Archive for the ‘Industry News’ 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.


Why Do We Need Physical Acquisition?

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

With all the trouble of jailbreaking iOS 8 devices and the lack of support for 64-bit hardware, does iOS physical acquisition still present meaningful benefits to the investigator? Is it still worth your time and effort attempting to acquire that iPhone via a Lightning cord?

Granted, jailbroken iOS devices are rare as hen’s teeth. You are very unlikely to see one in the wild. However, we strongly believe that physical acquisition still plays an important role in the lab, and here are the reasons why.

  1. Apple’s current privacy policy explicitly denies government information requests if the device in question is running iOS 8. This means that handing over the device to Apple will no longer result in receiving its full image if the device is running iOS 8.x (source:
  2. In many countries (Mexico, Brazil, Russia, East Europe etc.) Apple sells more 32-bit phones than 64-bit ones. Old iPhones traded in the US are refurbished and sold to consumers in other countries (BrightStar coordinates these operations for Apple in the US). As an example, new and refurbished iPhone 4S and 5 units accounted for some 46% of all iPhones sold through retail channels in Russia in Q1 2015.
  3. Physical extraction returns significantly more information compared to any other acquisition method including logical or over-the-air acquisition. In particular, we’re talking about downloaded mail and full application data including logs and cache files (especially those related to Internet activities). A lot of this information never makes it into backups.
  4. Full keychain extraction is only available with physical acquisition. Physical is the only way to fully decrypting the keychain including those records encrypted with device-specific keys. Those keychain items can be extracted from a backup file, but cannot be decrypted without a device-specific key. In addition, the keychain often contains the user’s Apple ID password.
  5. With physical acquisition, you can extract the ‘securityd’ (0x835) from the device. This key can be used to completely decrypt all keychain items from iCloud backups.
  6. Physical acquisition produces a standard DMG disk image with HFS+ file system. You can mount the image into the system and use a wider range of mobile forensic tools to analyze compared to iTunes or iCloud backup files.


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…)

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.


Apple Two-Factor Authentication and the iCloud

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post on hacked Yahoo!, Dropbox and accounts, and how this can start a chain reaction. Companies seem to begin recognizing the threat, and are starting to protect their customers with today’s cutting edge security: two-factor authentication.

A word on two-factor authentication. In Europe, banks and financial institutions have been doing this for decades. Clients needed to enter an extra piece of information from a trusted media in addition to their account credentials in order to authorize a transaction such as transferring money out of their account. For many years, bank used printed lists of numbered passcodes serving as Transaction Authentication Numbers (TAN). When attempting to transfer money out of your bank account, you would be asked to enter a passcode number X. If you did not come up with the right code, the transfer would not execute. There are alternatives to printed TAN’s such as single-use passwords sent via a text message to a trusted mobile number or interactive TANs generated with a trusted crypto token or a software app installed onto a trusted phone.

Online services such as Microsoft or Google implement two-factor authentication in a different manner, asking their customers to come up with a second piece of an ID when attempting to access their services from a new device. This is supposed to prevent anyone stealing your login and password information from gaining access to your account from devices other than your own, verified PC, phone or tablet.

The purpose of two-factor authentication is to prevent parties gaining unauthorized access to your account credentials from taking any real advantage. Passwords are way too easy to compromise. Social engineering, keyloggers, trojans, password re-use and other factors contribute to the number of accounts compromised every month. An extra step in the authorization process involving a trusted device makes hackers lives extremely tough.

At this very moment, two-step authentication is being implemented by major online service companies. Facebook, Google and Microsoft already have it. Twitter is ‘rolling out two-factor authentication too.

A recent story about a journalist’s Google, Twitter and Apple accounts compromised and abused seems to have Apple started on pushing its own implementation of two-factor authentication.

Two-Factor Authentication: The Apple Way

Apple’s way of doing things is… different. Let’s look at their implementation of two-factor authentication.


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

UPEK Fingerprint Readers: a Huge Security Hole

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Most laptops today ship with a fingerprint reader. Most likely, you have a laptop with one. Until very recently, most major manufacturers such as Acer, ASUS, Dell, Gateway, Lenovo, MSI, NEC, Samsung, SONY, Toshiba, and many others were using fingerprint readers manufactured by a single company: UPEK.


