Posts Tagged ‘Encryption’

If you are a Windows user and ever considered protecting your data with full-disk encryption, you have probably heard about BitLocker. BitLocker is Microsoft’s implementation of full-disk encryption that is built into many versions of Windows. You maybe even using BitLocker without realizing that you do – for example, if you have a Surface or a similar thin-and-light Windows device. At the same time, BitLocker encryption is not available by default on desktops if you are using the Home edition of Windows 10. Activating BitLocker on your system disk can be tricky and may not work right away even if your Windows edition supports it. In this article, we are offering an introduction to BitLocker encryption. We’ll detail the types of threats BitLocker can effectively protect your data against, and the type of threats against which BitLocker is useless. Finally, we’ll describe how to activate BitLocker on systems that don’t meet Microsoft’s hardware requirements, and evaluate whether it’s worth it or not security-wise.

Threats Covered by BitLocker Encryption

BitLocker encryption is not the be-all and end-all type of protection. While BitLocker securely encrypts your data with industry-standard AES encryption, it can only protect your data against a set of very specific threats.

BitLocker can effectively protect your data in the following circumstances.

Your hard drive(s) are removed from your computer

If, for any reason, your hard drives (or SSD drives) are removed from your computer, your data is securely protected with a 128-bit encryption key (users requiring higher-level security can specify 256-bit encryption when setting up BitLocker).

How secure is this type of protection? If you’re using TPM protection (more on that later), it is very secure; just as secure as the AES algorithm itself (in layman view, 128-bit or 256-bit encryption are equally strong).

If, however, you have enabled BitLocker on a computer without TPM, then BitLocker encryption will be just as secure as the password you set. For this reason, make sure to specify a reasonably strong, reasonably long and absolutely unique password.

The entire computer is stolen

If your entire computer is stolen, the security of your data depends on the type of BitLocker protection you are using as well as on the strength of your Windows password. The most convenient method is “TPM only” (more on that later); this is the least secure method as well, because your computer will decrypt the hard drive(s) before you sign in to Windows.

If you are using “TPM only” protection policy, anyone who knows your Windows account password (or your Microsoft Account password, if you are using a Microsoft Account as your Windows 10 login) will be able to unlock your data.

TPM + PIN is significantly more secure; in a way, it is practically as secure as a bare hard drive.

If you set up BitLocker protection without a TPM or Intel PTT installed, you’ll be forced to using the password. In this case, the data will be as secure as your password. BitLocker is designed to slow down brute-force attacks, so even a 8-character password can provide secure protection to your data.

Other users on the same computer

 If anyone can log in to your computer and access their account, the disk volume has been already decrypted. BitLocker does not protect against peer computer users.

Malware/ransomware and online threats

 BitLocker does nothing to protect your data against malware, ransomware or online threats.

In other words, BitLocker is great when protecting your data against the removal of the hard drive(s); it’s perfect if you want to protect your data if you sell or RMA your hard drives. It’s somewhat less effective (depending on your policies) when protecting your data if the entire computer is stolen. This is it; other usage cases are not covered.

System Requirements

Most of us are used to “System Requirements” being a mere formality. This is not the case with BitLocker. In order to protect your boot device with BitLocker, you must be running Windows 10 Professional or higher. Windows 10 Home does not support BitLocker system encryption.

To make things more confusing, Microsoft does support BitLocker device protection even on devices with Windows 10 Home. Effectively, this is the same encryption, just with some limitations. BitLocker device protection is available on thin and light devices (e.g. Microsoft Surface) supporting Connected standby and equipped with solid-state storage. Those devices must be equipped with a TPM2.0 module or Intel PTT technology.

If you are using Windows 10 Professional or higher with TPM2.0 or Intel PTT, you can enable BitLocker straight away. However, most computers are not equipped with TPM modules, and only newer-generation computers (think Intel 8th and 9th Gen motherboards; some higher-end motherboards may support Intel PTT with older processors) support Intel Platform Trust Technology. Intel PTT is not even enabled in BIOS by default; you must manually enable the thing to use it for BitLocker protection.

Here’s how you activate Intel PTT on Gigabyte Z390 boards (latest BIOS):


Alternatively, you can perform a Group Policy edit to enable BitLocker without hardware protection modules.

If your computer meets the requirements (namely, the presence of a hardware TPM2.0 module or software-based Intel Platform Trust Technology), enabling BitLocker on your computer can be as easy as opening the Control Panel and launching the BitLocker Drive Encryption applet. Note that not all editions of Windows 10 can use BitLocker protection.

