Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

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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iCloud Outage, New Token Expiration Rules and Fixes for Authentication Issues

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

In early July, 2017, Apple has once again revised security measures safeguarding iCloud backups. This time around, the company has altered the lifespan of iCloud authentication tokens, making them just as short-lived as they used to be immediately after celebgate attacks. How this affects your ability to access iCloud data, which rules apply to iCloud tokens, for how long you can still use the tokens and how this affected regular users will be 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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We Did It Again: Deleted Notes Extracted from iCloud

Friday, May 19th, 2017

As we already know, Apple syncs many types of data across devices that share the same Apple ID. Calls logs, contacts, Safari tabs and browsing history, favorites and notes can be synced. The syncing mechanism supposedly synchronizes newly created, edited and deleted items. These synchronizations work near instantly with little or no delay.

Apple is also known for keeping some items that users want to be deleted. As a reminder, this is a brief history of our findings:

What’s It All About?

Apple has a great note taking app that comes pre-installed on phones, tablets and computers. The Notes app offers the ability to take notes and sync them with the cloud to other devices using the same Apple ID. We discovered that Apple apparently retains in the cloud copies of the users’ notes that were deleted by the user. Granted, deleted notes can be accessed on iCloud.com for some 30 days through the “Recently Deleted” folder; this is not it. We discovered that deleted notes are actually left in the cloud way past the 30-day period, even if they no longer appear in the “Recently Deleted” folder.

For accessing those notes, we updated Elcomsoft Phone Breaker to version 6.50. (more…)

Fingerprint Readers in pre-Android 6 Smartphones: A Call for Disaster

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

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…)

Government Request Reports: Google, Apple and Microsoft

Monday, January 16th, 2017

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…)

FBI Can Unlock Most Devices They Need To

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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:

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The Ugly Side of Two-Factor Authentication

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

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.

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Microsoft Two-Factor Authentication: Always There

Monday, December 19th, 2016

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.

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