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According to brand, model, conditions of the device and situation/necessities there are several ways to acquire a smartphone, starting from simple backups (the content so retrieved is limited) up to physical acquisition (eg. with chip off) that allows creating the dump of the memory chip (bit-by-bit copy) and the complete recovery of its content.

In this article, we’ll give quick look at an alternative way of obtaining physical dumps from Samsung devices. This technique is valid both with perfectly working smartphones and devices with broken screen and touchscreen. In both cases, no intervention on the hardware is needed.

The first problem to face when dealing with a smartphone with broken screen is that the operator can’t unlock the device even knowing the passcode just because of the physical damage. The two main solutions at this point were: repairing the screen or extracting memory chip and performing a physical dump with professional readers.

But Samsung devices offer another option that prevents a physical intervention.

At least until today, Samsung devices are characterized by an unlocked bootloader (the only exceptions are branded AT&T and Verizon devices). This particular choice by the producer (see our article on root and jailbreak for more information about Android’s open nature) allows installing a custom recovery with root privileges that lets the operator bypass operating system and any possible security feature and retrieve the whole content of the device, deleted files included.

The plus of this procedure is that custom recovery can be easily found and installed by means of official tools such as Odin. Moreover, if a compatible ROM is not available right in a specific moment, a similar one can be modified to fulfil one’s needs. This gives more chances than JTAG operations for example.

In fact, JTAG requires accessible ports (and researches prove that with the passing of time the devices with open JTAG ports are always fewer) and a program perfectly compatible with the CPU installed (there’s no way of modifying a similar one and succeeding in JTAG operations).

Moreover, what strikes the attention is that screen and touchscreen, that may have seemed so important so far, become now almost useless, their importance inherited by the physical buttons.

In fact, to enter recovery mode, knowing the right keystrokes can be enough to achieve the goal. The pc to which the device is connected, then, can give the necessary feedbacks to check if the operations were correctly made.

From a forensic point of view, installing a custom ROM means altering the content of the phone because we’re overwriting the original recovery with a modified one. But it’s important to say that the space occupied by the recovery utility (and thus the content modified when substituting the original with another recovery) is minimum and user’s data aren’t altered at all by the procedure, when correctly performed.

Only a blocked bootloader (and at the moment no Samsung device seems to be blocked from this point of view) could represent a problem because to unlock it the device will automatically ask for complete data deletion from the device.



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