Once you click on “Turn on BitLocker”, Windows will prompt you to create an escrow key (BitLocker Recovery Key). It is highly advisable to do so. On a balance, storing the recovery key in your Microsoft Account might be a good enough option for most home users, while employees will store their recovery keys in their company’s Active Directory. Saving the key into a file or printing it out are also valid options that will provide just as much security as your personal safe box.

Thin and light devices (such as Windows tablets and ultrabooks) may be protected with device encryption as opposed to BitLocker Drive Encryption. The algorithm is essentially the same; however, the compatibility requirements are different. Device encryption is available for thin and light devices running any Windows 10 edition, while BitLocker Drive Encryption is not available to Windows 10 Home users. If you have data to protect, you’ll need to pay a fee for an in-place upgrade to Windows 10 Professional.

What if you already have Windows 10 Professional but don’t have a hardware TPM2.0 module? If you are using one of the latest boards based on Intel chip sets, you may be able to activate Intel Platform Trust Technology (How To Enable BitLocker With Intel PTT and No TPM For Better Security) or perform the following Group Policy edit to enable BitLocker:

  1. Open Group Policy Editor (type gpedit.msc in the Windows Search box)
  2. Open Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > BitLocker Drive Encryption > Operating System Drives
  3. Edit the Require additional authentication at startup policy
  4. Set the policy to Enabled and check Allow BitLocker without a compatible TPM as shown on the screen shot

Speaking of the policies, BitLocker supports various methods of authentication, each offering a unique trade-off between security and convenience.

  • TPM only. Your system will boot to login prompt; the data will be decrypted with a key stored in the TPM (or Intel PTT) module. This is the most convenient option that effectively protects hard drives, but offers weaker protection if the intruder has access to the whole system (computer with TPM and the hard drive).
  • TPM + PIN. In this mode, the TPM module will only release the encryption key if you correctly type the PIN code during pre-boot phase. Even though the PIN code is short, entering the wrong PIN several times makes TPM panic and block access to the encryption key. This option arguably offers the best balance between security and convenience, combining “something that you have” (the TPM module) with “something that you know” (the PIN code). At the same time, this option may not be convenient in multi-user environments.
  • TPM + USB Key. This option requires both the TPM and a USB flash drive (or CCID smartcard) to be present in order for the system to boot.
  • TPM + PIN + USB Key. Just as the name suggests, this option requires all three of the TPM, PIN code and USB key/smartcard in order to boot your computer. While this is probably the most secure option, the additional security benefits are hardly worth it compared to the TPM + PIN option if you consider the reduced convenience and reliability (you’ll have to use the recovery key if a USB key or smart card gets lost or corrupted).
  • USB Key. This option is only recommended if your computer is not equipped with a TPM module and does not support the Intel PTT.
  • Password only. Just like the previous option, “password only” authentication should only be used if no TPM or Intel PTT is available. Note that the “password” option is different from the “PIN” as there is no enforceable limit on the number of password attempts without a TPM, which allows a brute-force attack on the password.

Advanced users and system administrators can refer to BitLocker Group Policy settings in Microsoft Knowledge Base.

What caveats are there when it comes to securing data against physical extraction? The thing is, while BitLocker is nearly a 100% effective solution for protecting the bare drive, it might not be as secure if the intruder has access to the entire computer with the hard drive installed. Even if your computer is equipped with a TPM2.0/Intel PTT module, Windows will still unlock the encrypted hard drive if Secure Boot conditions are met. This in turn opens numerous vectors of attack that may allow the intruder to intercept the on-the-fly BitLocker encryption key and decrypt the hard drive. These vectors of attack include:

  1. Making a RAM image of a running computer with BitLocker volume(s) mounted. This can be done via a Thunderbolt attack (Windows, by default, does not disable Thunderbolt DMA access when locked) or a cold boot attack.
  2. Breaking or extracting your Windows logon password (e.g. extracting from your Google account, your smartphone, or from another computer you have logged in and synced your data to).
  3. Obtaining your BitLocker Recovery Key from your Microsoft Account or Active Directory.

Advanced users and system administrators can read the following guide to secure their BitLocker volumes: BitLocker recovery guide


Reliable data protection is impossible without protecting your boot device. BitLocker is the perfect choice. It’s secure, convenient and highly configurable, allowing you balance security and convenience to your precise requirements. If you are concerned about security of your data, protecting your boot device with BitLocker is an absolutely mandatory step and the most important security layer.


