Our First Book is Officially Out

October 10th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Today we are super excited: our first book on mobile forensics just got published! The book is called “Mobile Forensics – Advanced Investigative Strategies”, and is about everything you need to successfully acquire evidence from the widest range of mobile devices. Unlike most other books on this subject, we don’t just throw file names or hex dumps at your face. Instead, we discuss the issues of seizing mobile devices and preserving digital evidence before it reaches the lab; talk about acquisition options available in every case, and help you choose the correct acquisition path to extract evidence with least time and minimal risk.


We used our years of expertise in researching and building forensic tools to help our readers better understand the acquisition process. We aimed our book at specialists with beginner to intermediate knowledge of mobile forensics. We did our best to make it a perfect learning and reference tool.
This book is about strategies and tools. We do believe in tools, but we also believe that even the best tool is useless if you don’t have clear understanding on what you are doing, and why. It’s not just about ElcomSoft products: we talk about a wide range of forensic tools covering most mobile devices.

The book is officially out. You are welcome to get your copy by ordering from PACKT Publishing or Amazon.

Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer: Extracting Call Logs and Wi-Fi Passwords

October 3rd, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Google is pushing Android to make it a truly secure mobile OS. Mandatory encryption and secure boot make physical acquisition of new Android devices a dead end.

While securing physical devices against all types of attacks, Google continues moving stuff into the cloud. Interestingly, these activities no longer coincide with Android releases; Google can add cloud features later in the production cycle by updating Google Services on the user’s Android device. One such updated added the ability to sync call logs between Android devices by uploading data into the user’s Google Drive account. We researched the protocol and added the ability to extract synced call logs to Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer 1.20. This cloud acquisition could be the only way to extract call logs since all Android devices since Android 6.0 are shipped with full-disk encryption out of the box.

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iOS 10: Security Weakness Discovered, Backup Passwords Much Easier to Break

September 23rd, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

We discovered a major security flaw in the iOS 10 backup protection mechanism. This security flaw allowed us developing a new attack that is able to bypass certain security checks when enumerating passwords protecting local (iTunes) backups made by iOS 10 devices.

The impact of this security weakness is severe. An early CPU-only implementation of this attack (available in Elcomsoft Phone Breaker 6.10) gives a 40-times performance boost compared to a fully optimized GPU-assisted attack on iOS 9 backups.

What’s It All About?

When working on an iOS 10 update for Elcomsoft Phone Breaker, we discovered an alternative password verification mechanism added to iOS 10 backups. We looked into it, and found out that the new mechanism skips certain security checks, allowing us to try passwords approximately 2500 times faster compared to the old mechanism used in iOS 9 and older.

This new vector of attack is specific to password-protected local backups produced by iOS 10 devices. The attack itself is only available for iOS 10 backups. Interestingly, the ‘new’ password verification method exists in parallel with the ‘old’ method, which continues to work with the same slow speeds as before.

By exploiting the new password verification mechanism, we were able to support it in our latest update, Elcomsoft Phone Breaker 6.10. Since this is all too new, there is no GPU acceleration support for the new attack. However, even without GPU acceleration the new method works 40 times faster compared to the old method *with* GPU acceleration. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking FileVault 2 Encryption Through iCloud

August 29th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

FileVault 2 is a whole-disk encryption scheme used in Apple’s Mac OS X using secure XTS-AES encryption to protect the startup partition. Brute-forcing your way into a crypto container protected with a 256-bit key is a dead end.

FileVault 2 volumes can be unlocked with a password to any account with “unlock” privileges. We have tools (Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery) that can brute-force user passwords, which can also unlock the encrypted volume. However, this is still not easy enough and not fast enough. The result is not guaranteed either.

Today we’ll talk about decrypting FileVault 2 volumes without lengthy attacks by using FileVault 2 escrow keys extracted from the user’s iCloud account.

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iCloud Photo Library: All Your Photos Are Belong to Us

August 25th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Releasing a major update of a complex forensic tool is always tough. New data locations and formats, new protocols and APIs require an extensive amount of research. Sometimes, we discover things that surprise us. Researching Apple’s iCloud Photo Library (to be integrated into Elcomsoft Phone Breaker 6.0) led to a particularly big surprise. We discovered that Apple keeps holding on to the photos you stored in iCloud Photo Library and then deleted, keeping “deleted” images for much longer than the advertised 30 days without telling anyone. Elcomsoft Phone Breaker 6.0 becomes the first tool on the market to gain access to deleted images going back past 30 days.

