ElcomSoft blog

«…Everything you wanted to know about password recovery, data decryption,
mobile & cloud forensics…»

Author Archive

iOS 11.4 to Disable USB Port After 7 Days: What It Means for Mobile Forensics

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

A new iOS update is about to roll out in the next few weeks or even days. Reading Apple documentation and researching developer betas, we discovered a major new security feature that is about to be released with iOS 11.4. The update will disable the Lightning port after 7 days since the device has been last unlocked. What is the meaning of this security measure, what reasons are behind, and what can be done about it? Let’s have a closer look.

USB Restricted Mode in iOS 11.4

In the iOS 11.4 Beta, Apple introduced a new called USB Restricted Mode. In fact, the feature made its first appearance in the iOS 11.3 Beta, but was later removed from the final release. This is how it works:

“To improve security, for a locked iOS device to communicate with USB accessories you must connect an accessory via lightning connector to the device while unlocked – or enter your device passcode while connected – at least once a week.”

The functionality of USB Restricted Mode is actually very simple. Once the iPhone or iPad is updated to the latest version of iOS supporting the feature, the device will disable the USB data connection over the Lightning port one week after the device has been last unlocked. (more…)

Google Services Blocked on Uncertified Devices

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

After testing waters for more than a year, Google has finally pulled the plug and began blocking access to Google Play services on uncertified devices. Why Google took this step, who is affected, and what it means for the end users? Let’s try to find out.

Google Play Services Certification

In March 2017, Google rolled out a Google Play Services update that had a very minor addition. At the very bottom of its settings page, the Services would now display device certification status.

This is how it looks on an uncertified device:

What is this all about?

(more…)

What’s Broken in iOS for iPhone X

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone, the iPhone X, received mixed reviews and sells slower than expected. While the high price of the new iPhone is a major factor influencing the slow sales, some of the negative points come from the device usability. The combination of design language, hardware and software interactions make using the new iPhone less than intuitive in many situations. In this article, we collected the list of utterly strange design decisions affecting the daily use of the iPhone X.

The Return of Slide to Unlock

In iOS 10, Apple has finally rid of the infamous “slide to unlock” prompt, replacing it with the prompt to that asks iPhone users (as well as users of Touch ID equipped iPads) to press the home button to gain access to the home screen. This means that, by default, users could no longer simply rest their finger on the home button to unlock their device with their fingerprint.

A workaround was discovered quickly. Apparently, it was possible to alter the “Rest Finger to Open” option in General > Accessibility > Home Button to make iPhones capable of “raise-to-wake” unlock without pressing down on the home button.

This option is still present in iOS 11, and still works on all devices equipped with Touch ID – but not Face ID. The iPhone X is the only device in Apple’s stable that cannot be automatically unlocked when picked up. Users must still reach for the very bottom of the device’s screen and… yes: swipe up to unlock. This feels like a huge step back to pre-iOS 10 days, and annoys many users.

(more…)

iPhone X Eye Strain: How to Stop OLED Flickering in Just Three Clicks

Monday, March 5th, 2018

The iPhone X uses a new (for Apple) display technology. For the first time ever, Apple went with an OLED display instead of the IPS panels used in all other iPhones. While OLED displays have numerous benefits such as the true blacks and wide color gamut, the majority of OLED displays (particularly those made by Samsung) tend to flicker. The flickering is particularly visible at low brightness levels, causing eyestrain and headaches to sensitive users. Very few users have the slightest idea of what’s going on, attributing these health issues to oversaturated colors, the oh-so-harmful blue light and anything but OLED flickering.

So let us have a look at what OLED flickering is and how to get rid of it on the iPhone X for much better low-light readability.

(more…)

Breaking into iOS 11

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

In the world of mobile forensics, physical acquisition is still the way to go. Providing significantly more information compared to logical extraction, physical acquisition can return sandboxed app data (even for apps that disabled backups), downloaded mail, Web browser cache, chat histories, comprehensive location history, system logs and much more.

In order to extract all of that from an i-device, you’ll need the extraction tool (iOS Forensic Toolkit) and a working jailbreak. With Apple constantly tightening security of its mobile ecosystem, jailbreaking becomes increasingly more difficult. Without a bug hunter at Google’s Project Zero, who released the “tfp0” proof-of-concept iOS exploit, making a working iOS 11 jailbreak would take the community much longer, or would not be possible.

The vulnerability exploited in tfp0 was present in all versions of iOS 10 on all 32-bit and 64-bit devices. It was also present in early versions of iOS 11. The last vulnerable version was iOS 11.2.1. Based on the tfp0 exploit, various teams have released their own versions of jailbreaks.