TerraMaster is a relatively new company specializing in network attached storage and direct attached storage solutions. The majority of TerraMaster NAS solutions are ARM64 and Intel-based boxes aimed at the home and SOHO users. TerraMaster’s OS (TOS) is based on Linux. At this time, TOS 4.1 is the current version of the OS.

TerraMaster advertises secure AES encryption with unspecified key length through the entire range of its current NAS devices. This time around, we’re dealing with folder-based encryption that runs on top of the open-source encrypting file system eCryptfs. TerraMaster’s implementation of data encryption is extremely simplistic and lacks any sort of management for either the encryption key or the encrypted data.

Abstract and Summary

TerraMaster implements folder-based AES encryption with a single, fixed, unchangeable encryption key based on the user-provided password. The company does not specify the length of the key used for AES encryption. A 42-byte (336-bit) encryption key file can be manually exported for backup purposes. Users can unlock encrypted volumes by either typing the original plain-text password or uploading the encryption key.

TerraMaster has never documented any technical details about the underlying encryption mechanisms.

Encryption key: plain-text password or key file (must be manually exported while the encrypted share is mounted and unlocked).

The original password is used as Media Encryption Key. The concept of Key Encryption Keys is never utilized here; as a result, users cannot change their encryption password at all. In addition, TerraMaster OS does not have provisions for encrypting existing data or permanently decrypting encrypted shares. Any changes to encryption require deleting and re-creating shares and filling them up with data.

The entire encryption scheme lacks any sort of technical documentation.

Test Bench

We analyzed a TerraMaster F2-220 device based on a quad-code ARM64 design. A non-SED WD Red HDD was used to set up the NAS perform the analysis. The NAS was running on the latest available version of TOS 4.1.

TerraMaster: Folder-Based Encryption

TerraMaster uses folder-based encryption based on eCryptfs, an open-source stacked cryptographic file system. Detailed information on eCryptfs is available here. This is the same encryption scheme as used in consumer Synology NAS devices. However, while Synology properly documents the restrictions of folder-based encryption, TerraMaster does not. As a result, the user finds out about the fact that encrypted file names are restricted to 143 Latin characters in a hard way by getting a write error when attempting to store a file with a name that is longer than permitted. Using Asian characters makes the possible file names even shorter.

From the point of view of a normal consumer, TerraMaster’s implementation of encryption is not just restrictive; it’s restrictive by surprise since no advance warning is given and no documentation is available about it.

Once the encrypted share is created, users cannot change the encryption passphrase.


Users can only encrypt newly created, empty shares. Encrypting an existing share is not possible. One must first delete the encrypted share, create a new one while selecting the encryption option. As a result, encrypting shares with existing data is not supported.

The good thing about this encryption scheme is the ability to create multiple shares, each with its own unique password. If there are multiple users, each user can encrypt their personal share with their own password. However, the complete inability to change the encryption password makes this approach dubious in the grand scheme of things.

Creating an encrypted share

The first step is creating a new share:

The “Encrypt this shared folder” box activates the encryption. The encryption feature requires a password, which is used as an encryption key. There are no obvious limitations (minimum or maximum) to the length of the password or supported character sets.

The process is concluded after setting access permissions and confirming settings:

The encrypted share is created and mounted. Note the “lock” icon:

Exporting the encryption key

Pretty much the only thing users can do with their encryption key other than using it for mounting shares is exporting it to a file.

In order to export the key, users must re-enter their encryption password:

Mounting encrypted shares

The encrypted volumes can be only mounted manually. Users must log in to the TOS Web UI, click on the encrypted share and use the Mount command. There are no auto-mount options available, and there are no vulnerabilities connected with the improper storage or handling of encryption keys.

The following two options are supported.

  1. Mounting with the original plain-text password.
  2. Mounting with the exported key file.

Choosing between these two options, the key file appears to be the more secure one as users can generate a long, random password with high volatility and use that password to produce the backup key file.

Unmounting encrypted shares

Encrypted shares are unmounted automatically once the NAS is powered off or rebooted. Manually unmounting the encrypted share requires accessing the Web UI:

Permanent decryption

Your familiar full-disk encryption tools such as Microsoft BitLocker allow removing the password from an encrypted volume. This is possible because these encryption tools use a concept of separate Media Encryption Keys (MEK, which are used to protect the data) and Key Encryption Keys (KEK, which are used to protect, or “wrap”, the MEK).

TerraMaster does not use the concept of separate MEK and KER. As a result, removing the password is not possible without physically decrypting the entire set of data (which is not supported by TOS). The only way to permanently decrypt the data is removing the encrypted share, re-creating the share without encryption and filling it up with data.

