Archive for the ‘Did you know that…?’ Category

Legal and Technical Implications of Chinese iCloud Operations

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

On February 28, 2018, Apple has officially moved its Chinese iCloud operations and encryption keys to China. The reaction to this move from the media was overwhelmingly negative. The Verge, The Guardian, Reuters, Wired, and CNN among other Western media outlets expressed their concerns about the Chinese government potentially violating the human rights of its citizens. Politics aside, we will review Apple policies governing the Chinese accounts, and look into the technical implementation of Chinese iCloud operations. Let us see if the fears are substantiated.

The Fear of China

Even if the change only affects iCloud accounts registered in mainland China, there is no lack of publications bashing apple for complying with Chinese laws. Below are just a few stories from the top of the news feed.

Journalists express their concerns regarding the potential violation of Chinese users human rights. “In the past, if Chinese authorities wanted to access [Chinese] Apple’s user data, they had to go through an international legal process and comply with U.S. laws on user rights, according to Ronald Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which studies the intersection of digital policy and human rights. “They will no longer have to do so if iCloud and cryptographic keys are located in China’s jurisdiction,” he told CNNMoney.” [CNN]

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Demystifying Advanced Logical Acquisition

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

We were attending the DFRWS EU forum in beautiful Florence, and held a workshop on iOS forensics. During the workshop, an attendee tweeted a photo of the first slide of our workshop, and the first response was from… one of our competitors. He said “Looking forward to the “Accessing a locked device” slide”. You can follow our conversation on Twitter, it is worth reading.

No, we cannot break the iPhone passcode. Still, sometimes we can get the data out of a locked device. The most important point is: we never keep our methods secret. We always provide full disclosure about what we do, how our software works, what the limitations are, and what exactly you can expect if you use this and that tool. Speaking of Apple iCloud, we even reveal technical information about Apple’s network and authentication protocols, data storage formats and encryption. If we cannot do something, we steer our customers to other companies (including competitors) who could help. Such companies include Oxygen Forensics (the provider of one of the best mobile forensic products) and Passware (the developer of excellent password cracking tools and our direct competitor).

Let’s start with “Logical acquisition”. We posted about it more than once, but it never hurts to go over it again. By “Logical acquisition”, vendors usually mean nothing more than making an iTunes-style backup of the phone, full stop.

Then, there is that “advanced logical” advertised by some forensic companies. There’s that “method 2” acquisition technique and things with similarly cryptic names. What is that all about?

I am not the one to tell you how other software works (not because I don’t know, but because I don’t feel it would be ethical), but I’ll share information on how we do it with our software: the methods we use, the limitations, and the expected outcome.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Get iOS Shared Files without a Jailbreak

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

iOS is a locked down mobile operating system that does not allow its apps to directly access files in the file system. Unlike every other major mobile OS, iOS does not have a “shared” area in the file system to allow apps keep and share files with other apps. Yet, individual iOS apps are allowed to let the user access their files by using the file sharing mechanism.

While uploading or downloading shared files from an Android or Windows 10 smartphone occurs over a standard MTP connection established over a standard USB cable, you’ll need several hundred megabytes worth of proprietary Apple software (and a proprietary Lightning cable) to transfer files between iOS apps and the computer. But do you really?

While there’s nothing we can do about a Lightning cable, we can at least get rid of iTunes middleware for extracting files exposed by iOS apps. We’ll show you how this works with iOS Forensic Toolkit 3.0.

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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

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How to Instantly Access BitLocker, TrueCrypt, PGP and FileVault 2 Volumes

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

It’s been a long while since we made an update to one of our most technically advanced tools, Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor (EFDD). With this tool, one could extract data from an encrypted disk volume (FileVault 2, PGP, BitLocker or TrueCrypt) by utilizing the binary encryption key contained in the computer’s RAM. We could find and extract that key by analyzing the memory dump or hibernation files.

What Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor did not do until now was pretty much everything else. It couldn’t use plain text passwords to mount or decrypt encrypted volumes, and it didn’t support escrow (recovery) keys. It didn’t come with a memory imaging tool of its own, making its users rely on third-party solutions.

With today’s release, Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor gets back on its feets, including everything that was missing in earlier versions. Plain text passwords and recovery keys, a Microsoft-signed kernel-level RAM imaging tool, the highly anticipated portable version and support for the industry-standard EnCase .E01 and encrypted DMG images are now available. But that’s not everything! We completely revamped the way you use the tool by automatically identifying all available encrypted volumes, and providing detailed information about the encryption method used for each volume.

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Meet iOS 11.3: Apple to Make It Harder for Law Enforcement to Extract iPhone Data

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Forget battery issues. Yes, Apple issued an apology for slowing down the iPhone and promised to add better battery management in future versions of iOS, but that’s not the point in iOS 11.3. Neither are ARKit improvements or AirPlay 2 support. There is something much more important, and it is gong to affect everyone.

Apple iOS is (and always was) the most secure mobile OS. FBI forensic expert called Apple “evil genius” because of that. Full disk encryption (since iOS 4), very reliable factory reset protection, Secure Enclave, convenient two-factor authentication are just a few things to mention. Starting with iOS 8, Apple itself cannot break into the locked iPhone. While in theory they are technically capable of creating (and signing, as they hold the keys) a special firmware image to boot the device, its encryption is not based on a hardware-specific key alone (as was the case for iOS 7 and older, and still the case for most Androids). Instead, the encryption key is also based on the user’s passcode, which is now 6 digits by default. Cracking of the passcode is not possible at all, thanks to Secure Enclave. Still, in come cases, Apple may help law enforcement personnel, and they at least provide some trainings to FBI and local police.

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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.

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