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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Identifying SSD Controller and NAND Configuration

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

In our previous article Why SSDs Die a Sudden Death (and How to Deal with It) we talked about SSD endurance and how it’s not the only thing affecting real life reliability. In that article, we assumed that manufacturers’ specifications of certain SSD models remain similar for a given SSD model. In fact, this is not the case. Quite a few manufacturers play tricks with consumers, releasing a certain SSD model with top notch specifications only to downgrade them at some point during the production cycle (but certainly after receiving its share of glowing reviews). While some OEMs do note the change at least in the revision number, the rest will just quote the small print allowing them to “change specifications at any time without prior notice”. We’ve seen well known SSD manufacturers switching from reliable MLC NAND to planar TLC trash within the same model (and zero notice to potential buyers). How can you tell which NAND configuration your particular SSD drive employs and whether or not it lives up to your expectations? Read along to find out. (more…)

Why SSDs Die a Sudden Death (and How to Deal with It)

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Many thanks to Roman Morozov, ACELab technical support specialist, for sharing his extensive knowledge and expertise and for all the time he spent ditching bugs in this article.

In our previous article Life after Trim: Using Factory Access Mode for Imaging SSD Drives we only mentioned reliability of SSD drives briefly. As you may know, NAND flash memory can sustain a limited number of write operations. Manufacturers of today’s consumer SSD drives usually guarantee about 150 to 1200 write cycles before the warranty runs out. This can lead to the conclusion that a NAND flash cell can sustain up to 1200 write cycles, and that an SSD drive can actually survive more than a thousand complete rewrites regardless of other conditions. This, however, is not fully correct. Certain usage conditions and certain types of load can wear SSD drives significantly faster compared to their declared endurance. In this article, we’ll look why a perfectly healthy SSD drive with 98-99% remaining life can die a sudden death. We’ll also give recommendations on tools and approaches that can get the data back even if the SSD drive is corrupted or does not appear in the system. (more…)

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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How to Reset or Recover Windows SYSKEY Passwords

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Some 22 years ago, Microsoft made an attempt to make Windows more secure by adding an extra layer of protection. The SAM Lock Tool, commonly known as SYSKEY (the name of its executable file), was used to encrypt the content of the Windows Security Account Manager (SAM) database. The encryption was using a 128-bit RC4 encryption key.

The user had an option to specify a password that would protect authentication credentials of Windows accounts stored in the SAM database. If SYSKEY password was set, Windows would ask for this password during startup before displaying the login and password prompt.

While SYSKEY was not using the strongest encryption, attacking (brute-forcing or resetting) the user’s Windows login and password would not be possible without first decrypting the SAM database. As a result, a SYSKEY password would require the attacker to brute-force or reset SYSKEY protection prior to accessing the system’s Windows accounts. More importantly, an unknown SYSKEY password would prevent the user’s system from fully booting. This fact was widely exploited by ransomware and commonly abused by “tech support” scammers who locked victims out of their own computers via fake “tech support” calls.

Due to SAM database encryption, reinstalling or repairing Windows would not solve the issue unless the user had access to a recent backup or a System Restore Point. For this reason, Microsoft removed the ability to set SYSKEY passwords in Windows 10 (release 1709) and Windows Server 2016 (release 1709), steering users towards the much more secure BitLocker encryption instead. However, older systems are still susceptible to SYSKEY ransomware attacks.

Since SYSKEY protection is fairly old by hi-tech standards, it is no longer secure (it never been in the first place). Victims of SYSKEY ransomware or “tech support” scammers can now restore their systems by recovering or resetting SYSKEY password. Elcomsoft System Recovery has the ability to discover or reset SYSKEY passwords in order to restore the system’s normal boot operation. This is also the first time ever we’re publishing screen shots of the Elcomsoft System Recovery user interface. (more…)

Can Forensic Experts Keep Up with the Digital Age?

