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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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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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.

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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.

Update: We have an updated version of this article covering the iPhone Xs and Xs Max and providing an additional method of controlling PWM flickering via an icon placed in the Control Center.

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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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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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What’s New in iOS 11 Security: the Quick Reference Guide

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

iOS 11 introduced multiple changes to its security model. Some of these changes are highly welcome, while we aren’t exactly fond of some others. In this quick reference guide, we tried to summarize all the changes introduced by iOS 11 in the security department.

Compared to iOS 10 and earlier versions of the system, iOS 11 introduced the following security changes:

–  Reset password to local backups (passcode required), which makes logical acquisition trivial

–  For 2FA accounts, reset Apple ID password and change trusted phone number with just device passcode (possible for both iOS 11 and iOS 10)

–  Health data sync with iCloud (users can disable)

+  Passcode required to establish trust relationship with a PC (Touch ID/Face ID can no longer be used to pair)

+  Quickly and discretely disable Touch ID/Face ID via S.O.S. mode

+  Automatically call emergency number (push side button 5 times in rapid succession)

+  iOS 11 strongly suggests enabling Two-Factor Authentication in multiple places

+  Two-Step Verification (2SV) is no longer available

Additionally, in macOS High Sierra, Desktop and Documents folders now sync with iCloud (user can disable).

New Security Measures in iOS 11 and Their Forensic Implications

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Apple is about to launch its next-generation iOS in just a few days. Researching developer betas, we discovered that iOS 11 implements a number of new security measures. The purpose of these measures is better protecting the privacy of Apple customers and once again increasing security of device data. While some measures (such as the new S.O.S. sequence) are widely advertised, some other security improvements went unnoticed by the public. Let us have a look at the changes and any forensic implications they have.

Establishing Trust with a PC Now Requires a Passcode

For the mobile forensic specialist, one of the most compelling changes in iOS 11 is the new way to establish trust relationship between the iOS device and the computer. In previous versions of the system (which includes iOS 8.x through iOS 10.x), establishing trusted relationship only required confirming the “Trust this computer?” prompt on the device screen. Notably, one still had to unlock the device in order to access the prompt; however, fingerprint unlock would work perfectly for this purpose. iOS 11 modifies this behaviour by requiring an additional second step after the initial “Trust this computer?” prompt has been confirmed. During the second step, the device will ask to enter the passcode in order to complete pairing. This in turn requires forensic experts to know the passcode; Touch ID alone can no longer be used to unlock the device and perform logical acquisition.

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WhatsApp: The Bad Guys’ Secret Weapon

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

WhatsApp is one of the most secure messengers with full end-to-end encryption. Messages exchanged between WhatsApp users are using an encrypted point-to-point communication protocol rendering man-in-the-middle attacks useless. WhatsApp communications are never stored or backed up on WhatsApp servers. All this makes government snooping on WhatsApp users increasingly difficult.

WhatsApp has more than a billion users. WhatsApp makes use of the Open Whisper Signal communication protocol to secure communications with end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp users rely on that security to freely exchange messages, discuss sensitive things and, with limited success, avoid religious and political oppression in certain countries. Today, some governments attempt to criminalize WhatsApp protection measures, ban end-to-end encryption and do everything in their power to undermining trust in secure communication tools. What is it all about, and how to find the right balance between public safety and security is the topic of this article.

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Android Encryption Demystified

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

How many Android handsets are encrypted, and how much protection does Android encryption actually provide? With Android Nougat accounting for roughly 7% of the market, the chance of not being adequately protected is still high for an average Android user.

Android Central published an article titled More Android phones are using encryption and lock screen security than ever before. The author, Andrew Martonik, says: “For devices running Android Nougat, roughly 80% of users are running them fully encrypted. At the same time, about 70% of Nougat devices are using a secure lock screen of some form.”

This information is available directly from Google who shared some security metrics at Google I/O 2017.

“That 80% encryption number isn’t amazingly surprising when you remember that Nougat has full-device encryption turned on by default”, continues Andrew Martonik, “but that number also includes devices that were upgraded from Marshmallow, which didn’t have default encryption. Devices running on Marshmallow have a device encryption rate of just 25%, though, so this is a massive improvement. And the best part about Google’s insistence on default encryption is that eventually older devices will be replaced by those running Nougat or later out of the box, meaning this encryption rate could get very close to 100%.”

So how many Android handsets out there are actually encrypted? Assuming that 0.25 (25%) of Android 6 handsets use encryption, and 0.8 (80%) of Android 7 phones are encrypted, it will be possible to calculate the number of encrypted handsets out of the total number of Android devices.

Let’s have a look at the current Android version distribution chart:

  • Android 5.1.1 and earlier versions: ~62% market share
  • Android 6: 31 (31% market share) * 0.25 = 0.078
  • Android 7: 0.07 (7% market share) * 0.80 = 0.056

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