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The release of macOS Catalina brought the usual bunch of security updates. One of those new security features directly affects how you install Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit on Macs running the new OS. In this guide we’ll provide step by step instructions on installing and running iOS Forensic Toolkit on computers running macOS 10.15 Catalina. Note: on macOS Catalina, you must use iOS Forensic Toolkit 5.11 or newer (older versions may also work but not recommended).

The Issue

In macOS 10.15, Apple made running third-party apps slightly more difficult. The new security measure is designed to prevent users from accidentally running apps downloaded from the Internet by quarantining files obtained from sources that aren’t explicitly whitelisted by Apple.

As Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit is not distributed through Apple App Store, our tool falls under this restriction and will be quarantined once you install it.

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This post continues the series of articles about Apple companion devices. If you haven’t seen them, you may want to read Apple TV and Apple Watch Forensics 01: Acquisition first. If you are into Apple Watch forensics, have a look at Apple Watch Forensics 02: Analysis as well. Today we’ll have a look at what’s inside of the Apple TV.

A recent market analysis shows that Apple has sold more than 13 million Apple TV devices worldwide since 2016. Since 2007, Apple manufactured 6 different Apple TV models. Like any other Apple device, the model can be easily identified by checking the label on the bottom of the device.

 

The first-generation Apple TV (model A1218) contains a regular hard drive that can be extracted and imaged with a traditional approach. The operating system is a modified version of Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). A detailed explanation on how to approach this kind of devices was introduced at DEFCON 2009 by Kevin Estis and Randy Robbins (the presentation is available here while the video is available here).

The Apple TV from second (model A1378) to fourth (A1625) generations have an internal NAND storage varying from 8 GB (A1378 – A1427 – A1469) to 32 or 64 GB (A1625). These models also feature a USB port connection (micro USB or USB-C). The availability of a USB port allows connecting the device to a PC/Mac. Forensic experts can use the port for data extraction. Apple removed USB connectivity in the latest, fifth generation Apple TV (Apple TV 4K, model A1842), making it more difficult to connect and extract data.

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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.

BFU and AFU

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.

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When it comes to mobile forensics, experts are analyzing the smartphone itself with possible access to cloud data. However, extending the search to the user’s desktop and laptop computers may (and possibly will) help accessing information stored both in the physical smartphone and in the cloud. In this article we’ll list all relevant artefacts that can shed light to smartphone data. The information applies to Apple iOS devices as well as smartphones running Google Android.

Mobile Artefacts on Desktops and Laptops

Due to the sheer capacity, computer storage may contain significantly more evidence than a smartphone. However, that would be a different kind of evidence compared to timestamped and geotagged usage data we’ve come to expect from modern smartphones.

How can the user’s PC or Mac help mobile forensic experts? There several types of evidence that can help us retrieve data from the phone or the cloud.

  1. iTunes backups. While this type of evidence is iPhone-specific (or, rather, Apple-specific), a local backup discovered on the user’s computer can become an invaluable source of evidence.
  2. Saved passwords. By instantly extracting passwords stored in the user’s Web browser (Chrome, Edge, IE or Safari), one can build a custom dictionary for breaking encryption. More importantly, one can use stored credentials for signing in to the user’s iCloud or Google Account and performing a cloud extraction.
  3. Email account. An email account can be used to reset a password to the user’s Apple or Google account (with subsequent cloud extraction using the new credentials).
  4. Authentication tokens. These can be used to access synchronized data in the user’s iCloud account (tokens must be used on the user’s computer; on macOS, transferable unrestricted tokens may be extracted). There are also tokens for Google Drive (can be used to access files in the user’s Google Drive account) and Google Account (can be used to extract a lot of data from the user’s Google Account). The computer itself is also an artefact as certain authentication tokens are “pinned” to a particular piece of hardware and cannot be transferred to another device. If the computer is a “trusted” device, it can be used for bypassing two-factor authentication.

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iOS 13 is on the way. While the new mobile OS is still in beta, so far we have not discovered many revolutionary changes in the security department. At the same time, there are quite a few things forensic specialists will need to know about the new iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system. In this article, we’ll be discussing the changes and their meaning for the mobile forensics.

iCloud backups

We’ve seen several changes to iCloud backups that break third-party tools not designed with iOS 13 in mind. Rest assured we’ve updated our tools to support iOS 13 iCloud backups already. We don’t expect the backup format to change once iOS 13 is officially released, yet we keep an eye on them.

First, Apple has changed the protocol and encryption. There’s nothing major, but those changes were more than enough to effectively block all third-party tools without explicit support for iOS 13.

Second, cloud backups (at least in the current beta) now contain pretty much the same set of info as unencrypted local backups. Particularly missing from iCloud backups made with iOS 13 devices are call logs and Safari history. This information is now stored exclusively as “synchronized data”, which makes it even more important for the investigator to extract synced evidence in addition to backups. Interestingly, nothing was changed about synced data; you can still use the same tools and sign in with either Apple ID/password/2FA or authentication tokens. (more…)

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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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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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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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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The boom in personal electronic devices recording literally every persons’ step introduced a new type of forensic evidence: the digital evidence. In this day and age, significantly more forensic evidence is available in digital form compared to physical evidence of yesteryear. Are law enforcement and intelligence agencies ready to handle the abundance of digital evidence? And more importantly, do frontline officers have the skills and technical expertise required to handle and preserve this wealth of information?

Digital forensic evidence is a major challenge today, and will become even more of a challenge tomorrow. Crypto currencies and the dark net created an effective shield for criminals committing online fraud and extorting ransom, trafficking drugs and human beings, supporting and financing international terrorism.

Digital evidence that lands on end user devices is also well shielded from investigation efforts. The unilateral push for hardware-backed secure encryption by major vendors of mobile operating systems (Google and Apple) covers criminals with almost unbreakable protection, building a wall around digital evidence that could be vital for investigations. (more…)