Archive for the ‘Cryptography’ Category

A Message to Our Customers, Apple and FBI

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Apple to assist the authorities in breaking into a locked iPhone 5C used by Syed Farook, who killed 14 in San Bernardino in December. According to the FBI, the phone might contain critical information about connections with Islamic terrorist groups. Apple opposed the motion and published an open letter at saying that “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

So what is the government asking, does Apple have it, and is it technically possible to achieve what they are asking? Let’s try to find out.


Hacking For Dummies by Kevin Beaver (5th edition)

Friday, January 29th, 2016

HFDIt is our greatest pleasure to recommend the newest edition of “Hacking For Dummies” by Kevin Beaver, an independent IT security consultant, a practical guide on computer and mobile security updated to the current state of industry. With a natural talent of word Kevin easily guides you through security issues in a very clear and consistent manner, so that all major aspects of IT security, authentication and pen-testing are covered. With such a harmonious and sequential unveiling of security subjects as in this book, it is much easier to dig deeper into particular questions of your own interest.

We know Kevin Beaver from long ago, since that very happy moment when he decided to check out our software and see how it works. Having tried all our tools and providing professional feedback Kevin immensely contributed towards our software developments.

Now it’s a great honor for us to be mentioned in various editions of his book, including the latest one, with reference to practically all of our programs, primarily because they are all meant for getting access to password protected data or encrypted disks and crypto containers. Reverse engineering and data decryption is our main focus since the very beginning of the company. However, lately the focus of our attention has been slowly drifting more “into the cloud” taking the shape of such products as Elcomsoft Explorer for WhatsApp or Elcomsoft Cloud eXplorer for Google Accounts. And it is not a coincidence that Kevin’s book covers cloud security topic as well. So, get these 408 pages of hacks and tips against them right meow and enjoy your reading.

Video Tutorial on Decryption of Windows EFS-encrypted Data

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Although we’ve already embraced the EFS-encryption/decryption in some of our white papers and case studies, now we’d like to share a video tutorial because seeing once is better than hearing reading twice. So, in this video you will see how to decrypt EFS-encrypted data with help of Advanced EFS Data Recovery and how to recover Windows user account password with Proactive System Password Recovery (because it’s still obligatory for this type of encryption).

Advanced EFS Data Recovery (AEFSDR) is wholly dedicated to decryption of Windows EFS-encrypted files, however in order to decrypt the data the program still requires the user account password. Yeah, you might think at first that anyone can decrypt the data having user account password at hand, but no. You can’t. EFS encryption uses more than just logon password, nonetheless it’s the core ingredient in data decryption and so it must be provided.

If you forgot the logon password or didn’t know it at all Proactive System Password Recovery (PSPR) in its turn can help you acquire all system passwords once you can log into the system with administrator privileges. Exactly this example has been illustrated in our video (provide by Sethioz), here it is:


Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor Video Tutorial

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Quite often our new customers ask us for advice about what they should start with in order to use the program effectively. In fact, there are various situations when the tool can come in handy by decrypting data securely protected with TrueCrypt, BitLocker (To-Go), or PGP and we’d need a super long video to describe all the cases. But we’d love to demonstrate one typical situation when disk is protected with TrueCrypt when entire system drive encryption option is on.

In this video, kindly provided by Sethioz, we suggest you to decrypt TrueCrypt whole system drive encryption using our Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor thoroughly going through all the stages starting from the very first one when you just got the encrypted hard drive on hands.

With encrypted hard drive in one hand and its memory dump in the other one (taken when encrypted disk was still mounted) we plug HDD into our “invesgitator’s” computer, start Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor and easily, in one slow motion, extract the encryption keys from the memory dump file and decrypt the protected HDD, either by mounting it into the “investigator’s” system (to be able to work with it on-the-fly) or by decoding the contents into a specified folder.

We hope you’ll enjoy this video and next time you have the necessity to decrypt something encrypted you’ll feel more confident about it. We also invite you to take a moment and share your experience here in comments or leave your question if you still have any after this pretty detailed video. 🙂

Supporting Apple iCloud Drive and Decrypting Keychains from iCloud

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

As you may already know from our official announcement, we’ve recently updated Elcomsoft Phone Breaker to support Apple accounts upgraded to iCloud Drive and decrypting keychains from iCloud. Considering that one can access files stored in iCloud Drive without any third-party tools, is the update really worth the buzz? Read along to find out!

Before getting to the updated technology, let’s have a look at what Apple iCloud Drive is, and how it’s different from “classic” iCloud. (more…)

ElcomSoft Open Letter on Latest Developments in iCloud Security

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

In light of recent security outbreaks, Apple introduced a number of changes to its security policies. As one of the leading security companies and a major supplier of forensic software for iOS devices, ElcomSoft is being constantly approached by IT security specialists, journalists and forensic experts. The most common question is: how will the new security measures affect iOS forensics? (more…)

Keeper Password Manager & Digital Vault: security review

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014


Two years ago, ElcomSoft analyzed some 17 password management applications for mobile platforms only to discover that no single app was able to deliver the claimed level of protection. The majority of the apps relied upon proprietary encryption models rather than utilizing iOS exemplary security model. As a result, most applications were either plain insecure or provided insufficient security levels, allowing a competent intruder to break into the encrypted data in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Full report (PDF) is available here.