Update September 1, 2016: Apple is fixing this as we speak. Deleted photos still appear, but we see less and less of them in every session. Whatever it was, it seems like Apple is fixing the issue as quick as they can.

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iOS Logical Acquisition: The Last Hope For Passcode-Locked Devices?

August 11th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

For many months, a working jailbreak was not available for current versions of iOS. In the end of July, Pangu released public jailbreak for iOS 9.2-9.3.3. A few days ago, Apple patched the exploit and started seeding iOS 9.3.4. This was the shortest-living jailbreak in history.

With iOS getting more secure with each generation, the chance of successfully jailbreaking a device running a recent version of iOS are becoming slim. While this may not be the end of all for mobile forensic experts, we felt we need to address the issue in our physical acquisition toolkit.

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Using Gmail API: The Forensic Way to Acquire Email

August 3rd, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Just now, we’ve updated Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer to version 1.10. This new release adds the ability to download email messages from the user’s Gmail account for offline analysis. In order to do that, we had to develop a highly specialized email client. We opted to use Google’s proprietary Gmail API to download mail. In this article, we’ll explain our decision and detail the benefits you’ll be getting by choosing a tool that can talk to Gmail in Gmail language. 

The Gmail API

The Gmail API is a set of publicly available APIs that can be used by third-party developers to access Gmail mailboxes. Google cites the Gmail API as the best choice for authorized access to a user’s Gmail data. According to Google, the Gmail API is an ideal solution for read-only mail extraction, indexing and backup, as well as for migrating email accounts (https://developers.google.com/gmail/api/guides/overview). Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer does exactly that: it offers read-only mail extraction to create an offline backup of messages from the user’s online account.


Unlike universal email protocols such as POP3 and IMAP, Google’s new API offers flexible access to the user’s Gmail account. By using the proprietary API, developers gain access to the user’s inbox complete with threads, messages, labels, drafts and history.

Most importantly, the Gmail API is blazing fast compared to legacy email protocols, and offers the ability to selectively download specific messages and threads (such as those falling within a certain time period).

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Building a Distributed Network in the Cloud: Using Amazon EC2 to Break Passwords

July 28th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Not all passwords provide equal protection. Some formats are more resistant to brute-force attacks than others. As an example, Microsoft Office 2013 and 2016 employ a smart encryption scheme that is very slow to decrypt. Even the fastest available GPU units found in NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX 1080 will only allow trying some 7100 passwords per second.


One solution is employing a custom dictionary, possibly containing the user’s passwords that were easier to break. Observing the common pattern in those other passwords may allow creating a custom mask that could greatly reduce the number of possible combinations.

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Breaking BitLocker Encryption: Brute Forcing the Backdoor (Part II)

July 27th, 2016 by Vladimir Katalov


How often do you think forensic specialists have to deal with encrypted containers? Compared with office documents and archives that are relatively infrequent, every second case involves an encrypted container. It may vary, but these evaluations are based on a real survey conducted by our company.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of the topic. In the first part of our story we discussed the way of getting access to encrypted volumes using an encryption key. Now, let’s see which other ways can be used.

Unlike Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor, Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery does not search for existing decryption keys. Instead, it tries to unlock password-protected disks by attacking the password. The tool applies an impressive variety of techniques for attacking the password. In this case, the whole disk encryption scheme is only as strong as its password. Fortunately, the tool can execute a wide range of attacks including wordlist attack, combination attacks, mask attacks, smart attacks and so on and so forth, with advanced GPU acceleration and distributed processing on top of that. The whole sophisticated arsenal comes in particularly handy if we speak about more or less secure passwords.

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Mac OS Forensics: Attacking FileVault 2

July 27th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

In the world of Windows dominance, Apple’s Mac OS X enjoys a healthy market share of 9.5% among desktop operating systems. The adoption of Apple’s desktop OS (macOS seems to be the new name) is steadily growing. This is why we are targeting Mac OS with our tools.

This time, let’s talk about Mac OS X user account passwords. Not only will a user password allow accessing their Mac, but it will also allow decrypting FileVault 2 volumes that are otherwise securely encrypted with virtually unbreakable XTS-AES.

Attacking FileVault 2

FileVault 2 is Apple’s take on whole-disk encryption. Protecting the entire startup partition, FileVault 2 volumes can be unlocked with either of the following:

  • 256-bit XTS-AES key
  • Recovery Key
  • User password from any account with “unlock” privileges

There is also an additional unlock method available called Institutional Recovery Key. These recovery keys are created when system administrators enable FileVault 2 encryption with FileVaultMaster.keychain. This method requires additional steps to activate, and is typically used in organizations with centralized keychain management.

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