iCloud Photo Library: All Your Photos Are Belong to Us

August 25th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Releasing a major update of a complex forensic tool is always tough. New data locations and formats, new protocols and APIs require an extensive amount of research. Sometimes, we discover things that surprise us. Researching Apple’s iCloud Photo Library (to be integrated into Elcomsoft Phone Breaker 6.0) led to a particularly big surprise. We discovered that Apple keeps holding on to the photos you stored in iCloud Photo Library and then deleted, keeping “deleted” images for much longer than the advertised 30 days without telling anyone. Elcomsoft Phone Breaker 6.0 becomes the first tool on the market to gain access to deleted images going back past 30 days.

Update September 1, 2016: Apple is fixing this as we speak. Deleted photos still appear, but we see less and less of them in every session. Whatever it was, it seems like Apple is fixing the issue as quick as they can.

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iOS Logical Acquisition: The Last Hope For Passcode-Locked Devices?

August 11th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

For many months, a working jailbreak was not available for current versions of iOS. In the end of July, Pangu released public jailbreak for iOS 9.2-9.3.3. A few days ago, Apple patched the exploit and started seeding iOS 9.3.4. This was the shortest-living jailbreak in history.

With iOS getting more secure with each generation, the chance of successfully jailbreaking a device running a recent version of iOS are becoming slim. While this may not be the end of all for mobile forensic experts, we felt we need to address the issue in our physical acquisition toolkit.

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Using Gmail API: The Forensic Way to Acquire Email

August 3rd, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Just now, we’ve updated Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer to version 1.10. This new release adds the ability to download email messages from the user’s Gmail account for offline analysis. In order to do that, we had to develop a highly specialized email client. We opted to use Google’s proprietary Gmail API to download mail. In this article, we’ll explain our decision and detail the benefits you’ll be getting by choosing a tool that can talk to Gmail in Gmail language. 

The Gmail API

The Gmail API is a set of publicly available APIs that can be used by third-party developers to access Gmail mailboxes. Google cites the Gmail API as the best choice for authorized access to a user’s Gmail data. According to Google, the Gmail API is an ideal solution for read-only mail extraction, indexing and backup, as well as for migrating email accounts (https://developers.google.com/gmail/api/guides/overview). Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer does exactly that: it offers read-only mail extraction to create an offline backup of messages from the user’s online account.

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Unlike universal email protocols such as POP3 and IMAP, Google’s new API offers flexible access to the user’s Gmail account. By using the proprietary API, developers gain access to the user’s inbox complete with threads, messages, labels, drafts and history.

Most importantly, the Gmail API is blazing fast compared to legacy email protocols, and offers the ability to selectively download specific messages and threads (such as those falling within a certain time period).

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Building a Distributed Network in the Cloud: Using Amazon EC2 to Break Passwords

July 28th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Not all passwords provide equal protection. Some formats are more resistant to brute-force attacks than others. As an example, Microsoft Office 2013 and 2016 employ a smart encryption scheme that is very slow to decrypt. Even the fastest available GPU units found in NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX 1080 will only allow trying some 7100 passwords per second.

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One solution is employing a custom dictionary, possibly containing the user’s passwords that were easier to break. Observing the common pattern in those other passwords may allow creating a custom mask that could greatly reduce the number of possible combinations.

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Breaking BitLocker Encryption: Brute Forcing the Backdoor (Part II)

July 27th, 2016 by Vladimir Katalov

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How often do you think forensic specialists have to deal with encrypted containers? Compared with office documents and archives that are relatively infrequent, every second case involves an encrypted container. It may vary, but these evaluations are based on a real survey conducted by our company.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of the topic. In the first part of our story we discussed the way of getting access to encrypted volumes using an encryption key. Now, let’s see which other ways can be used.

Unlike Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor, Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery does not search for existing decryption keys. Instead, it tries to unlock password-protected disks by attacking the password. The tool applies an impressive variety of techniques for attacking the password. In this case, the whole disk encryption scheme is only as strong as its password. Fortunately, the tool can execute a wide range of attacks including wordlist attack, combination attacks, mask attacks, smart attacks and so on and so forth, with advanced GPU acceleration and distributed processing on top of that. The whole sophisticated arsenal comes in particularly handy if we speak about more or less secure passwords.

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Mac OS Forensics: Attacking FileVault 2

July 27th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

In the world of Windows dominance, Apple’s Mac OS X enjoys a healthy market share of 9.5% among desktop operating systems. The adoption of Apple’s desktop OS (macOS seems to be the new name) is steadily growing. This is why we are targeting Mac OS with our tools.

This time, let’s talk about Mac OS X user account passwords. Not only will a user password allow accessing their Mac, but it will also allow decrypting FileVault 2 volumes that are otherwise securely encrypted with virtually unbreakable XTS-AES.

