Posts Tagged ‘authentication token’

Every other day, Apple makes the work of forensic specialists harder. Speaking of iCloud, we partially covered this topic in Apple vs. Law Enforcement: Cloud Forensics and Apple vs Law Enforcement: Cloudy Times, but there is more to it today. The recent iOS (13.4) and macOS (10.15.4) releases brought some nasty surprises. Let’s talk about them.

iOS 13

It is difficult to say when it actually happened, but iOS stopped syncing call logs, and does not sync them for the time being. We covered call log sync some three years ago:

We even tried to bring the matter to Apple, but the only response was we take privacy very seriously (I am not surprised). Anyway; call logs are no longer synchronized (com’on, Apple, did you forget about Continuity? 😊)

But there is more. Do you use Apple Maps? Its data, surprisingly, has been moved to an encrypted container, similar to other protected data such as the iCloud keychain, iCloud Messages, Health and Screen Time data. It’s a strange move, as Maps data is not all that sensitive compared to other bits stored in secured containers. While we can still obtain that data from the cloud, the procedure now relies on the process for extracting other end-to-end encrypted data, which means you have to use the password/passcode of one of the user’s devices.

Just in case: if you are curious about Screen Time, we are currently able to extract only part of the data from iCloud. This includes the passcode, family information, restrictions etc. The most interesting data such as app usage statistics seems to sync directly across devices, but it is not stored in the way that would allow us to extract it from the cloud. If you have more than one device and use the Share across devices option, just compare the statistics you see on the device it’s been collected from and how it appears on other devices on the account. The results are different. Moreover, some stats are not available at all, while there is some mysterious data from devices that have been disconnected from the account a long time ago. A lot of iPhone users reported similar problems:

This can mean that such ‘direct’ syncing simply does not work correctly. It is difficult to say whether it is an iOS 12/13 or iCloud bug, but we decided not to waste our time trying to obtain this data from iCloud. And btw, in iOS 13 the data related to Screen Time is also protected better than most of other data — it is not enough just to have root privileges to access it.

Oh by the way, iOS 13.4.5 beta (what a strange version number after 13.4) is out yesterday, we are going to have a look at it soon.

macOS

Lockdown (pairing) records had always allowed to access passcode-protected devices. However, with the latest update, lockdown records are no longer accessible.

Starting with maCOS 10.12, you had to to run the following command:

sudo chmod 755 /private/var/db/lockdown

With macOS 10.15.4, it does not work anymore:Is there a workaround? Yes. Just disable SIP (System Integrity Protection) by booting into Recovery mode (+R on system startup), then start Terminal and run the following command:

csrutil disable

Then reboot, and access lockdown folder as you did before, e.g. to perform advanced logical acquisition of a locked iPhone using iOS Forensic Toolkit.

iCloud

iCloud authentication has changed again. Looks like Apple have a dedicated team of software engineers that do nothing but make meaningless changes to authentication protocols just to block our software. This does not really improve the security and privacy but makes Apple’s top management happy.

I am not going to describe all the changes in details, but give you some tips on how this affects the usage of authentication tokens in Elcomsoft Phone Breaker. You can start reading from Accessing iCloud With and Without a Password in 2019; and here is how it works now.

On Windows systems, tokens extracted from iCloud  for Windows version 7.0 and later work only for accounts without two-factor authentication. With these tokens, you won’t be able to access the entire set of iCloud data. The following categories are still accessible: iCloud Photos and certain synced categories (including contacts, calendars, notes, Safari browsing history etc. except end-to-end encrypted data such as the Keychain, iCloud Messages or Health data). As for iCloud backups, you can only retrieve ones created by iOS versions older than iOS 11.2.

On macOS, the situation is slightly better. On macOS from 10.13 to 10.15, we can get the token for non-2FA accounts only; and for ones that have 2FA enabled, the token is, well, ‘tethered’ to the device it is obtained from, so you can authenticate with this token in Elcomsoft Phone Breaker only on the same Mac. The scope of the data that can be downlooaded from the iCloud (regardless the account and token type) is the same as above: limited number of categories of synced data (without end-to-end encryption), and iCloud backups of devices with iOS up to 11.2. Fully ‘untethered’ tokens for 2FA accounts are only available in macOS 10.12 and older. In fact we recently used a kind of vulnerability in iCloud protocol that allowed us to get such tokens even for 2FA accounts, but not anymore, sorry.

