Anyone who doesn’t lock their mobile phone or smartphone with a passcode is asking for trouble. Even if you quickly cancel the SIM if your phone is stolen, a thief still has complete access to any data the phone contains — and that can be quite a lot on a smartphone.

The bad news is that not even a passcode is enough to keep prying eyes out and German researchers have recently demonstrated a way to extract saved password information from a locked iPhone in just a few minutes using freely available software.

The process is known as ‘jailbreaking’ and it’s a well-known hack that’s usually used to unlock an iPhone for use with SIMs from different mobile operators and to allow other, non-Apple approved, software to be installed.

The problem is that the low-level access to iPhone features that jailbreaking software provides can also bypass a passcode. It still won’t allow a thief to access the iPhone itself, but it will allow its saved passwords to be extracted. So, if you’ve used your iPhone for internet backing or online shopping, your accounts could be at risk. Here’s a video showing the hack in action:

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Unfortunately, there’s no way to block this hack at the moment and while Apple tends to block any known jailbreaking techniques when it updates the iPhone software, hackers are usually pretty quick to figure out a new way to do it.

So, the only real options are to avoid saving any password data on your iPhone at all (or encrypt it with an app like 1Password for £6) or use Apple’s free Find My iPhone app to remotely erase your iPhone in the event of a theft. Or better still, use both.

[via Engadget]