ElcomSoft discovered a major flaw with UPEK Protector Suite, which was the software shipped with the majority of laptops equipped with UPEK fingerprint readers until the company was acquired by Authentec and switched to different software. Even today, when UPEK is acquired by Authentec which now uses TrueSuite® software, many (or most) existing laptop users will simply stay with the old flawed software, not feeling the need to upgrade.

Does Fingerprinting the User Lead to Tighter Security?

Laptops normally come loaded with pre-installed software. Among other things manufacturers install on your brand-new laptop is software communicating with UPEK readers: UPEK Protector Suite. The suite manages fingerprint reading hardware, offering users the convenience of substituting the typing of passwords with a single swipe of a finger. Ultimately, UPEK Protector Suite caches your passwords, offering near-instant login to Web sites and Windows itself.

Logging into Windows by swiping a finger instead of clicking and typing a (probably long and complex) password sounds tempting. And, it works. A simple swipe of your finger, and you’re in. Wonderful; but what about security?

Here’s what UPEK says on its Web site about the Windows login: “Protector Suite QL allows for secure access to Windows by swiping your finger instead of typing a password.” Notice the “secure” part? Well, we found out UPEK makes Windows login anything but secure. In fact, the UPEK’s implementation is nothing but a big, glowing security hole compromising (and effectively destroying) the entire security model of Windows accounts.

The Issue with UPEK Protector Suite

After analyzing a number of laptops equipped with UPEK fingerprint readers and running UPEK Protector Suite, we found that your Windows account passwords are stored in Windows registry almost in plain text, barely scrambled but not encrypted. Having physical access to a laptop running UPEK Protector Suite, we could extract passwords to all user accounts with fingerprint-enabled logon. Putting things into perspective: Windows itself never stores account passwords unless you enable “automatic login”, which is discouraged by Microsoft. If you use the Windows auto-logon feature, you’ll see a message saying “Using automatic logon can pose a security risk because anyone that has access to your computer will have access to your programs and personal files.” Simply said, no corporate user will ever use this “automatic logon” feature, which is often banned by corporate security policies.

However, fingerprint logon is rarely, if ever, barred. The common perception is that biometric logon is just as, or maybe more secure than password-based one. While biometric logon could be implemented that way, UPEK apparently failed. Instead of using a proper technique, they preferred the easy route: UPEK Protector Suite simply stores the original password to Windows account, making it possible for an intruder to obtain one.

Storing Windows account passwords in plain text is bad practice. It defeats the entire purpose of enhanced security. In fact, with current implementation, we cannot speak of any security as the entire PC becomes extremely easy to exploit to anyone aware of this vulnerability. This time around, UPEK made it completely wrong, introducing a paper link to a stainless steel chain.

If Your Windows Logon Password Is Compromised

What happens if someone gets to know your Windows account password? First, they obviously gain access to all your files and documents. Of course, if they had your laptop and its hard drive at their disposal, they could to that anyway – with one exception: they would not be able to read EFS-encrypted files (those that have the “Encrypt contents to secure data” checkbox ticked in the file properties – Attributes – Advanced). EFS encryption is extremely strong and impossible to break without knowing the original Windows account password.

And here comes UPEK Protector Suite. Conveniently storing your plain-text account password, the suite gives the intruder the ability to access your used-to-be-protected EFS encrypted files. Bummer.

The Scope of the Issue

The scope of this issue is extremely broad. It is not limited to a certain laptop model or manufacturer. All laptops equipped with UPEK fingerprint readers and running UPEK Protector Suite are susceptible. If you ever registered your fingerprints with UPEK Protector Suite for accelerated Windows logon and typed your account password there, you are at risk.

Course of Action

If you care about security of your Windows account, launch UPEK Protector Suite and disable the Windows logon feature. That should clear the stored password for your account. Note that you should clear all stored account passwords to protect all user accounts.

What We Did

ElcomSoft will not disclose full detail in the interests of public responsibility. We notified former UPEK about the issue (but sure enough they know about it). We also prepared a demo application, which displays partial login credentials of users who enabled fingerprint login. We won’t give it away to general public; only a limited number of hi-tech journalists will receive this software.