Sounds confusing? I know. Here it is once again:

  • We can always get a token for non-2FA accounts
  • For 2FA accounts, tokens from most (modern) Windows systems are completely useless, while tokens from modern macOS versions can be used on the same system only
  • Tokens can be used to access only a limited amount of data from iCloud

One more thing: some changes have been made even for accounts without 2FA. Due to these changes, Apple can now lock accounts after a single incorrect password attempt.

Conclusion

To obtain all the data from the user’s iCloud account, you will need the Apple ID, the password, the second authentication factor, and the device passcode. If you have all of those, you can obtain virtually everything, including some of the data that is not available on the device itself. Do not underestimate this method, and remember that Elcomsoft Phone Breaker is the only product on the market that extracts all the data from iCloud including end-to-end encrypted categories.

In iOS forensics, cloud extraction is a viable alternative when physical acquisition is not possible. The upcoming release of iOS 13 brings additional security measures that will undoubtedly make physical access even more difficult. While the ability to download iCloud backups has been around for years, the need to supply the user’s login and password followed by two-factor authentication was always a roadblock.

Some five years ago, we learned how to use authentication tokens to access iCloud backups without a password. In Breaking Into iCloud: No Password Required we discussed the benefits of this approach. During the next years, we learned how to use authentication tokens to access other types of data stored in iCloud including the user’s photo library, browsing history, contacts, calendars and other information that Apple synchronizes across all of the user’s devices that are signed in to the same Apple account.

Many things have changed since then. Tokens can no longer be used to access iCloud backups, period. Tokens cannot be used to access passwords (iCloud Keychain), Screen Time, Health and Messages. Sometime last year Apple pinned authentication tokens to a particular computer, making them usable just from the very PC or Mac they’ve been created on. It took us more than a year to figure out a workaround allowing experts to transfer authentication tokens from the user’s computer. Even today, this workaround is only working if the user had a macOS computer. With this number of restrictions, are authentication tokens still usable? What can you obtain from the user’s iCloud account with an authentication token, and what can be accessed with a login and password? How two-factor authentication affects what’s available in an iCloud account, and why knowing the screen lock passcode (or Mac system password) can help? Keep reading to find out.

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The cloud becomes an ever more important (sometimes exclusive) source of the evidence whether you perform desktop or cloud forensics. Even if you are not in forensics, cloud access may help you access deleted or otherwise inaccessible data.

Similar to smartphones or password-protected desktops, cloud access is a privilege that is supposed to be only available to the rightful account owner. You would need a login and password and possibly the second factor. These aren’t always available to forensic experts. In fact, it won’t be easy to access everything stored in the cloud if you have all the right credentials.

Apple iCloud is one of the most advanced cloud solutions on the market, with lots of services available. These include comprehensive device backups, synchronization services across the entire Apple ecosystem including the Apple TV and Apple Watch devices, file storage, password management, home IoT devices, Health data and more. And it is pretty secure.

Let’s review all the possibilities of accessing Apple iCloud data with or without a password.

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iCloud authentication tokens in particular are difficult to grasp. What are they, what tools are they created with, where they are stored, and how and when they can be used are questions that we’re being asked a lot. Let’s try to put things together. Read Part 1 of the series.

What Authentication Tokens Are and What They Aren’t

And authentication token is a piece of data that allows the client (iCloud for Windows, Elcomsoft Phone Breaker etc.) to connect to iCloud servers without providing a login and password for every request. This piece of data is stored in a small file, and that file can be used to spare the user from entering their login and password during the current and subsequent sessions.

On the other hand, authentication tokens do not contain a password. They don’t contain a hashed password either. In other words, a token cannot be used to attack the password.

