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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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…)

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!

(more…)

Android Pie Lockdown Option: a Match for iOS SOS Mode?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

We have already covered the emergency SOS mode introduced in iOS 11. When entering this mode, the phone disables Touch ID and Face ID, requiring the passcode to unlock the phone. It appears that Google is taking cues from Apple, adding a new Lockdown Option to the newly released Android 9 Pie. Let us see what is similar and what is different between iOS SOS mode and Android 9.0 Pie Lockdown Option.

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Accessing Lockdown Files on macOS

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Lockdown records, or pairing records, are frequently used for accessing locked iOS devices. By using an existing lockdown record extracted from the suspect’s computer, forensic specialists can perform logical acquisition of the iOS device with iOS Forensic Toolkit and other forensic tools. Logical acquisition helps obtain information stored in system backups, access shared and media files, and even extract device crash logs. However, lockdown records may be tricky to access and difficult to extract. macOS protects lockdown files with access permissions. Let’s find out how to access the lockdown files on a live macOS system.

What Are Lockdown Records, Technically?

A down to the Earth explanation of a lockdown records is it’s simply a file stored on the user’s computer. More technically, lockdown files keep cryptographic keys that are used to allow iOS devices communicate with computers they are paired to. Such pairing records are created the first time the user connects their iOS device to a Mac or PC that has iTunes installed. Lockdown records help the iPhone talk to the computer even if the iPhone in question is locked, so that the user does not have to unlock the device every time it’s connected to the PC. This means that experts may be able to perform logical acquisition of locked iOS devices if they can obtain a valid, non-expired lockdown record. There are some “ifs and buts” though. Namely, lockdown records expire after a while. And you can only use lockdown records if the iPhone in question was unlocked (with its passcode) at least once after it was powered on or rebooted. Otherwise, the data partition remains encrypted, and you can access very little information (yet you can still get some info about the device).

macOS Protects Access to Lockdown Files

In macOS, lockdown records are stored at /private/var/db/lockdown. Starting with macOS High Sierra, Apple restricts access to this folder. If you are analyzing a live system, you’ll need to manually grant access rights to this folder. This is how.

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Training in Vienna

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Did you know we have forensic trainings? We’ve partnered with T3K Forensics to feature a 3-day training on iOS forensics. This fall in beautiful Vienna, 17.-19.10.2018, we’ll train a group of law enforcement and forensic specialists on every aspect of iOS acquisition 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 jailbreaking and extracting iOS devices, pulling data from locked iPhones and accessing the cloud for even more evidence.

In this training:

  • Mobile acquisition workflow
  • Seizing, storing and transporting wireless capable mobile devices
  • Acquisition methods that don’t work
  • Full-disk encryption, passcode and biometrics
  • Acquisition methods: logical, physical and cloud
  • Logical acquisition: extracting encrypted and unencrypted backups; shared files; photos and videos; crash logs
  • 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)

(more…)

Using iOS 11.2-11.3.1 Electra Jailbreak for iPhone Physical Acquisition

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

It’s been fast. iOS 11.3.1 and all earlier versions of the system down to iOS 11.2 have been successfully jailbroken. In addition, the jailbreak is compatible with iOS 11.4 beta 1 through 3. We normally wouldn’t post about each new jailbreak release; however, this time things are slightly different. The new Electra jailbreak uses two different exploits and presents two very different installation routines depending on whether or not you have a developer account with Apple. Considering how much more stable the developer-account exploit is compared to the routine available to the general public, this time it pays to be an Apple developer.

We tested the Electra jailbreak and can confirm that iOS Forensic Toolkit 4.0 is fully compatible. File system imaging and keychain extraction work; no OpenSSH installation required as Electra includes an SSH client listening on port 22.

Why Jailbreak?

For the general consumer, jailbreak is one open security vulnerability calling for trouble. Apple warns users against jailbreaking their devices, and there is much truth in their words.

Forensic experts use jailbreaks for much different reasons compared to enthusiast users. A wide-open security vulnerability is exactly what they want to expose the device’s file system, circumvent iOS sandbox protection and access protected data. Jailbreaking extract the largest set of data from the device. During jailbreaking, many software restrictions imposed by iOS are removed through the use of software exploits.

In addition to sandboxed app data (which includes conversation histories and downloaded mail), experts can also extract and decrypt the keychain, a system-wide storage for online passwords, authentication tokens and encryption keys. Unlike keychain items obtained from a password-protected local backup, physical extraction of a jailbroken device gains access to keychain items secured with the highest protection class ThisDeviceOnly (this is how).

The New Electra Jailbreak

Jailbreaking iOS versions past 11.1.2 (for which a Google-discovered vulnerability was published along with a proof-of-concept tool) was particularly challenging but not impossible. At this time, a team of jailbreakers discovered not one but two different vulnerabilities, releasing two versions of Electra jailbreak. Why the two versions?

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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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