Some time ago, I wrote a blog post on hacked Yahoo!, Dropbox and Battle.net 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. Anextrastepin 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.
It’s been a while since we released the new version of Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker that allows downloading backups from iCloud (read the press release). Many customers all over the world are already using this new feature intensively, but we still get many questions about its benefits, examples of cases when it can be used and how to use it properly. We also noticed many ironic comments in different forums (mostly from users without any experience in using iOS devices and so have no idea what iCloud backups actually are, I guess), saying that there is nothing really new or interesting there, because anyone with Apple ID and password can access the data stored in iCloud backup anyway.
Well, it seems some further explanation is needed. If you are already using EPPB (and this feature in particular) you will find some useful tips for future interaction with iCloud, or even if you don’t have an iOS device (you loser! just kidding :)) please go ahead and learn how iCloud can be helpful and dangerous at the same time. Read the rest of this entry »
Apple iCloud is a popular service providing Apple users the much needed backup storage space. Using the iCloud is so simple and unobtrusive that more than 190 million customers (as of November, 2012) are using the service on regular basis.
Little do they know. The service opens governments a back door for spying on iOS users without them even knowing. ElcomSoft researchers discovered that information stored in the iCloud can be retrieved by anyone without having access to a physical device, provided that the original Apple ID and password are known. The company even built the technology for accessing this information in one of its mobile forensic products, Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker, allowing investigators accessing backup copies of the phone’s content via iCloud services.
There are reports in some of the largest newspapers here in Norway of teenagers (or young male adults) hacking Apple accounts of teenage girls through the “lost password” function by correctly answering the reset questions such as the victims’ names and birthdates. I’ve found at least one who is using Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker to illegally download and extract images & videos of teenage girls like this, and then offering them for sale online.
Due to laws and regulations, it is hard for the police to investigate these cases (logs that connect people to IP addresses are only stored for 21 days at ISPs here).
Relevant news stories (in Norwegian, use google translate):
Perhaps I could get a statement from you/Elcomsoft on this, and that you/I will offer our assistance to the Norwegian police if needed?
This news is disturbing. We’re always concerned when our products end up in the wrong hands. Elcomsoft works in IT security for more than 15 years already and it has always been our aim to explain users hidden rocks, and we are always assist law enforcement in their workflow both with our tools and our advice.
However, the bad guys can also take advantage of available tools – including tools made by our company. We have to admit that that once you let the genie out of the bottle there’s no way back.
We are concerned and very disappointed with what has happened in this very case. If only we could, we’d be happy to help users safeguard their iCloud accounts against this type of attack. Unfortunately, Apple has an inherent problem at the level of data authentication, so there’s actually very little that can be done except not using the iCloud at all or faking registration details with Apple.
iCloud stores huge amounts of information. Access to this information is provided to either iOS devices linked to the account, or to anyone who uses a Web browser and supplies the correct Apple ID and password. Of course there is also transport layer security (via the use of HTTPS communication protocol), and only three attempts to enter a password are allowed before the account is locked. But this is nothing more than anyone does. Here at ElcomSoft, we strongly believe that outsourcing the storage of personal information to a cloud bears significant risks. It is essential for the consumer to understand exactly the risks involved. Many corporations with concise security policies already ban cloud storages such as Apple iCloud from their networks (e.g. IBM).
As for Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker, the tool is most definitely not intended to commit crime. The use of the tool requires the correct user credentials (Apple ID and password) and/or the device itself in order to get access to the data. Unfortunately, it is difficult to stop intruders from exploiting all the tools available to forensic and law enforcement customers to extract as much data as they can.
In this particular case, what seems to be happening is teenage hackers are using their classmates’ names, dates of birth and answers to “secret” questions to “recover” (or, actually, reset) their iCloud passwords. This type of attack is called “social engineering”, and it does not take much for teenagers to guess (or know) the answer to teenage girls’ “security” questions.
Due to what’s been done, the usual advice of “choosing a long, complex password” and “not sharing it with strangers” will not work, as the vulnerability targeted here lies in the way Apple authenticates account holders.
Our recommendations here could be as follows. iPhone and iPad users should be doing the following from the very beginning:
Avoid using iCloud services to back up information from the phone. As ElcomSoft demonstrated multiple times, information stored in the iCloud is NOT secure, and is prone to eavesdropping and spying upon without the user even knowing.
Choose secure verification questions *and* provide unexpected or illogical answers. This will make it difficult for anyone to “recover” your password by guessing the right answer.
Choose a secure device password, a long and complex one, which is NOT a 4 digit passcode which can be cracked within half an hour, the longer password the better – train your memory if you want to keep your privacy! Brute forcing the device password is very slow which makes a real problem for the intruder, if it’s long.
Choose a secure Apple ID password, long and complex. Never key in your Apple ID on laptops and computers you don’t trust and even if you do so, make sure the computer is totally under your control which practically means never leaving it unprotected or unattended.
Choose login names that aren’t obvious, which is not your name and surname in all their variations. This will make it harder to guess.
Never use the same password as one protecting your email account!
Link your Apple ID account only to an e-mail account also protected with a secure password and control questions with unexpected answers.
Never re-use passwords, this is extremely dangerous thing today, when new databases with passwords are made public after every new hack.
Do not jailbreak your iPhone unless you clearly understand all consequences. Why should you willingly unsecure it?
Finally, do not use iCloud.
We regularly hear most people care about security only when it touches their financial side of life. However, today in the age of information technologies losing one’s identity may lead to a number of sequential mischiefs, as a lot of information is interconnected and its threads are running to numerous endpoints that are not always securely protected. Unfortunately, security and convenience don’t walk together, so you have to balance between security and convenience.
We have just updated Advanced Office Password Recovery and Distributed Password Recovery with NVIDIA Tesla K20 support, enabling world’s fastest password recovery with NVIDIA’s latest supercomputing platform. Elcomsoft Advanced Office Password Recovery removes document restrictions and recovers passwords protecting Microsoft Office documents, while Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery can quickly break a wide range of passwords on multiple workstations with near zero scalability overhead.
GPU-accelerated password recovery dramatically reduces the time required to break long and complex passwords, offering more than 20-fold performance gain over CPU-only operations (compared to a quad-core Intel i7 CPU). NVIDIA’s latest Tesla K20 platform further increases the performance, delivering a nearly 1.5x performance increase compared to the use of a dual-core NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 board.
A workstation equipped with an NVIDIA Tesla K20 unit can crunch as many as 27500 Office 2007 passwords per second, or 13500 passwords per second in the case of Microsoft Office 2010. In comparison, the next-best solution, a dual-core GeForce GTX 690 board, can try some 19000 Office 2007 or 9000 Office 2010 passwords per second.
The updated Elcomsoft Advanced Office Password Recovery and Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery now fully support the latest NVIDIA supercomputing hardware, enabling users to gain unrestricted access to many types of documents in far less time.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Dear friends, we are happy to suggest you our special seasonal daily offers till New Year’s Eve 2013. In our festive calendar every following day you will be offered a very special New Year discount for one of our numerous products. Hurry, there is a new offer every new day! Every offer is valid during one day only!
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:
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.
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? Yes.
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.