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

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…)

Google Enables Manual Google Drive Backups on Android Devices

Monday, November 12th, 2018

An update to Google Play Services enables manual Google Drive backup option on many Android handsets. Since Android 6.0, Android has had an online backup solution, allowing Android users back up and restore their device settings and app data from their Google Drive account. Android backups were running on top of Google Play Services; in other words, they were always part of Google Android as opposed to being part of Android Open Source. Unlike iOS with predictable iCloud backups and the manual “Backup now” option, Google’s backup solution behaved inconsistently at best. In our (extensive) tests, we discovered that the first backup would be only made automatically on the second day, while data for most applications would be backed up days, if not weeks after the initial backup. The ability to manually initiate a backup was sorely missing. (more…)

Everything about iOS DFU and Recovery Modes

Monday, October 29th, 2018

If you are involved with iOS forensics, you have probably used at least one of these modes. Both DFU and Recovery modes are intended for recovering iPhone and iPad devices from issues if the device becomes unusable, does not boot or has a problem installing an update.

iOS Recovery Mode

In iOS, Recovery mode is a failsafe method allowing users to recover their devices if they become unresponsive. The Recovery mode, also known as “second-stage loader”, boots the device in iBoot (bootloader) mode. iBoot can be used to flash the device with a new OS. iBoot responds to a limited number of commands, and can return some limited information about the device. As iBoot does not load iOS, it also does not carry many iOS restrictions. In particular, iBoot/Recovery mode allows connecting the device to the computer even if USB Restricted Mode was engaged on the device. (more…)

Everything You Wanted to Know about Activation Lock and iCloud Lock

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Working in a mobile forensic company developing tools for iCloud forensics, logical and physical extraction of iPhone devices, we don’t live another day without being asked if (or “how”) we can help remove iCloud lock from a given iPhone. Without throwing a definite “yes” or “no” (or “just buy this tool”), we’ve decided to gather everything we know about bypassing, resetting and disabling iCloud activation lock on recent Apple devices.

What Is Activation Lock (iCloud Lock)?

Activation Lock, or iCloud Lock, is a feature of Find My iPhone, Apple’s proprietary implementation of a much wider protection system generally referred as Factory Reset Protection (FRP). Factory Reset Protection, or “kill switch”, is regulated in the US via the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act of 2015. The Act requires device manufacturers to feature a so-called “kill switch” allowing legitimate users to remotely wipe and lock devices. The purpose of the kill switch was to discourage smartphone theft by dramatically reducing resale value of stolen devices.

According to Apple, “Activation Lock is a feature that’s designed to prevent anyone else from using your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch if it’s ever lost or stolen. Activation Lock is enabled automatically when you turn on Find My iPhone. … Even if you erase your device remotely, Activation Lock can continue to deter anyone from reactivating your device without your permission. All you need to do is keep Find My iPhone turned on, and remember your Apple ID and password.” (more…)

iOS Forensics Training in Vienna: 17-19 Oct 2018

Monday, October 1st, 2018

There’s still time to register for the upcoming ElcomSoft training program in Vienna! Held in partnership with T3K-Forensics, this three-day training program will cover everything about iOS forensics. Law enforcement and forensic specialists are welcome to sign up! We’ll cover all the bases from seizing and transporting mobile devices to iOS extraction and analysis. We’ll talk about the acquisition workflow and have participants perform logical, physical and cloud extraction of iOS devices. Expect live demonstrations and fully guided hands-on experience obtaining evidence from iOS devices, pulling data from locked iPhones and accessing iCloud for even more evidence.

In this training:

  • Mobile acquisition workflow
  • Seizing, storing and transporting wireless capable mobile devices
  • The challenge of USB Restricted Mode in iOS 11 and iOS 12
  • Full-disk encryption, passcode and biometric authentication
  • Logical acquisition: extracting encrypted and unencrypted backups; shared files; photos and videos; crash logs; accessing stored passwords
  • Logical acquisition of locked devices: locating, extracting and using lockdown records
  • Physical acquisition: jailbreaking, imaging the file system, extracting passwords and decrypting the keychain
  • Cloud acquisition: synced data; backups; messages; iCloud Keychain (Safari passwords)

Where: Vienna, Austria
Language: English
Dates: 17-19 Oct, 2018

Sign Up!

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Cloud Forensics: Why, What and How to Extract Evidence

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Cloud analysis is arguably the future of mobile forensics. Whether or not the device is working or physically accessible, cloud extraction often allows accessing amounts of information far exceeding those available in the device itself.

Accessing cloud evidence requires proper authentication credentials, be it the login and password or credentials cached in the form of a binary authentication token. Without authentication credentials, one cannot access the data. However, contrary to popular belief, even if proper authentication credentials are available, access to evidence stored in the cloud is not a given. In this article we’ll tell you how to access information stored in Apple iCloud with and without using forensic tools. (more…)