What They Are Good For and How to Use

Authentication tokens may be used instead of the login and password (and secondary authentication factor) to access information stored in the user’s iCloud account. This information includes:

  • iCloud backups (however, tokens expire quickly)
  • iCloud Photo Library, including access to deleted photos
  • Call logs
  • Notes, calendars, contacts, and a lot of other information

Using iCloud authentication tokens is probably the most interesting part. You can use an authentication token in Elcomsoft Phone Breaker Forensic to sign in to Apple iCloud and use iCloud services (download cloud backups, photos, synchronized data etc.) without knowing the user’s Apple ID password and without having to deal with Two-Factor Authentication.

Authentication tokens can be used for:

  • Signing in to iCloud services
  • Without Apple ID password
  • Without having to pass Two-Factor Authentication

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What are iCloud authentication tokens? How they are better than good old passwords? Do they ever expire and when? Where to get them? Is there anything else I should know about tokens? This publication opens a new series on token-based authentication.

A Brief History of iCloud Extraction

When we started working with Apple iCloud more than 5 years ago to allow users download their backups, we only supported the most straightforward authentication path via login and password. Since you had to supply an Apple ID and password anyway, many people wondered what the big deal with our software was. If it required a password anyway, could you just do the same by some standard means?

The thing is there is no “standard” means. All you can do with an iCloud backup without additional software is restoring a new Apple device from it; from there, you’re on your own. Also, you can only restore over Wi-Fi, and the process is extremely slow. It takes several hours to finish, and the iPhone you’re restoring will consume a lot more traffic than just the backup (it’ll also download and install app binaries from the App Store, which can be significantly larger than the backup itself).

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Who am I to tell you to use two-factor authentication on all accounts that support it? This recommendation coming from someone whose business is supplying law enforcement with tools helping them do their job might be taken with a grain of salt by an average consumer. Yet we still strongly believe that, however good a password you have to encrypt your local documents or NAS drives, any remotely popular online service absolutely requires an additional authentication factor.

We covered the risks related to passwords more than once. There is no lack of horror stories floating on the Internet, ranging from leaking private photos to suddenly losing access to all data and devices registered on a certain account. Today, smartphones store excessive amounts of information. If any of that data is synced with a cloud, the data will be shared with something other than just your device.

So what is that “other” thing that you need to secure access to your account? It might be something you have in addition to something you know. Something that cannot be easily stolen or accessed remotely. This is exactly what two-factor authentication is for.

All three major mobile companies, Apple, Google and Microsoft, offer very different implementations of two-factor authentication. Speaking Google, you have several convenient options: SMS (which is not really secure, and Google knows it), the recently added Google Prompt, the classic Google Authenticator app, printable backup codes, FIDO keys and a few more. (Spoiler: if you are on a different side and need to extract the data as opposed to protecting it, we have an app for that).

What about Apple? There are a few things you should definitely know about Apple’s implementation. The problem with Apple is that Apple accounts protected with two-factor authentication can be actually less secure at some points. Surprised? Keep reading.

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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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As you may know, we have recently updated Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer, bumping the version number from 1.30 to 1.31. A very minor update? A bunch of unnamed bug fixes and performance improvements? Not really. Under the hood, the new release has major changes that will greatly affect usage experience. What exactly has changed and why, and what are the forensic implications of these changes? Bear with us to find out.

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Legal Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, you confirm that you are not going to use it to break into someone else’s Apple account. If you wish to apply ideas described in this article, you are taking full responsibility for your actions.

Non-Legal Disclaimer

Just relax. It’s not like we’re giving away tips on how to download celebrities’ photos or hack the prime minister’s iPhone.

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With little news on physical acquisition of the newer iPhones, we made every effort to explore the alternatives. One of the alternatives to physical acquisition is over-the-air acquisition from Apple iCloud, allowing investigators accessing cloud backups stored in the cloud. While this is old news (we learned to download data from iCloud more than two years ago), this time we have something completely different: access to iCloud backups without a password! The latest release of Phone Password Breaker is all about password-free acquisition of iCloud backups.

Update 25.07.2019: things have changed! The most up to date information on this topic is now available at:

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