Another option was logging into iCloud with the Apple ID and password associated with the stolen iPhone ... which I did.
  • Location of the phone tracked to a residential address.
  • Used Google maps and street view to look at the house.
  • Identified the owner of the house using PropertyShark.
  • Gathered information about the owner using Intelius.
  • Again, sent messages with sound to the stolen iPhone stating that the phone was lost and to call ###-###-#### (my Google Voice number). No response.
  • The phone was powered down by the "someone" who had possession of the phone roughly five minutes after it was powered on.
  • Checked AT&T for any unauthorized calls. There were no unauthorized calls.
  • A police report was submitted online to the police department where the phone was stolen. 
    • The police department where the phone was currently located (different city than where the phone was stolen) would not accept a report directly since the theft occurred in a different city.

Monday, 2/6/2012 @ 10:46 AM -- the iPhone was powered on and left on.
  • Using both the "Find iPhone" and "Find Friends" apps, the GPS location of the stolen iPhone was the same address as the address that was identified on Sunday.
  • A police report was submitted online to the police department. The location of theft was intentionally left vague, implying that the theft occurred in the city where the phone was currently being tracked to. The police department was willing to accept the incident report.

Monday, 2/6/2012 @ 1:04 PM -- Called the records and dispatch departments of the PD from the city where the stolen iPhone was currently located.
  • Gave the incident report tracking number to dispatch.
  • After a lengthy conversation, dispatch agreed to send an officer to the house and that the officer would call me back if I needed to cause the stolen iPhone to make a sound.

Monday, 2/6/2012 @ 1:36 PM -- Received a call from the responding officer.
  • The police officer stated that he went to the residential address.
  • The officer stated that the owners of the house were at the residence.
  • The police officer gained possession of the phone.
  • The police officer asked me for the unlock code and some contact data that was on the phone to verify ownership.
  • The officer relayed the convoluted story that the individual who had stolen the iPhone told him.
  • We agreed to check the phone into the police department's chain-of-custody and the stolen iPhone will be picked up by the rightful owner soon.
  • Called the police department from where the phone was stolen, stated that the iPhone was retrieved by another police department, and the case was closed.
... and that's a happy ending.

Apple has more information about locating a lost or stolen iPhone here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Koobface Analysis

Today Facebook announced that it will share the data it has collected about the group of people behind the Koobface virus. Facebook didn't provide any details about the "Koobface gang". However, in a separate blog post independent researchers Jan Drömer and Dirk Kollberg of SophosLabs did provide details of their analysis. I found the SophosLabs article a very interesting read in that it details the painstakingly slow process investigators must endure to piece security incidents together and that given enough time and resources "cybercrimes" can be solved.

"Up until now, Drömer and Kollberg's research has been a closely-guarded secret, known only to a select few in the computer security community and shared with various law enforcement agencies around the globe" ... "At the police's request we have kept the information confidential, but last week news began to leak onto the internet about Anton 'Krotreal' Korotchenko - meaning the cat was well and truly out of the bag." -- Graham Cluley, Sophos analyst
Link to Analysis:

Monday, December 19, 2011

DHS Cybersecurity Strategy and New California eCrime Unit

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08:  The Department of Ho...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
A couple of interesting items within the information security world...

I. The Department of Homeland Security has released a new cybersecurity strategy document with a two-pronged approach:
  1. Protecting critical infrastructure today
  2. Building a more secure cybersecurity ecosystem for the future
Download the Blueprint for a Secure Cyber Future document (PDF).

II. California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has announced the creation of a new eCrime Unit to investigate and prosecute technology crime.

"The primary mission of the eCrime Unit is to investigate and prosecute multi-jurisdictional criminal organizations, networks, and groups that perpetrate identity theft crimes, use an electronic device or network to facilitate a crime, or commit a crime targeting an electronic device, network or intellectual property." READ MORE

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

America the Vulnerable

Interesting approach to computer security
Image by formalfallacy @ Dublin (Victor) via Flickr

During my commute to and from work I recently began listening to the audiobook, "America the Vulnerable: New Technology and the Next Threat to National Security" by Joel Brenner, narrated by Lloyd James. The audiobook was downloaded from

I’m currently half-way through the unabridged audio and am enjoying it. The book is an eye-opening reminder of what many of us within the InfoSec industry are already aware of as we analyze security events on a daily basis. American national security, our economy, physical and energy infrastructure, financial system and our own privacy are at risk and that if security isn't built into our systems, our systems won't be secure. From what I’ve listened to so far, Brenner does a good job of laying out the cyber-threat facing the United States.

I hope to finish the audiobook by the end of this week as I’m interested in hearing what Brenner has to prescribe as a solution to the problem. Though I have yet to finish the audiobook, I recommend it as a must read for anyone interested or with career in cybersecurity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Reader Poll - CISSP Exam

Image via Wikipedia
I just posted a reader poll that's now viewable on the right-hand column of this blog. I want to get opinions from those of you that have your CISSP certification. There are two questions in the poll:

  1. If you are a CISSP, did your employer at the time encourage you to take the CISSP exam? (Yes/No)
  2. If you are a CISSP, did your employer pay for you to take the CISSP exam, or did you? (Employer paid/you paid)

The poll can also be accessed directly from here.

As for the value of a CISSP vs. other certifications ... that's for yet another posting.

The Pony in the Dung Heap Joke

Is the glass half empty or half full? The pess...
Image via Wikipedia

I recently came across a humorous, yet insightful, joke. You may have heard it before. It's the pony in the dung heap. Last week I read it for the first time within, "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life", by Peter Robinson. Here's an exert from the book containing the joke:

-----BEGIN EXERT------

Chapter One 
The Pony In the Dung Heap 
When Life Buries You, Dig 
Journal Entry, June 2002:

Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan's favorite jokes. "The pony joke?" Meese replied. "Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times."

The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities -- one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist -- their parents took them to a psychiatrist.

First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. "What's the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don't you want to play with any of the toys?" "Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I'd only break them."

Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. "What do you think you're doing?" the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. "With all this manure," the little boy replied, beaming, "there must be a pony in here somewhere!"

"Reagan told the joke so often," Meese said, chuckling, "that it got to be kind of a joke with the rest of us. Whenever something would go wrong, somebody on the staff would be sure to say, "There must be a pony in here somewhere.'"

-----END EXERT------

It's a great joke to tell ourselves when we're feeling buried under heaps of work and life responsibilities as a reminder to persevere and make the best out of any given moment. For me, it'll take a lifetime to fully grasp, and even then, I might not have made it an automatic process and I'll still see "the glass half empty" at times.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Security Awareness Training - Part 5 of 5

Class 1: Explosives
Image via Wikipedia
Today's post concludes the series of five posts whereby I wanted to give you links to 25 security awareness courses and videos that are publicly available.

I strongly believe that security awareness training is an essential component to good security. Throwing money and technology at the security problem might be worthwhile in the early stages of maturity of an originzatzion's information security program. However, the problem with this approach is that there are diminishing returns; more technology becomes less and less effective at improving security. Something needs to improve beyond installing and patching technology on a daily basis, forever running around attempting to deal with security incidents and emerging threats and doing work simply for work's sake. The human dimension is a critical part of this, and security awareness training helps sharpen this human component; the HumanOS.
  1. Analytical Investigative Tools (Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training)
    1. What Every Law Enforcement Officer Should Know About DNA Evidence – Investigators and Evidence Technicians (DNA Initiative)
    2. Food Security Training (US Food and Drug Administration)
    3. Explosives, Booby Traps and Bomb Threat Management (Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training)
    4. HAZMAT Transportation Security Awareness Training (Dangerous Goods International)