Posts Tagged ‘desktop forensics’

Challenges in Computer and Mobile Forensics: What to Expect in 2020

The past two years introduced a number of challenges forensic experts have never faced before. In 2018, Apple made it more difficult for the police to safely transport a seized iPhone to the lab by locking the USB port with USB restricted mode, making data preservation a challenge. The release of the A12 platform, also in 2018, made it difficult to unlock iOS devices protected with an unknown password, while this year’s release of iOS 13 rendered unlock boxes useless on iPhones based on the two most recent platforms.

On desktop and especially laptop computers, the widespread use of SSD drives made it impossible to access deleted data due to trim and garbage collection mechanisms. The users’ vastly increased reliance on cloud services and mass migration off the forensically transparent SMS platform towards the use of end-to-end encrypted messaging apps made communications more difficult to intercept and analyze.

Sheer amounts of data are greater than ever, making users rely more on external (attached) storage compared to using internal hard drives. Many attached storage devices are using secure encryption, some of them without even prompting the user. Extracting data from such devices becomes a challenge, while analyzing the huge amounts of information now requires significantly more time and effort.

The number of online accounts used by an average consumer grows steadily year over year. While password reuse and the use of cloud services to store and synchronize passwords makes experts’ jobs easier, the spread of secure, encrypted password management services is turning into a new challenge.

Knowing everyday challenges in desktop and mobile forensics, we can now peek into the future. (more…)

When it comes to mobile forensics, experts are analyzing the smartphone itself with possible access to cloud data. However, extending the search to the user’s desktop and laptop computers may (and possibly will) help accessing information stored both in the physical smartphone and in the cloud. In this article we’ll list all relevant artefacts that can shed light to smartphone data. The information applies to Apple iOS devices as well as smartphones running Google Android.

Mobile Artefacts on Desktops and Laptops

Due to the sheer capacity, computer storage may contain significantly more evidence than a smartphone. However, that would be a different kind of evidence compared to timestamped and geotagged usage data we’ve come to expect from modern smartphones.

How can the user’s PC or Mac help mobile forensic experts? There several types of evidence that can help us retrieve data from the phone or the cloud.

  1. iTunes backups. While this type of evidence is iPhone-specific (or, rather, Apple-specific), a local backup discovered on the user’s computer can become an invaluable source of evidence.
  2. Saved passwords. By instantly extracting passwords stored in the user’s Web browser (Chrome, Edge, IE or Safari), one can build a custom dictionary for breaking encryption. More importantly, one can use stored credentials for signing in to the user’s iCloud or Google Account and performing a cloud extraction.
  3. Email account. An email account can be used to reset a password to the user’s Apple or Google account (with subsequent cloud extraction using the new credentials).
  4. Authentication tokens. These can be used to access synchronized data in the user’s iCloud account (tokens must be used on the user’s computer; on macOS, transferable unrestricted tokens may be extracted). There are also tokens for Google Drive (can be used to access files in the user’s Google Drive account) and Google Account (can be used to extract a lot of data from the user’s Google Account). The computer itself is also an artefact as certain authentication tokens are “pinned” to a particular piece of hardware and cannot be transferred to another device. If the computer is a “trusted” device, it can be used for bypassing two-factor authentication.

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