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Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

iMessage Security, Encryption and Attachments

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

iMessage is undoubtedly one of the most popular instant messaging platforms for an obvious reason: it’s built in to iOS and ships with every iPhone by default. iMessage does not require complex setup, so the number of iMessage users is closely matching the number of iPhone users. Apple sells about 200 million iPhones every year, and the total number of iPhones sold is more than a billion. Unless you absolutely must chat with someone outside of Apple’s ecosystem (like those poor Android folks), you won’t need Skype, WhatsApp or Telegram. It’s also comforting to know that iMessage works everywhere around the world while most other messengers are oppressed in one or more countries.

But what about iMessage security? Is it safe to use if you’re concerned about your privacy? Is there a reason why countries such as China, Iran or Russia block other messengers but keep iMessage going? Is it safe from hackers? What about Law Enforcement? And what about Apple itself? It must have access to your messages to target the ads, right? Is it OK to send those private snapshots or share your location via iMessage?

There is no simple answer, but we’ll do our best to shed some light on that.

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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 12 Enhances USB Restricted Mode

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

The release of iOS 11.4.1 back in July 2018 introduced USB Restricted Mode, a feature designed to defer passcode cracking tools such as those developed by Cellerbrite and Grayshift. As a reminder, iOS 11.4.1 automatically switches off data connectivity of the Lightning port after one hour since the device was last unlocked, or one hour since the device has been disconnected from a USB accessory or computer. In addition, users could manually disable the USB port by following the S.O.S. mode routine.

iOS 12 takes USB restrictions one step further. According to the new iOS Security guide published by Apple after the release of iOS 12, USB connections are disabled immediately after the device locks if more than three days have passed since the last USB connection, or if the device is in a state when it requires a passcode.

“In addition, on iOS 12 if it’s been more than three days since a USB connection has been established, the device will disallow new USB connections immediately after it locks. This is to increase protection for users that don’t often make use of such connections. USB connections are also disabled whenever the device is in a state where it requires a passcode to re-enable biometric authentication.”

Source: Apple iOS Security, September 2018 (more…)

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…)

Analysing Apple Pay Transactions

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

With more than 127 million users in multiple countries, Apple Pay is one of the more popular contactless payment systems. Unlike some competing payment technologies, Apple Pay is not only tightly integrated into Apple’s ecosystem but is exclusive to Apple devices.

Apple Pay serves as a digital wallet, digitizing user’s payment cards and completely replacing traditional swipe-and-sign and chip-and-PIN transactions at compatible terminals. However, unlike traditional wallets, Apple Pay also keeps detailed information about the user’s point of sale transactions. Due to the sheer amount of highly sensitive information processed by the system, Apple Pay is among the most securely protected vaults in compatible devices. In this article we’ll show you where and how this information is stored in the file system, how to extract it from the iPhone and how to analyse the data. (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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iOS 12 Beta 5: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

The release of iOS 11.4.1 marked the introduction of USB restricted mode, a then-new protection scheme disabling USB data pins after one hour. The USB restricted mode was not invincible; in fact, one could circumvent protection by connecting the device to a $39 accessory. While a great improvement on itself, the new mode did not provide sufficient protection. We wished Apple maintained a list of “trusted” or previously connected accessories on the device, allowing only such devices to reset the timer. In this new iOS 12 beta, Apple makes attempts to further “improve” USB restricted mode, yet the quotes about “improving” the system are there on purpose.

We recently covered the whole story starting from iOS 11.3 and up to the then-current iOS 12 beta, but it looks the story is far from the end. I think Apple monitors media coverage including our blog, and takes a note on some of the readers’ comments in an attempt to find the right balance between security and convenience. We even suggested how they could possibly improve the new mode’s implementation, and… iOS 12 Beta 5 (just released) brings another surprise.

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USB Restricted Mode Inside Out

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

It’s been a lot of hype around the new Apple security measure (USB restricted mode) introduced in iOS 11.4.1. Today we’ll talk about how we tested the new mode, what are the implications, and what we like and dislike about it. If you are new to the topic, consider reading our blog articles first (in chronological order):

To make a long story short: apparently, Apple was unable to identify and patch vulnerabilities allowing to break passcodes. Instead, they got this idea to block USB data connection after a period of time, so no data transfer can even occur after a certain “inactivity” period (keep reading about the definition of “inactivity”). It is somehow similar to how Touch ID/Face ID expire from time to time, so you can only use the passcode if you did not unlock the device for a period of time. Same for USB now.

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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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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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