Today, we need stronger security more than ever. Was the urge for stronger security recognized by software makers, or are they still using the same inefficient techniques? In order to find out, we decided to re-test some of the previously analyzed products. Keeper® Password Manager & Digital Vault will the first subject for dissection.

Back in 2012, we weren’t much impressed by security in any of the apps we analyzed. Two years later, Keeper developers claimed they’ve successfully implemented the suggestions we made during the last analysis. The developers claim to have used 256-bit AES encryption, PBKDF2 key generation, BCrypt, and SHA-1 among other things. Let’s see if these improvements lead to stronger security.


Déjà vu

Monday, December 24th, 2012

The story about PGP becomes really funny.

Three and a half years ago (in April 2009) our company took part in InfoSecurity Europe in London. I should confess that London is one of my favourite cities; besides, I love events on security — so that I was really enjoying that trip (with my colleagues). But something happened.


ElcomSoft Decrypts BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt Containers

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt set industry standard in the area of whole-disk and partition encryption. All three tools provide strong, reliable protection, and offer a perfect implementation of strong crypto.

Normally, information stored in any of these containers is impossible to retrieve without knowing the original plain-text password protecting the encrypted volume. The very nature of these crypto containers suggests that their target audience is likely to select long, complex passwords that won’t be easy to guess or brute-force. And this is exactly the weakness we’ve targeted in our new product: Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor.

The Weakness of Crypto Containers

The main and only weakness of crypto containers is human factor. Weak passwords aside, encrypted volumes must be mounted for the user to have on-the-fly access to encrypted data. No one likes typing their long, complex passwords every time they need to read or write a file. As a result, keys used to encrypt and decrypt data that’s being written or read from protected volumes are kept readily accessible in the computer’s operating memory. Obviously, what’s kept readily accessible can be retrieved near instantly by a third-party tool. Such as Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor.

Retrieving Decryption Keys

In order to access the content of encrypted containers, we must retrieve the appropriate decryption keys. Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor can obtain these keys from memory dumps captured with one of the many forensic tools or acquired during a FireWire attack. If the computer is off, Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor can retrieve decryption keys from a hibernation file. It’s important that encrypted volumes are mounted at the time a memory dump is obtained or the PC goes to sleep; otherwise, the decryption keys are destroyed and the content of encrypted volumes cannot be decrypted without knowing the original plain-text password.

“The new product includes algorithms allowing us to analyze dumps of computers’ volatile memory, locating areas that contain the decryption keys. Sometimes the keys are discovered by analyzing byte sequences, and sometimes by examining crypto containers’ internal structures. When searching for PGP keys, the user can significantly speed up the process if the exact encryption algorithm is known.”

It is essential to note that Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor extracts all the keys from a memory dump at once, so if there is more than one crypto container in the system, there is no need to re-process the memory dump.

Using forensic software for taking snapshots of computers’ memory is nothing new. The FireWire attack method existed for many years, but for some reason it’s not widely known. This method is described in detail in many sources such as or

The FireWire attack method is based on a known security issue that impacts FireWire / i.LINK / IEEE 1394 links. One can take direct control of a PC or laptop operating memory (RAM) by connecting through a FireWire. After that, grabbing a full memory dump takes only a few minutes. What made it possible is a feature of the original FireWide/IEEE 1394 specification allowing unrestricted access to PC’s physical memory for external FireWire devices. Direct Memory Access (DMA) is used to provide that access. As this is DMA, the exploit is going to work regardless of whether the target PC is locked or even logged on. There’s no way to protect a PC against this threat except explicitly disabling FireWire drivers. The vulnerability exists for as long as the system is running. There are many free tools available to carry on this attack, so Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor does not include a module to perform one.

If the computer is turned off, there are still chances that the decryption keys can be retrieved from the computer’s hibernation file. Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor comes with a module analyzing hibernation files and retrieving decryption keys to protected volumes.

Complete Decryption and On-the-Fly Access

With decryption keys handy, Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor can go ahead and unlock the protected disks. There are two different modes available. In complete decryption mode, the product will decrypt everything stored in the container, including any hidden volumes. This mode is useful for collecting the most evidence, time permitting.

In real-time access mode, Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor mounts encrypted containers as drive letters, enabling quick random access to encrypted data. In this mode files are decrypted on-the-fly at the time they are read from the disk. Real-time access comes handy when investigators are short on time (which is almost always the case).

We are also adding True Crypt and Bitlocker To Go plugins to Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery, enabling the product to attack plain-text passwords protecting the encrypted containers with a range of advanced attacks including dictionary, mask and permutation attacks in addition to brute-force.