Changing the password: impossible

Decades ago, manufacturers came up with a brilliant idea of separating the binary encryption keys that are used to encrypt and decrypt the data, and secrets that are used to unlock the encryption keys. This wonderful concept allows many things such as using any one of the several different passwords (or multiple types of authentication credentials, such as a smart card or a password) to unlock encrypted volumes. Sadly, this concept is rarely used by NAS manufacturers. TerraMaster is no exception; users cannot change the password because the password itself is the Media Encryption Key.

Manually Decrypting Encrypted Shares

Looking at the path that contains the encrypted files, I wonder if TerraMaster could be inspired by Synology’s implementation of folder-based encryption. The path to encrypted share looks as follows:


Where “encrypted” is the name of the share (as seen on screenshots above).

Path to decrypted files/mounted share:


Since TerraMaster uses eCryptfs, we can use the familiar command to mount the encrypted share:

mount -t ecryptfs /mnt/md0/@encrypted@ /mnt/md0/encrypted

You will need the user’s original, plain-text encryption password. TOS does not appear to be storing the encryption password or the encryption key file anywhere on the disk or in the boot DOM.

If you are able to decrypt the files, but the file names remain encrypted (ECRYPTFS_FNEK_ENCRYPTED), check out the following threads:

Alternatively, this open-source tool: pecryptfs – Portable Userspace eCryptfs may help decrypting individual file names.

What Risks Are Covered by TerraMaster Security Model

Similar to other implementations of NAS encryption, the security model employed by the TerraMaster is stripped down to the bare essentials. I have the following remarks about the TOS security model.

  1. Unlike volume encryption schemes, folder-based encryption comes with encryption metadata duplicated in every file. “eCryptfs stores cryptographic metadata in the header of each file, so that encrypted files can be copied between hosts; the file will be decrypted with the proper key in the Linux kernel keyring.” (source) This makes secure erase of encrypted data impossible. To securely erase data encrypted with eCryptfs, one must either wipe (overwrite) encryption metadata in each and every encrypted file; wipe the full content of every file; or wipe the entire disk.
  2. This encryption model does not properly protect the data if one needs to send the disk out for repair/replacement or simply wants to sell the disk. The encryption metadata is duplicated in every file in the encrypted folder. As a result, the attacker can obtain a single file and run a (fast) attack on the encryption key. Open-source tools such as pecryptfs – Portable Userspace eCryptfs may help decrypting individual files.
  3. The lack of any sort of technical documentation for the data protection scheme is discouraging. This might be passable for the home user and occasional small office use, but unacceptable for anything beyond that.
  4. The encryption key cannot be changed. Enough said.

Conclusion: TerraMaster Folder Encryption

When it comes to attached storage encryption, we are still in the Stone Age. The lack of basic features, many of which we accept as a given, makes TerraMaster encryption hardly usable. The lack of technical documentation, undocumented functional restrictions and encryption metadata duplicated in every file makes this encryption hardly useful. TerraMaster OS does not separate Media Encryption Keys and Key Encryption Keys, which makes password changes impossible.

The lack of the key management, the inability to change the encryption password, and the inability to encrypt or permanently decrypt existing shares makes TerraMaster NAS encryption one of the least flexible implementations, on par with Thecus NAS encryption. The protection system uses the well-established eCryptfs encryption framework, yet the TOS implementation still lacks transparency or any sort of technical documentation. Security wise, the data would be impossible to decrypt without knowing (or breaking) the user’s encryption password (or, alternatively, without access to the exported encryption key).

At the same time, TOS encryption implementation is straightforward enough to appeal to some users. However, those same users may be put off by the need of re-entering their encryption password in the Web interface every time they power on or reboot the NAS.

Why wasting time recovering passwords instead of just breaking in? Why can we crack some passwords but still have to recover the others? Not all types of protection are equal. There are multiple types of password protection, all having their legitimate use cases. In this article, we’ll explain the differences between the many types of password protection.

The password locks access

In this scenario, the password is the lock. The actual data is either not encrypted at all or is encrypted with some other credentials that do not depend on the password.

  • Data: Unencrypted
  • Password: Unknown
  • Data access: Instant, password can be bypassed, removed or reset

A good example of such protection would be older Android smartphones using the legacy Full Disk Encryption without Secure Startup. For such devices, the device passcode merely locks access to the user interface; by the time the system asks for the password, the data is already decrypted using hardware credentials and the password (please don’t laugh) ‘default_password’. All passwords protecting certain features of a document without encrypting its content (such as the “password to edit” when you can already view, or “password to copy”, or “password to print”) also belong to this category.

