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The Art of iPhone Acquisition

July 9th, 2019 by Vladimir Katalov

We all know how much important data is stored in modern smartphones, making them an excellent source of evidence. However, data preservation and acquisition are not as easy as they sound. There is no silver bullet or “fire and forget” solutions to solve cases or extract evidence on your behalf. In this article, which is loosely based on our three-day training program, we will describe the proper steps in the proper order to retain and extract as much data from the iPhone as theoretically possible.

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Digital Forensics: Training Required

June 26th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

If you are working in the area of digital forensics, you might have wondered about one particular thing in the marketing of many forensic solutions. While most manufacturers are claiming that their tools are easy to use and to learn, those very same manufacturers offer training courses with prices often exceeding the cost of the actual tools. Are these trainings necessary at all if the tools are as easy to use as the marketing claims?

We believe so. A “digital” investigation is not something you can “fire and forget” by connecting a phone to a PC, running your favorite tool and pushing the button. Dealing with encrypted media, the most straightforward approach of brute-forcing your way is not always the best.

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Apple Watch Forensics 02: Analysis

June 26th, 2019 by Mattia Epifani

Over the last several years, the use of smart wearables has increased significantly. With 141 million smartwatch units sold in 2018, the number of smart wearables sold has nearly doubled compared to the year before. Among the various competitors, the Apple Watch is dominating the field with more than 22.5 million of wearable devices sold in 2018. Year over year, the Apple Watch occupies nearly half of the global market.

During the years, starting from 2015, Apple manufactured five different models with WatchOS, a wearable OS based on iOS and specifically developed for the Apple Watch.

Some initial an innovative research of the device was done by Heather Mahalik and Sarah Edwards back in 2015 on the original Apple Watch. The presentation is available on Sarah Edwards’s GitHub account (PDF).

Since then, not a lot of research was done on how to extract data from this kind of devices. I have been working on this topic over the last months, by researching methods on how to extract and analyze data stored on the internal memory of the Apple Watch.

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Apple TV and Apple Watch Forensics 01: Acquisition

June 19th, 2019 by Vladimir Katalov

While the iPhone is Apple’s bread and butter product, is not the only device produced by the company. We’ve got the Mac (in desktop and laptop variations), the complete range of tablets (the iPad line, which is arguably the best tablet range on the market), the music device (HomePod), the wearable (Apple Watch), and the Apple TV. In today’s article, we are going to cover data extraction from Apple TV and Apple Watch. They do contain tons of valuable data, and are often the only source of evidence.

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The Most Unusual Things about iPhone Backups

June 18th, 2019 by Vladimir Katalov

If you are familiar with breaking passwords, you already know that different tools and file formats require a very different amount of efforts to break. Breaking a password protecting a RAR archive can take ten times as long as breaking a password to a ZIP archive with the same content, while breaking a Word document saved in Office 2016 can take ten times as long as breaking an Office 2010 document. With solutions for over 300 file formats and encryption algorithms, we still find iTunes backups amazing, and their passwords to be very different from the rest of the crop in some interesting ways. In this article we tried to gather everything we know about iTunes backup passwords to help you break (or reset) their passwords in the most efficient way.

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Forensic Implications of iOS Jailbreaking

June 12th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Jailbreaking is used by the forensic community to access the file system of iOS devices, perform physical extraction and decrypt device secrets. Jailbreaking the device is one of the most straightforward ways to gain low-level access to many types of evidence not available with any other extraction methods.

On the negative side, jailbreaking is a process that carries risks and other implications. Depending on various factors such as the jailbreak tool, installation method and the ability to understand and follow the procedure will affect the risks and consequences of installing a jailbreak. In this article we’ll talk about the risks and consequences of using various jailbreak tools and installation methods.

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Step by Step Guide to iOS Jailbreaking and Physical Acquisition

May 30th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Unless you’re using GrayShift or Cellebrite services for iPhone extraction, jailbreaking is a required pre-requisite for physical acquisition. Physical access offers numerous benefits over other types of extraction; as a result, jailbreaking is in demand among experts and forensic specialists.