Accelerating Password Recovery: the Addition of FPGA

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Back in 2008, ElcomSoft started using consumer-grade video cards to accelerate password recovery. The abilities of today’s GPU’s to perform massively parallel computations helped us greatly increase the speed of recovering passwords. Users of GPU-accelerated ElcomSoft password recovery tools were able to see the result 10 to 200 times (depending on system configuration) sooner than the users of competing, non-accelerated products.

Today, ElcomSoft introduced support for a new class of acceleration hardware: Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) used by Pico Computing in its hardware acceleration modules. Two products have received the update: Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker and Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor, enabling accelerated recovery of Wi-Fi WPA/WPA2 passwords as well as passwords protecting Apple and Blackberry offline backups. In near future, Pico FPGA support will be added to Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery.

With FPGA support, ElcomSoft products now support a wide range of hardware acceleration platforms including Pico FPGA’s, OpenCL compliant AMD video cards, Tableau TACC, and NVIDIA CUDA compatible hardware including conventional and enterprise-grade solutions such as Tesla and Fermi.

Hardware Acceleration of Password Recovery
Today, no serious forensic user will use a product relying solely on computer’s CPU. Clusters of GPU-accelerated workstations are employed to crack a wide range of passwords from those protecting office documents and databases to passwords protecting Wi-Fi communications as well as information stored in Apple and BlackBerry smartphones. But can consumer-grade video cards be called the definite ‘best’ solution?

GPU Acceleration: The Other Side of the Coin
Granted, high-end gaming video cards provide the best bang for the buck when it comes to buying teraflops. There’s simply no competition here. A cluster of 4 AMD or NVIDIA video cards installed in a single chassis can provide a computational equivalent of 500 or even 1000 dual-core CPU’s at a small fraction of the price, size and power consumption of similarly powerful workstation equipped only with CPU’s.

However, GPU’s used in video cards, including enterprise-grade solutions such as NVIDIA Tesla, are not optimized for the very specific purpose of recovering passwords. They still do orders of magnitude better than CPU’s, but if one’s looking for a solution that prioritizes absolute performance over price/performance, there are alternatives.

 How Would You Like Your Eggs?
A single top of the line video card such as AMD Radeon 7970 consumes about 300 W at top load. It generates so much heat you can literally fry an egg on it! A cluster of four gaming video cards installed into a single PC will suck power and generate so much heat that cooling becomes a serious issue.

Accelerating Password Recovery with FPGAs
High-performance password cracking can be achieved with other devices. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) will fit the bill just perfectly. A single 4U chassis with a cluster of FPGA’s installed can offer a computational equivalent of over 2,000 dual-core processors.

The power consumption of FPGA-based units is dramatically less than that of consumer video cards. For example, units such as Pico E-101 draw measly 2.5 W. FPGA-based solutions don’t even approach the level of power consumption and heat generation of gaming video cards, running much cooler and comprising a much more stable system.

GPU vs. FPGA Acceleration: The Battle
Both GPU and FPGA acceleration approaches have their pros and contras. The GPU approach offers the best value, delivering optimal price/performance ratio to savvy consumers and occasional users. Heavy users will have to deal with increased power consumption and heat generation of GPU clusters.

FPGA’s definitely cost more per teraflop of performance. However, they are better optimized for applications such as password recovery (as opposed to 3D and video calculations), delivering significantly better performance – in absolute terms – compared to GPU-accelerated systems. FPGA-based systems generate much less heat than GPU clusters, and consume significantly less power. In addition, an FPGA-based system fits perfectly into a single 4U chassis, allowing forensic users building racks stuffed with FPGA-based systems. This is the very reason why many government, intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies are choosing FPGA-based systems.

Adobe Acrobat X Support in Advanced PDF Password Recovery

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

We updated Advanced PDF Password Recovery to add Acrobat X support, recovering the original password and instantly removing various access restrictions in PDF documents produced by Adobe Acrobat X.

Removing PDF Access Restrictions

Many PDF documents come with various access restrictions that disable certain features such as the ability to print documents, copy selected text or save filled forms. If a PDF file can be opened without a password, the new release can instantly unlock restricted PDF files produced by Adobe Acrobat X even if the original password is not known.