Spotlight search feature

A security problem has been pointed out on iPhone: the deleted messages on iPhone can be found by using Spotlight search feature. Some internet users said with ridicule that this hidden security problem in Spotlight search feature might lead to “family conflicts” or dig out the secrets of the people around. Based on this phenomenon, some people have conducted a series of experiments to figure out whether the deleted messages on iPhone can really be found out by just using Spotlight search feature. The result shows that the iPhone equipped with iOS 5.1.1 has no such problem while the deleted messages on iPhone equipped with iOS 6.1.3 can be found easily. It is worth mentioning that though deleted messages can be found on these iPhone, they can not be opened completely. Instead, only part of the content is available.

The reason for this security problem
Although the deleted messages can only be displayed partially on iPhone on the basis of search keywords, this still pose a huge risk to privacy leakage. Because of that, a lot of professionals and users are determined to find out the reason for this security problem. After a series of studies, some professionals point out that this security problem is very likely to be caused by the integration of index search into Spotlight search feature. In fact, as a search technique launched by Apple in 2005, Spotlight search feature has been widely used to iPhone, iPad, Mac and MacBook. Spotlight will create an index file for all files, so that the system will search for corresponding index files, instead of the real files, in directory when users input a keyword to the search bar. This index search method may explain why deleted messages on some iPhone can be found by using Spotlight search feature: the real files are deleted while the corresponding index files still remain.

A vivid metaphor has been made to make this phenomenon clear to everyone: an iPhone is like a library while all text messages inside it are like different books in this library. Meanwhile, just like every book is provided with an index card, every file in iPhone is provided with an index file. Now, even if a book has been lost, the index card still remains. At this time, if a reader comes into this library, he can read the index card and get to know the book’s title, category and even the summary of the content. However, there is no way that he can really find this book or read the full content. As a result, there is a huge chance that the security problem mentioned above is caused by the existence of index file. Of course, we do not rule out the possibility that such security problem is a system flaw or loophole.

Though we fail to make sure the cause of this security problem of Spotlight search feature one hundred percent, we are able to offer users an easy way to improve the situation: tap “Settings” icon -> tap “General” -> select “Spotlight Search” -> uncheck “Messages”. After that, the deleted messages will never be displayed through Spotlight search.

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