Apple Explains iOS 17.5 Bug That Caused Deleted Photos to Reappear

Apple Explains iOS 17.5 Bug That Caused Deleted Photos to Reappear

When iOS 17.5 was released on May 13th, several iPhone users reported a strange issue where deleted photographs reappeared on their devices. This raised security concerns about whether iPhones were holding onto file data without users’ knowledge. Apple quickly addressed the problem with the release of iOS 17.5.1, but the initial cause was unclear.

Apple Explains iOS 17.5 Bug That Caused Deleted Photos to Reappear

In response to requests for more information, Apple has provided an explanation for the bug. According to the company, the reappearance of deleted photos was due to a “corrupt database entry” within the iPhone’s file system. This corruption affected the picture files on the device itself but did not impact files synced to iCloud.

 

Apple Explains iOS 17.5 Bug That Caused Deleted Photos to Reappear

 

Essentially, even if photos were deleted from iCloud, identical copies remained hidden on the iPhone’s file system. When iOS 17.5 was installed, a migration routine inadvertently scanned for and added these lingering files back to the photo library, causing the deleted images to resurface.

The issue could also affect new iPhones if users transferred files or restored data from an iCloud backup containing the corrupt database entry.

Fixing the Problem

While Apple did not provide specifics on how the problem was fixed, cybersecurity researchers at Synacktiv reverse-engineered iOS 17.5.1 to investigate the solution. Their findings revealed that Apple added a migration routine in iOS 17.5 with a bug that scanned the file system for photographs and added any found images to the photo library, causing deleted pictures to reappear.

In iOS 17.5.1, Apple removed the problematic migration routine but did not purge the “deleted” picture files from the file system. Synacktiv noted that these files still exist in a hidden location on iPhones, raising questions about why image files are saved outside the Photos app in the first place.

A Feature, Not a Bug?

An unverified Reddit post claims to have inside information from an Apple contractor, suggesting that iPhones can sometimes save images or screenshots to both the Files and Photos apps based on certain criteria. According to this source, even if a picture is deleted from the Photos app, an identical copy could remain in the Files app, which the migration routine then recovered.

The Reddit user stated that this behavior is not a backdoor for spying and that user data is generally secure, but the reasoning behind saving duplicate image files remains unclear.

Apple has not provided further clarification on this issue, leaving some unanswered questions about the underlying mechanisms involved.