A close person got hit by a car and died a few years ago. The persons iPhone flew trough the air. The police was not able to turn it on and mentioned that it would be impossible to collect data from it. (Which might would have helped to solve the case). Back then iPhones had the status "quite damn save". One had to invest a lot of effort into reading the encrypted data from the hardware.

I recently found out that this iPhone is still lying around. I got concerned that the LiPo might catch fire. Therefor I have put the iPhone somewhere save. That was when I noticed that after years of electrical engineering at university and some advances made in iPhone penetration, I might be able to collect some data from it.

What is the current situation? I assume NSA would be able to read some data from it. Since it is already an old phone, would I be able to do so? The iPhone was heavily damaged due to the impact. Which parts would need to be intact? Is it enough if the flash is alright? I have another iPhone 5 which I could use to solder in the flash drive. But I remember something like there is a hardware encryption key in many parts of an iPhone. Thats why I fear transplanting the flash would not work, since it would stay encrypted.

I have the password and everything from the original owner. Therefor I would not have to crack that. But I suppose it's not just a little soldering work. What would have to be done to make it work?

(I don't want to talk about if I should do this. It is already too late to change something. Case is closed. It is more about the technical aspects. And of course I would be thankful if some clarifying facts arise.)

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think at the very least you have to transplant the flash, and the fingerprint sensor (since I think that's where the encryption is held. Might also include the processor and some other component too) into a working phone. Although, maybe it's harder than it sounds because they didn't do it for some federal court case. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Mar 13 '19 at 20:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Toor I don't think the 5 has a fingerprint sensor (5S does), and in any case the pass code, which OP says they have, will bypass it. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Mar 13 '19 at 20:35
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Condolences on your loss. Unfortunately this type of question is off topic here - as it is either a usage question or a repair question on a product. You should consult with those who do iPhone data recovery, ie, where the expertise is knowledge of the product rather than engineering in general. If you really care about recovering any information, you probably don't want to try to do this yourself, but rather to have it done by someone who has made their learning mistakes and gained experience working on other similar boards. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Mar 13 '19 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Toor exactly there is no fingerprint sensor \$\endgroup\$ – Mr.Sh4nnon Mar 13 '19 at 20:43
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There still might be other "tagged" components with internal ID numbers that need to work together. Somehow I feel Apple is exactly the kind of company that would make it so you can't just remove the CPU or other component and just drop in another one. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Mar 13 '19 at 20:44

Define "heavily damaged". If the screen is crushed just replace it with a new screen and digitizer, swap out the battery, and it may well power up perfectly fine, you can enter in the pass code and go from there. Any cell phone repair shop can do that for less than $100 in a few hours.

You don't need the charging circuit, the microphone, the camera or even the antenna to be working to view data. You might need the lightning or wifi working to get data off of the device.

You can probably do it yourself, though the tools might cost more that just paying for the service. They might even have a spare case around to make it look better.

If the board itself has suffered damage, such as shearing off the BGA chips, it will be considerably more difficult and probably hard to justify unless it contains bitcoins or something like that. The main board only takes up a part of the inside volume and looks like this (from here):

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much for your answer. I can yet not say how bad it really is. Have to take it to my workplace and open it. The display is completely shattered and the boarder is bent. (The iPhone itself is still almost straight). Hopefully parts of the motherboard are still intact. I'll post an update from which I can maybe ask more specifically. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr.Sh4nnon Mar 13 '19 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a security SE but I'm not sure your questions fit well within either one of the SE's. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Mar 13 '19 at 20:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.