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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 »

Technical and Legal Implications of iOS File System Acquisition

February 21st, 2019 by Vladimir Katalov

There has been a lot of noise regarding GrayKey news recently. GrayKey is an excellent appliance for iOS data extraction, and yes, it can help access more evidence. As always, the devil is in the detail.

A couple of quotes first, coming from the company who now partners with GrayShift to bundle their mobile forensic software (one of the best on the market, I would say) with GrayKey. They do support GrayKey-extracted data as well, and here is what they say:

“From the first iPhone extraction from GrayKey we were blown away with the amount of data they recovered”

“we’re seeing data we haven’t seen in years”

Actually, this is not exactly the case. Speaking of full file system acquisition, it’s been us who were the first on the market some 3 years ago, see Physical Acquisition for 64-bit Devices, iOS 9 Support.

Since then, we’ve been actively developing and updating iOS Forensic Toolkit, adding support for newer versions of iOS. We published a number of articles in our blog describing the benefits of file system extraction and what you can get: location data, cached mail, app-specific data, CPU and network usage data and much more.

Yes, we use the different approach, that requires jailbreaking (more on that later).

Read the rest of this entry »

Physical Extraction and File System Imaging of iOS 12 Devices

February 21st, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

The new generation of jailbreaks has arrived for iPhones and iPads running iOS 12. Rootless jailbreaks offer experts the same low-level access to the file system as classic jailbreaks – but without their drawbacks. We’ve been closely watching the development of rootless jailbreaks, and developed full physical acquisition support (including keychain decryption) for Apple devices running iOS 12.0 through 12.1.2. Learn how to install a rootless jailbreak and how to perform physical extraction with Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit.

Jailbreaking and File System Extraction

We’ve published numerous articles on iOS jailbreaks and their connection to physical acquisition. Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit relies on public jailbreaks to gain access to the device’s file system, circumvent iOS security measures and access device secrets allowing us to decrypt the entire content of the keychain including keychain items protected with the highest protection class.

Read the rest of this entry »

iPhone Physical Acquisition: iOS 11.4 and 11.4.1

February 5th, 2019 by Vladimir Katalov

The two recent jailbreaks, unc0ver and Electra, have finally enabled file system extraction for Apple devices running iOS 11.4 and 11.4.1. At this time, all versions of iOS 11 can be jailbroken regardless of hardware. Let’s talk about forensic consequences of today’s release: keychain and file system extraction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Identifying SSD Controller and NAND Configuration

January 31st, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

In our previous article Why SSDs Die a Sudden Death (and How to Deal with It) we talked about SSD endurance and how it’s not the only thing affecting real life reliability. In that article, we assumed that manufacturers’ specifications of certain SSD models remain similar for a given SSD model. In fact, this is not the case. Quite a few manufacturers play tricks with consumers, releasing a certain SSD model with top notch specifications only to downgrade them at some point during the production cycle (but certainly after receiving its share of glowing reviews). While some OEMs do note the change at least in the revision number, the rest will just quote the small print allowing them to “change specifications at any time without prior notice”. We’ve seen well known SSD manufacturers switching from reliable MLC NAND to planar TLC trash within the same model (and zero notice to potential buyers). How can you tell which NAND configuration your particular SSD drive employs and whether or not it lives up to your expectations? Read along to find out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Securing and Extracting Health Data: Apple Health vs. Google Fit

January 30th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Today’s smartphones and wearable devices collect overwhelming amounts of data about the user’s health. Health information including the user’s daily activities, workouts, medical conditions, body measurements and many other types of information is undoubtedly one of the most sensitive types of data. Yet, smartphone users are lenient to trust this highly sensitive information to other parties. In this research, we’ll figure out how Apple and Google as two major mobile OS manufacturers collect, store, process and secure health data. We’ll analyze Apple Health and Google Fit, research what information they store in the cloud, learn how to extract the data. We’ll also analyze how both companies secure health information and how much of that data is available to third parties.

Apple Health: the All-in-One Health App

The Apple Health app made its appearance in 2014 with the release of iOS 8. Since then, Apple Health is pre-installed on all iPhones.

Apple Health keeps working in background, collecting information about the user’s activities using the phone’s low-energy sensors.

In addition to low-energy sensors built into modern iPhone devices, Apple offers a range of companion devices that can collect additional information about the user’s health and activities. This information may include heart rate measurements, frequent and precise samples of location information (GPS), as well as specific data (fall detection, ECG). Read the rest of this entry »

Apple iTunes: Standalone vs. Microsoft Store Edition

January 23rd, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Since April 2018, Apple made iTunes available to Windows 10 users through the Microsoft Store. While the stand-alone download remains available from Apple’s Web site, it is no longer offered by default to Windows 10 users. Instead, visitors are directed to Microsoft Store, which will handle the installation and updates of the iTunes app.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why SSDs Die a Sudden Death (and How to Deal with It)

January 18th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Many thanks to Roman Morozov, ACELab technical support specialist, for sharing his extensive knowledge and expertise and for all the time he spent ditching bugs in this article.

