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Secure data wipe built into iPhone Software v2.0

Responding to concerns over the integrity of the iPhone's data reset methods, Apple has taken the extra step and built a more secure data wipe function into the next version of the handset's software, AppleInsider has learned.

People familiar with the beta versions of iPhone Software v2.0 say the upcoming release will employ a more foolproof method of erasing all personal data and settings from an iPhone. As is the case with the existing version of iPhone software, the function will be accessible by selecting Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Contents and Settings.

Unlike today's iPhone software, however, the revised function will wipe data in similar fashion to the "Secure Empty Trash" function of Mac OS X, by which all data is deleted, unlinked, and then overwritten several times to make it irretrievable by even the savviest of recovery tools.

As such, the new function will take considerably longer to complete — about an hour for a typical 8GB iPhone. A progress bar appears during the process. During the data wipe, users should connect their iPhone to its power adapter as the process is believed to be CPU intensive.

The updated functionality arrives following reports that an Oregon State detective was able to successfully retrieve personal data — including emails, photos and financial information — from a refurbished iPhone sold by Apple.

Jonathan Zdziarski, author of the "iPhone Open Application Development,” noted that Apple's existing erase-and-restore function leaves all of a user's personal data "sitting in the unallocated blocks of the iPhone's NAND memory." And there's no viable, publicly available method for erasing the personal data from the Apple handset, he added.

Data reset panel in iPhone Software v1.1.4 on left, v2.0 on right.

The improvements to the iPhone's data wipe will also arrive at a time when masses of original iPhone owners will be attempting clear information from their handsets and resell them to others after upgrading to an iPhone 3G. iPhone software 2.0 will also include among its many enterprise-ready features a function called "remote wipe" that was designed to protect data stored on iPhones by offering a means to remotely wipe them clear in the event that they are lost or stolen.

According to official statements made by Apple during its developers conference earlier this month, as well as this press release, "iPhone 2.0 software will be available on July 11 as a free software update via iTunes 7.7 or later for all iPhone customers." However, a gold master version may be provided to some Apple employees and partners as early as friday.