Attacking FileVault 2

FileVault 2 is Apple’s take on whole-disk encryption. Protecting the entire startup partition, FileVault 2 volumes can be unlocked with either of the following:

  • 256-bit XTS-AES key
  • Recovery Key
  • User password from any account with “unlock” privileges

There is also an additional unlock method available called Institutional Recovery Key. These recovery keys are created when system administrators enable FileVault 2 encryption with FileVaultMaster.keychain. This method requires additional steps to activate, and is typically used in organizations with centralized keychain management.

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NVIDIA Pascal: a Great Password Cracking Tool

July 26th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

During the last several years, progress on the CPU performance front has seemingly stopped. Granted, last-generation CPUs are cool, silent and power-efficient. Anecdotal evidence: my new laptop (a brand new Macbook) is about as fast as the Dell ultrabook it replaced. The problem? I bought the Dell laptop some five years ago. Granted, the Dell was thicker and noisier. It’s battery never lasted longer than a few hours. But it was about as fast as the new Macbook.

Computer games have evolved a lot during the last years. Demanding faster and faster video cards, today’s games are relatively lax on CPU requirements. Manufacturers followed the trend, continuing the performance race. GPUs have picked up where CPUs have left.

NVIDIA has recently released a reference design for GTX 1080 boards based on the new Pascal architecture. Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery 3.20 adds support for the new architecture. What does it mean for us?

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Elcomsoft Phone Viewer 2.20 Goes Stand-Alone

June 23rd, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

We have a bunch of mobile forensic tools. We have tools for extracting data from jailbroken iPhones and tools for decrypting password-protected backups. Tools for downloading data from iCloud and tools for analyzing user data mined by Google. We even have a tool for decrypting backups produced by BlackBerry 10, one of the most secure OS’es on the market.

We also have a tool for viewing all that data. Elcomsoft Phone Viewer was initially released as a tool to complement our range of mobile forensic tools. Initially, the tool’s sole purpose was enabling our users to view information they extracted using other tools from our range via physical, logical or over-the-air acquisition. Viewing all but unencrypted iTunes backups would require you launching Elcomsoft Phone Breaker to remove protection and decrypt information.

This is no longer the case. Starting with this release, you can use Elcomsoft Phone Viewer as a fully featured, stand-alone tool for accessing mobile data. What did we change and who can benefit from the new features? Read along to find out!

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Fingerprint Unlock Security: iOS vs. Google Android (Part II)

June 20th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

Fingerprint Unlock Security: Google Android and Microsoft Hello

Using one’s fingerprint to unlock a mobile device with a touch is fast and convenient. But does it provide sufficient security? More importantly, does biometric unlock provide a level of security comparable to that of the more traditional PIN or passcode? As we found in the first article, Apple has managed to develop a comprehensive fingerprint unlock system that provides just enough security while offering a much greater convenience compared to traditional unlock methods. What’s up with that in the other camp?

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Google Android 4.x through 5.1.1: No Fingerprint API

There is no lack of Android smartphones (but no tablets) that come with integrated fingerprint scanners. Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, S7, Motorola Moto Z, SONY Xperia Z5, LG G5, Huawei Ascend Mate 7 and newer flagships, Meizu Pro 5 and a plethora of other devices are using fingerprint scanners without proper support on the native API level.

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Elcomsoft System Recovery UEFI Support

June 16th, 2016 by Oleg Afonin

As you may already know, we’ve released an update to Elcomsoft System Recovery, a tool allowing to reset or recover Windows and Microsoft Account passwords by booting from an external USB drive. The new build allows creating bootable USB drives for devices exclusively relying on UEFI bootloaders. Why was this change needed? Read below for an answer!

UEFI Boot Support

If you need access to Windows protected files (and files containing password hashes are always protected), you will either require administrative privileges or must boot a separate copy of Windows from a separate boot media. Elcomsoft System Recovery has always come with the ability to create such bootable media.

As computers evolved, industry moved to 64-bit computations. During the last decade, CPU manufacturers migrated completely to 64-bit architecture. Some years later, it became obvious that legacy BIOS was no longer relevant in the new age. BIOS was superseded with UEFI.

To maintain compatibility with legacy operating systems, most systems of that time period came with support for legacy boot mode (BIOS emulation, “compatibility mode”) enabled out of the box. As operating systems evolved, manufacturers started gradually phasing out legacy support. Today we have reached the point where many new devices (2013 and newer) come without any sort of BIOS emulation at all.

Elcomsoft System Recovery comes with a customized bootable Windows PE environment. By booting from this media, customers can gain access to existing Windows installations even if they don’t know the correct password. For a long time, Elcomsoft System Recovery was relying on legacy compatibility mode to boot. This is no longer an option. The increased share of devices shipping without BIOS emulation or legacy boot support required us to adapt.

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