Unique Features

The unique feature of Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor is the ability to mount encrypted disks as a drive letter, using any and all forensic tools to quickly access the data. This may not seem secure, and may not be allowed by some policies, but sometimes the speed and convenience is everything. When you don’t have the time to spend hours decrypting the entire crypto container, simply mount the disk and run your analysis tools for quick results!

More Information

More information about Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor is available on the official product page at

Elcomsoft, UPEK and more

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

[That was one *awesome* passphrase! :-)]

Elcomsoft has announced that certain versions of fingerprint software named Protector Suite made by UPEK (now part of Authentec) stores your Windows password in a ‘scrambled’ format in registry. This allows an attacker through different entry points to get easy access to a users Windows password. I have no reason not to believe Elcomsoft in their claims, but UPEK/Autentec seriously disagrees. In the middle of this I happen to have some questions, and an opinion regarding biometric software today.


I have lost count of all the times colleagues have approached me with a big smile, challenging me to break into their work laptops now that they have enabled fingerprint authentication. Pressing Esc to get the normal logon prompt and then entering my AD username & password logged me in. Having local admin rights made things even easier to conduct pass-the-hash of their locally cached credentials, and smile turned to sadness. Hey, I have even been accused of cheating when I did that.

I purchased my first fingerprint reader back somewhere in 1999. It was complete crap. Many years later I purchased a Microsoft keyboard with integrated fingerprint reader:

I still remember a very clear warning in their documentation: the fingerprint reader should not be trusted for security. It should be considered as a toy. Oh well.

Today the integrated fingerprint readers in many laptops is the most common place we interact with biometric solutions. IF we choose to use it of course – there is no requirement to do so from the vendor. Enter Elcomsoft.

Security vs Convenience

Lots of people – including infosec professionals, doesn’t see the difference  between using biometric authentication as a security feature, and as a convenience feature. Simply explained for the home user:

  1. If you use biometric authentication to logon to your laptop, but can bypass it by pressing Esc and enter your username & password, you are using biometrics as a convenience feature.
  2. If you have removed any and all possibilities to logon except by using/including biometrics, you are using biometrics as a security feature.

The differences here are … well… BIG, at least in theory. But wait; that was for the home user. I don’t care much about your private pictures, christmas wish list and facebook account anyway, so lets look at it from a corporate perspective:

There is no integrated support for replacing passwords with biometric authentication within Microsoft Windows.

This means that any kind of authentication addition or replacement you set up on laptops, tablets or desktop computers in a corporate enviroment with Active Directory, a password still has to be configured for a user in a domain, and that password is what authenticates the user throughout the domain. Using highly advanced visualization tools, hours and hours of hard work and a colorful palette, I made this infographic to explain what happens:

Using biometric logon, we add another step in the authentication process in a corporate environment. Please note; we added one more step, we didn’t necessarily add one more layer of security.

I blogged about upcoming password security features in Windows 8 Password Security. Please observe that using picture password and/or a PIN is an addition to having a password. They are quite simply convenience features. Having said that, I would like to give kudos to Microsoft for doing quite a bit of research into picture passwords and presenting it in such a detailed form that we can make up an opinion about the security it provides.

What did Elcomsoft discover?

Well, they claim that certain versions of the software in question stores your Windows password using weak protection locally (see step 2 in the biometric chain above). Using a simple PoC, they have successfully extracted the stored Windows password from registry by the biometric software and “decrypted” it.

Since the biometric software is local only, it needs to know your Windows password to properly give you both local and domain access. To repeat; your username and password gives you access, not your fingerprint or any other biometric ID. If your password is changed, either locally or in the domain, you will have to provide your new password to the biometric software.

Is this such a big deal?


Good practice is to store passwords using hash irreversible algorithms, preferably strong types such as PBKDF2, Bcrypt or Scrypt. The draft cheat sheet from OWASP on password storage gives more information about such algorithms, and more. Even though Microsoft doesn’t use salting or key stretching in their LM/NTLM algorithms, they are still hash algorithms. You cannot “reverse” the process to get the plaintext password, you have to

My Authentec (Thinkpad) fingerprint software, which is NOT affected by Elcomsofts findings, knows my password (or passphrase in my case), and there is an option in the software to display it on screen, as the video on top shows you.

But I can do pass-the-hash/ticket and more, why is this a big deal?  

Sure you can. But you cannot do those attacks against a Outlook Web Access configuration from the Internet using SSL. You don’t know the users actual password when you do pass-the-hash attacks, so you cannot check if the user uses the same password on other services, at work or on a personal basis.

If my fingerprint – my biometric template – was the secret key to unlock the password using reversible encryption like AES, things could perhaps be considered a bit better, but it would still not be good practice to store any users password using reversible encryption. Which is exactly what is evidenced by my video above.

Now if claims by Elcomsoft are true, malware could easily exploit the weakness found to extract users Windows plaintext passwords in yet another way, adding to the already existing ways of doing so.

I haven’t twisted my mind long enough on this to figure out ways of improving this, but I am open for suggestions. 🙂

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