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Author Archive

iOS Acquisition on Windows: Tips&Tricks

Friday, September 6th, 2019

When you perform Apple iCloud acquisition, it almost does not matter what platform to use, Windows or macOS (I say almost, because some differences still apply, as macOS has better/native iCloud support). Logical acquisition can be done on any platform as well. But when doing full file system acquisition of jailbroken devices using Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit, we strongly recommend using macOS. If you are strongly tied to Windows, however, there are some things you should know.

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How to Extract and Decrypt Signal Conversation History from the iPhone

Thursday, August 29th, 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…)

Breaking and Securing Apple iCloud Accounts

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

The cloud becomes an ever more important (sometimes exclusive) source of the evidence whether you perform desktop or cloud forensics. Even if you are not in forensics, cloud access may help you access deleted or otherwise inaccessible data.

Similar to smartphones or password-protected desktops, cloud access is a privilege that is supposed to be only available to the rightful account owner. You would need a login and password and possibly the second factor. These aren’t always available to forensic experts. In fact, it won’t be easy to access everything stored in the cloud if you have all the right credentials.

Apple iCloud is one of the most advanced cloud solutions on the market, with lots of services available. These include comprehensive device backups, synchronization services across the entire Apple ecosystem including the Apple TV and Apple Watch devices, file storage, password management, home IoT devices, Health data and more. And it is pretty secure.

Let’s review all the possibilities of accessing Apple iCloud data with or without a password.

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iOS 13 (Beta) Forensics

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

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…)

The Art of iPhone Acquisition

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

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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Apple TV and Apple Watch Forensics 01: Acquisition

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

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

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

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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Technical and Legal Implications of iOS File System Acquisition

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

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).

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iPhone Physical Acquisition: iOS 11.4 and 11.4.1

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

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.

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A New Method for Decrypting WhatsApp Backups

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

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).

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