Archive for August, 2019

With over half a million users, Signal is an incredibly secure cross-platform instant messaging app. With emphasis on security, there is no wonder that Signal is frequently picked as a communication tool by those who have something to hide. Elcomsoft Phone Viewer can now decrypt Signal databases extracted from the iPhone via physical (well, file system) acquisition, and that was a tough nut to crack.

What exactly makes Signal so difficult to crack? Let us first look at how one can gain access to users’ communications occurring in other instant messengers.

Interception: the MITM attack

The first method is interception. One can attempt to intercept conversations in transit. This in turn is very difficult as everyone is touting point-to-point encryption. While technically the traffic can be intercepted, decrypting it will require a malicious app installed on the end-user device (such as the infamous NSO Group spyware). Without direct government intervention or proposed encryption backdoors one can hardly ever intercept messaging with a MITM attack. It is very important to understand that even if your iPhone is secure, the other party’s device running the iOS, Android or desktop app (which is much easier to break) might be compromised. If the other party is compromised, all your communications with that party will be compromised as well.

Signal implements special protection measures against MITM attacks, making certificate spoofing useless and complicating malware-based attacks. (more…)

The Screen Time passcode (known as the Restrictions passcode in previous versions of iOS) is a separate 4-digit passcode designed to secure changes to the device settings and the user’s Apple ID account and to enforce the Content & Privacy Restrictions. You can add the Screen Time passcode when activating Screen Time on a child’s device or if you want to add an extra layer of security to your own device.

The 4-digit Screen Time passcode is separate to the main screen lock passcode you are using to unlock your device. If you configure Screen Time restrictions to your usage scenarios, you’ll hardly ever need to type the Screen Time password on your device.

Using the Screen Time password can be a great idea if you want to ensure that no one can reset your iTunes backup password, disable Find My iPhone or change your Apple ID password even if they steal your device *and* know your device passcode. On a flip side, there is no official way to recover the Screen Time password if you ever forget it other than resetting the device and setting it up from scratch. Compared to the device screen lock passcode, Screen Time passwords are much easier to forget since you rarely need it.

In this article, we’ll show you how to reveal your iOS 12 Screen Time passcode (or the Restrictions passcode if you’re using iOS 7 through 11) using Elcomsoft Phone Viewer. (more…)

By this time, seemingly everyone has published an article or two about Apple re-introducing the vulnerability that was patched in the previous version of iOS. The vulnerability was made into a known exploit, which in turn was used to jailbreak iOS 12.2 (and most previous versions). We’ll look at it from the point of view of a forensic expert.


What can and what cannot be done with an iOS device using Touch ID/Face ID authentication as opposed to knowing the passcode? The differences are huge. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll only cover iOS 12 and 13. If you just want a quick summary, scroll down to the end of the article for a table.


Let’s get it out of the way: everything that’s listed below applies exclusively to AFU (After First Unlock) devices. You cannot use biometrics to unlock an iOS device that’s been restarted or powered on; such devices are in the state known as BFU (Before First Unlock).

BFU, Before First Unlock: The iOS device was restarted or powered off; you powered it on but cannot unlock it because it’s protected with an unknown passcode.

AFU, After First Unlock: The iOS device was unlocked (with a passcode) at least once after it’s been last rebooted or powered on.

Screen Lock: Unlocking the Device

Touch ID or Face ID can be only used to unlock AFU devices. In order to unlock a BFU device, you’ll have to use the passcode. Even if you manage to bypass the lock screen (via an exploit), you won’t be able to access most device data as it will be encrypted. The decryption key is generated when the user first unlocks the device; the key is based on the passcode.