(more…)

Apple iCloud Keeps More Real-Time Data Than You Can Imagine

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Apple has a wonderfully integrated ecosystem. Apple computers, tablets and phones conveniently synchronize information such as passwords, Web browsing history, contacts and call logs across all of the user’s devices. This synchronization mechanism uses iCloud to sync and store information. The syncing mechanism works independently from iOS system backups that are also stored in iCloud (or iCloud Drive). As opposed to daily iCloud backups, synchronized data is updated and propagated across devices in almost real time. Extracting this information can be invaluable for investigations as it provides access to the most up to date information about the user, their activities and whereabouts.

What exactly is synced through iCloud? The screen shot above lists all options available in iOS 11. As you can see, the following types of data are (or can be) synced across Apple devices:

  • Photos (iCloud Photo Library)
  • Mail (iCloud mail only)
  • Contacts, Calendars and Reminders
  • Safari (browsing history, bookmarks and tabs open on other devices)
  • Game Center (profiles, achievements and game progress)
  • Siri (requests, settings)
  • Keychain (iCloud Keychain stores passwords and forms from Safari, iOS system, Apple and some third-party apps, but not Google Chrome)
  • iCloud backups (up to last 3 copies per device, created daily while charging)
  • iBooks, Pages, Numbers and Keynote (e-books, PDF files, documents)
  • Maps (user’s search history, routes and places)
  • Wallet
  • Wi-Fi

(more…)

iOS 11.3 Adds Expiry Date to Lockdown (Pairing) Records

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Lockdown files, otherwise known as pairing records, are well known to the forensic crowd for their usefulness for the purpose of logical extraction. A pairing file created on one computer (the user’s) can be used by the expert to pull information from the iOS device – that, without knowing the PIN code or pressing the user’s finger to unlock the device. Lockdown records do carry their fair share of limitations. For example, their use is severely restricted if the device has just rebooted or powered on and was not unlocked with a passcode afterwards.

Despite that, pairing records have been immensely handy for mobile forensic specialists as they allowed accessing the data in the device without unlocking it with a passcode, fingerprint or trusted face. Specifically, until very recently, lockdown records had never expired. One could use a year-old lockdown file to access the content of an iPhone without a trouble.

Good things seem to end. In iOS 11.3 (beta) Release Notes, Apple mentioned they’re adding an expiry date to lockdown records.

To improve security, for a locked iOS device to communicate with USB accessories you must either connect an accessory via lightning connector to the device while unlocked or enter your device passcode while connected, at least once a week.

If you use iAP USB accessories over the Lightning connector (including assistive devices and wired CarPlay) or connect to a Mac/PC, you may therefore need to periodically enter your passcode if you have a passcode set on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

As a result, mobile forensic experts can no longer expect lockdown records to survive for periods longer than one week. In order to clearly understand the consequences of this seemingly minor change, let us first look at the pairing records themselves.

Pairing in iOS

In order to enable communications (e.g. file transfers) between the user’s iOS device (iPhone, iPad) and their computer, a trust relationship (or pairing) must be first established. Once a pairing relationship is initially established (by unlocking the iOS device with Touch ID or passcode and confirming the “Trust this computer?” prompt), the two devices exchange cryptographic keys, and the computer is granted trusted access to the iPhone even if the iPhone’s screen is locked.

(more…)

Forensic Implications of Software Updates: iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Software updates remain a sore point for the 86 per cent of consumers who are using Android-based smartphones. Both Apple and Microsoft have significantly different update policies, mostly allowing the companies to deliver updates directly to their customers. There is much more to these updates than just the Android (or Windows) version. With numerous versions, subversions and carrier modified versions of the phone’s software, experts may struggle when attempting physical extraction. Let us have a look at the differences between the three mobile operating systems, their update policies and the challenges they present to the forensic examiner.

Apple: Full Control over Software Updates

Apple has a tight grip over its mobile operating system, the iOS. In fact, it has an even tighter grip than most people think.

On the outside, the company makes iOS updates available to all supported models and all devices at the same time. With a very long support window or over 4 years, even devices released back in 2014 are eligible to receive the latest iOS build.

There is also a flip side to this story. Not only does the company solely controls the design, release and distribution of software updates, but it also has full control over what versions of the system a given device is allowed to install. Unlike Android devices that can install a signed OTA package (or, in some cases, flash a full image) of any version of software (with exceptions, e.g. rollback protection), iPhone and iPad devices can only install iOS updates (or full packages) that are cryptographically signed by Apple for that particular device. Before an iOS update (or full package, including downgrade packages) can be installed onto an iPhone or iPad device, the package must get an approval from an Apple server by receiving a cryptographic signature. That signature is placed in real time, and is only valid for a particular device. (more…)