Back in 2013, Apple has added a fingerprint reader to its then new iPhone 5s. Around that time, OEMs manufacturing Android devices have also started equipping their devices with fingerprint sensors. It turned out that Apple and Android OEMs came to severely different results. In this article, we’ll have a look at fingerprint reader implementations in pre-Marshmallow Android devices and see why they were a terrible idea. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Security’ Category
Every once in a while, hi-tech companies release reports on government requests that they received and served (or not). The different companies receive a different number of requests. They don’t treat them the same way, and they don’t report them the same way, which makes the comparison difficult. In this article, we’ll try to analyze and compare government request reports published by Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Since all three companies report on different things, and the sheer number of data is way too big for analyzing in a blog article, we’ll try to only compare data related to the North American region and Germany (as a single European country). (more…)
According to Jim Baker, FBI General Counsel, the bureau can access information on most smartphones they are dealing with, even if encryption is enabled. In this article, we tried to find out which devices they can and cannot unlock, and why.
The FBI Can Unlock 87% Mobile Devices
According to Jim Baker, the agency can unlock some 87% of mobile devices, and get access to the data. So which devices they can and cannot unlock, exactly? Before we start crunching the numbers, please have a look at the following infographics:
Two-factor authentication is great when it comes to securing access to someone’s account. It’s not so great when it gets in the way of accessing your account. However, in emergency situations things can turn completely ugly. In this article we’ll discuss steps you can do to minimize the negative consequences of using two-factor authentication if you lose access to your trusted device and your trusted phone number. In order to keep the size of this text reasonable we’ll only talk about Apple’s implementation, namely Two-Step Verification and Two-Factor Authentication. You can read more about those in our previous blog post.
Beginning with Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft started unifying its mobile and desktop operating systems. No wonder the two versions of Microsoft’s latest OS, Windows 10, share the same approach to two-factor authentication.
Microsoft employs a somewhat unique approach to two-factor authentication. Even if the user does not want to use two-factor authentication and does not set up any secondary authentication methods, in some circumstances Microsoft would still prompt to confirm account login. Just like Google, the company would verify unusual sign-in activities occurring from a new device in another country. However, it’s not just that. Microsoft would also try to verify Microsoft Account activities once the user attempts to restore a new phone (Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile) from OneDrive backup. Interestingly, Microsoft would do exactly the same verification if one sets up an account on a new PC (desktop, laptop or tablet) and attempts to restore from OneDrive backup.
Google’s support of two-factor authentication is extensive, ranging from pre-printed backup keys to interactive, push-based notifications delivered to devices with up-to-date versions of Google Play Services via Google Cloud Messaging.
Before we start discussing Google’s two-factor authentication, let’s first look how Google protects user accounts if two-factor authentication is not enabled. If Google detects an unusual sign-in attempt (such as one originating from a new device located in a different country or continent), it may prompt the user to confirm their account. This can (or cannot) be done in various ways such as receiving a verification code to an existing backup email address that was previously configured in that account. Interestingly, even receiving and entering such a code and answering all the additional security questions Google may ask about one’s account does not actually confirm anything. Without two-factor authentication, Google may easily decline sign-in requests it deems suspicious. From first-hand experience, one is then forced to change their Google Account password. (Interestingly, Microsoft exhibits similar behavior, yet the company allows using two-factor authentication in such cases even if two-factor authentication is not enabled for that account. Weird, but that’s how it works.)
Once two-factor authentication is activated, things change. One is no longer locked out of their Google Account even when traveling, and even if attempting to log in from a new device. So let us have a look at what Google has to offer.
Two-factor authentication a roadblock when investigating an Apple device. Obtaining a data backup from the user’s iCloud account is a common and relatively easy way to acquire evidence from devices that are otherwise securely protected. It might be possible to bypass two-factor authentication if one is able to extract a so-called authentication token from the suspect’s computer.
Authentication tokens are used by iCloud Control Panel that comes pre-installed on macOS computers, as well as iCloud for Windows that can be installed on Windows PCs. Authentication tokens are very similar to browser cookies. They are used to cache authentication credentials, facilitating subsequent logins without asking the user for login and password and without prompting for secondary authentication factors. Authentication tokens do not contain the user’s password, and not even a hash of the password. Instead, they are randomly generated sequences of characters that are used to identify authorized sessions.
Tip: The use of authentication tokens allows bypassing two-factor authentication even if no access to the secondary authentication factor is available.
In this article we’ll discuss the differences between implementations of two-factor authentication in popular mobile platforms. We’ll research how two-factor authentication is implemented in Android, iOS and Windows 10 Mobile, and discuss usability and security implications of each implementation.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication is an additional security layer protecting access to user accounts in addition to their username and password. In two-factor authentication an extra verification step is required that is separate from the password. Ideally, two-factor authentication schemes would be based on verifying “something you have” in addition to “something you know”. In practical terms this is not always convenient for the end user, so very few straightforward implementations exist (mostly in the banking industry in Europe).
Using the extra verification step based on a piece of information that only the user knows or has access to makes it significantly harder for potential intruders to break in.
The previous article was about the theory. In this part we’ll go directly to practice. If you possess a turned on and locked iOS device and have no means of unlocking it with either Touch ID or passcode, you may still be able to obtain a backup via the process called logical acquisition. While logical acquisition may return somewhat less information compared to the more advanced physical acquisition, it must be noted that physical acquisition may not be available at all on a given device.
Important: Starting with iOS 8, obtaining a backup is only possible if the iOS device was unlocked with a passcode at least once after booting. For this reason, if you find an iPhone that is turned on, albeit locked, do not turn it off. Instead, isolate it from wireless networks by placing it into a Faraday bag, and do not allow it to power off or completely discharge by connecting it to a charger (a portable power pack inside a Faraday bag works great until you transfer the device to a lab). This will give you time to searching user’s computers for a lockdown record.
In recent versions of iOS, successful acquisition of a locked device is no longer a given. Multiple protection layers and Apple’s new policy on handling government requests make forensic experts look elsewhere when investigating Apple smartphones.
In this publication, we’ll discuss acquisition approach to an iOS device under these specific circumstances:
- Runs iOS 8.x through 10.x
- When seized, the device was powered on but locked with a passcode and/or Touch ID
- Device was never powered off or rebooted since it was seized
- Does not have a jailbreak installed and may not allow installing a jailbreak
- Investigators have access to one or more computers to which the iOS device was synced (iTunes) or trusted (by confirming the “Trust this PC” pop-up on the device) in the past
While this list may appear extensive and overly detailed, in real life it simply means an iPhone that was seized in a screen-locked state and stored properly in its current state (i.e. not allowed to power down or reboot). If this is the case, we might be able to access information in the device by using a so-called lockdown file, or pairing record. This record may be available on the suspect’s home or work PC that was either used to sync the iOS device with iTunes or simply used for charging if the suspect ever tapped “OK” on the “Trust this PC” pop-up. (more…)