The procedure of installing a jailbreak for the purpose of physical extraction is vastly different from jailbreaking for research or other purposes. In particular, forensic experts are struggling to keep devices offline in order to prevent data leaks, unwanted synchronization and issues with remote device management that may remotely block or erase the device. While there is no lack of jailbreaking guides and manuals for “general” jailbreaking, installing a jailbreak for the purpose of physical acquisition has multiple forensic implications and some important precautions.

When performing forensic extraction of an iOS device, we recommend the following procedure.

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A Bootable Flash Drive to Extract Encrypted Volume Keys, Break Full-Disk Encryption

April 25th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Full-disk encryption presents an immediate challenge to forensic experts. When acquiring computers with encrypted system volumes, the investigation cannot go forward without breaking the encryption first. Traditionally, experts would remove the hard drive(s), make disk images and work from there. We are offering a faster and easier way to access information required to break full-disk system encryption by booting from a flash drive and obtaining encryption metadata required to brute-force the original plain-text passwords to encrypted volumes. For non-system volumes, experts can quickly pull the system’s hibernation file to extract on-the-fly encryption keys later on with Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor.

What’s It All About?

It’s about an alternative forensic workflow for accessing evidence stored on computers protected with full-disk encryption. Once the system partition is encrypted, there is nothing one can do about it but break the encryption. Elcomsoft System Recovery helps launch password recovery attacks sooner compared to the traditional acquisition workflow, and offers a chance of mounting the encrypted volumes in a matter of minutes by extracting the system’s hibernation file that may contain on-the-fly encryption keys protecting the encrypted volumes.

This new workflow is especially handy when analyzing ultrabooks, laptops and 2-in-1 Windows tablet devices such as the Microsoft Surface range featuring non-removable, soldered storage or non-standard media. With just a few clicks (literally), experts can extract all information required to launch the attack on encrypted volumes.

Elcomsoft System Recovery offers unprecedented safety and compatibility. The use of a licensed Windows PE environment ensures full hardware compatibility and boot support for systems protected with Secure Startup. The tool mounts the user’s disks and storage media in strict read-only mode to ensure forensically sound extraction. Read the rest of this entry »

iOS 12 Rootless Jailbreak

February 22nd, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

The new generation of jailbreaks has arrived. Available for iOS 11 and iOS 12 (up to and including iOS 12.1.2), rootless jailbreaks offer significantly more forensically sound extraction compared to traditional jailbreaks. Learn how rootless jailbreaks are different to classic jailbreaks, why they are better for forensic extractions and what traces they leave behind.

Privilege Escalation

If you are follow our blog, you might have already seen articles on iOS jailbreaking. In case you didn’t, here are a few recent ones to get you started:

In addition, we published an article on technical and legal implications of iOS file system acquisition that’s totally worth reading.

Starting with the iPhone 5s, Apple’s first iOS device featuring a 64-bit SoC and Secure Enclave to protect device data, the term “physical acquisition” has changed its meaning. In earlier (32-bit) devices, physical acquisition used to mean creating a bit-precise image of the user’s encrypted data partition. By extracting the encryption key, the tool performing physical acquisition was able to decrypt the content of the data partition.

Secure Enclave locked us out. For 64-bit iOS devices, physical acquisition means file system imaging, a higher-level process compared to acquiring the data partition. In addition, iOS keychain can be obtained and extracted during the acquisition process.

Low-level access to the file system requires elevated privileges. Depending on which tool or service you use, privilege escalation can be performed by directly exploiting a vulnerability in iOS to bypass system’s security measures. This is what tools such as GrayKey and services such as Cellebrite do. If you go this route, you have no control over which exploit is used. You won’t know exactly which data is being altered on the device during the extraction, and what kind of traces are left behind post extraction.

In iOS Forensic Toolkit, we rely on public jailbreaks to circumvent iOS security measures. The use of public jailbreaks as opposed to closed-source exploits has its benefits and drawbacks. The obvious benefit is the lower cost of the entire solution and the fact you can choose the jailbreak to use. On the other hand, classic jailbreaks were leaving far too many traces, making them a bit overkill for the purpose of file system imaging. A classic jailbreak has to disable signature checks to allow running unsigned code. A classic jailbreak would include Cydia, a third-party app store that requires additional layers of development to work on jailbroken devices. In other words, classic jailbreaks such as Electra, Meridian or unc0ver carry too many extras that aren’t needed or wanted in the forensic world. Read the rest of this entry »