In our previous article Life after Trim: Using Factory Access Mode for Imaging SSD Drives we only mentioned reliability of SSD drives briefly. As you may know, NAND flash memory can sustain a limited number of write operations. Manufacturers of today’s consumer SSD drives usually guarantee about 150 to 1200 write cycles before the warranty runs out. This can lead to the conclusion that a NAND flash cell can sustain up to 1200 write cycles, and that an SSD drive can actually survive more than a thousand complete rewrites regardless of other conditions. This, however, is not fully correct. Certain usage conditions and certain types of load can wear SSD drives significantly faster compared to their declared endurance. In this article, we’ll look why a perfectly healthy SSD drive with 98-99% remaining life can die a sudden death. We’ll also give recommendations on tools and approaches that can get the data back even if the SSD drive is corrupted or does not appear in the system. Read the rest of this entry »

Life after Trim: Using Factory Access Mode for Imaging SSD Drives

January 16th, 2019 by Oleg Afonin

Many thanks to Roman Morozov, ACELab technical support specialist, for sharing his extensive knowledge and expertise and for all the time he spent ditching bugs in this article.

SSDs are weird. They are weird in the way they write data, and even weirder in the way they delete information. In the good old days of striped magnetic recording, one could delete a file and rest assured its content was still there until overwritten at some (hopefully distant) moment in the future; not so on an SSD.

SSDs are different. They are different in handling deleted data, wiping evidence irreversibly in the background like they were criminals’ best friends. Just power on the SSD, and it’ll start background garbage collection, erasing trimmed blocks even if you connected it through a write blocker. Image the SSD, and you won’t find anything in the “empty” areas – even if the actual data was still there at the time of the imaging. One more thing: your SSD has more storage capacity than it says on the box. 5 to 15% of the physical storage capacity is dedicated for a non-addressable pool; any data one deletes from the SSD that is subsequently trimmed by the OS can go straight into that pool, without any chance of accessing or even addressing the blocks.

Until very recently your only way of accessing deleted evidence on an SSD would be taking the chips off and performing a labour-intensive, time-consuming (let alone extremely expensive) chip-off analysis. We asked our partners from a forensic data recovery lab, and they told us they can do a four-chip SSD in a matter of two weeks. They also said they’d rather steer clear of the recent ten-chip SSDs, and they won’t do anything about encryption.

Did I say encryption? It could be easier than you think. A recent discovery points out that Windows built-in BitLocker protection tends to delegate the job of encrypting data to the SSD controller (as opposed to doing the encryption on the computer using the CPU). As found in the research, many consumer-grade SSDs take it easy, keeping the encryption key unprotected in the storage chips on the SSD.

In this article, we’ll talk about a recent development in SSD forensics allowing to prevent background trimming of evidence and providing access to the entire storage capacity of the disk including non-addressable areas. This method employs a so-called factory access mode. However, before we talk about factory access mode, let us first have a look at how SSDs store information and why it is so easy to destroy evidence and so insanely difficult to recover it. Read the rest of this entry »

A New Method for Decrypting WhatsApp Backups

December 20th, 2018 by Vladimir Katalov

WhatsApp remains one of the most popular instant messengers. With more than 1.5 billion users and about half billion daily active users, WhatsApp sends over 100 billion messages per day. WhatsApp is secure thanks to end-to-end encryption to make intercepted messages impossible to decrypt. While this is great news to consumers and privacy advocates, it is also bad news for the law enforcement. Once an expert accepts to access the suspect’s WhatsApp communication history, they will struggle with the encryption and demand for a vendor-provided backdoor (WhatsApp: The Bad Guys’ Secret Weapon).

Are there any other options to access WhatsApp conversations? We know of at least two. The first option is capturing the message database directly from the device of either party. The other option is going through the cloud. WhatsApp does not have its own native cloud service such as Telegram. All it has is a messaging relay service, which does not store messages for any longer than required to pass them along. In other words, any message that passes through WhatsApp servers is immediately deleted once it’s delivered (and it would be of no use to forensic experts anyway due to end-to-end encryption). It is important to note that WhatsApp accounts cannot be used on more than one device.

Let’s review WhatApp recovery/decryption options for both Android and iOS, and see what is new in Elcomsoft eXplorer for WhatsApp (EXWA).

Read the rest of this entry »