A good counter-example would be modern Android smartphones using File-Based Encryption, or all Apple iOS devices. For these devices, the passcode (user input) is an important part of data protection. The actual data encryption key is not stored anywhere on the device. Instead, the key is generated when the user first enters their passcode after the device starts up or reboots.

Users can lock access to certain features in PDF files and Microsoft Office documents, disabling the ability to print or edit the whole document or some parts of the document. Such passwords can be removed easily with Advanced Office Password Recovery (Microsoft Office documents) or Advanced PDF Password Recovery (PDF files).


Home users and small offices are served by two major manufacturers of network attached storage devices (NAS): QNAP and Synology, with Western Digital being a distant third. All Qnap and Synology network attached storage models are advertised with support for hardware-accelerated AES encryption. Encrypted NAS devices can be a real roadblock on the way of forensic investigations. In this article, we’ll review the common encryption scenarios used in home and small office models of network attached storage devices made by Synology. (more…)

With over half a million users, Signal is an incredibly secure cross-platform instant messaging app. With emphasis on security, there is no wonder that Signal is frequently picked as a communication tool by those who have something to hide. Elcomsoft Phone Viewer can now decrypt Signal databases extracted from the iPhone via physical (well, file system) acquisition, and that was a tough nut to crack.

What exactly makes Signal so difficult to crack? Let us first look at how one can gain access to users’ communications occurring in other instant messengers.

Interception: the MITM attack

The first method is interception. One can attempt to intercept conversations in transit. This in turn is very difficult as everyone is touting point-to-point encryption. While technically the traffic can be intercepted, decrypting it will require a malicious app installed on the end-user device (such as the infamous NSO Group spyware). Without direct government intervention or proposed encryption backdoors one can hardly ever intercept messaging with a MITM attack. It is very important to understand that even if your iPhone is secure, the other party’s device running the iOS, Android or desktop app (which is much easier to break) might be compromised. If the other party is compromised, all your communications with that party will be compromised as well.

Signal implements special protection measures against MITM attacks, making certificate spoofing useless and complicating malware-based attacks. (more…)

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


Although this new book is on sale from January this year, we are happy to officially say our words of gratitude to Kevin Beaver and advise it to you.

In his book Kevin insists that the best way to really understand how to protect your systems and assess their security is to think from a hacker’s viewpoint, get involved, learn how systems can be attacked, find and eliminate their vulnerabilities.  It all practically amounts to being inquisitive and focusing on real problems as in contrast to blindly following common security requirements without understanding what it’s all about.

Kevin extensively writes on the questions of cracking passwords and weak encryption implementations in widely used operating systems, applications and networks. He also suggests Elcomsoft software, in particular Advanced Archive Password Recovery, Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery, Elcomsoft System Recovery, Proactive Password Auditor, and Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor, as effective tools to regularly audit system security and close detected holes.

In this guide Kevin communicates the gravity of ethical hacking in very plain and clear words and gives step –by- step instructions to follow. He easily combines theory and praxis providing valuable tips and recommendations to assess and then improve security weaknesses in your systems.

We want to thank Kevin for testing and including our software in his very “digestible” beginner guide to hacking and recommend our readers this book as a helpful tool to get all facts in order.

We are waiting for release of new Microsoft office suite – Office 2010. Right now Microsoft has only technical preview of new Office; this preview has been leaked from Microsoft and everyone can download it with the help of torrent trackers. We’ve got a copy of Office 2010 and analysed its (new) password protection.

Starting from Office 2007, Microsoft used password protection system called ECMA-376, developed by ECMA International. This standard is open and everyone can write ECMA-376 based protection which will be accepted by Microsoft Office. The standard allows to select hash and encryption algorithms as well as the number of hash rounds (up to 10 millions is allowed).

In Office 2007, ECMA-376 with SHA-1 hash and AES-128 encryption is implemented. The number of hash rounds is 50000 that makes password recovery really difficult and slow. Office 2010 also uses SHA-1 and AES-128, but the number of hash rounds is now 100000. Therefore password recovery for new Office files will be two times slower.

Here is a diagram of password recovery speed for Office 2007:

To get a speed for Office 2010, simply divide these values to 2. We’ll get about 175 pps on Core2 6600 and about 8750 pps on Tesla S1070.

Why don’t increase the number of hash rounds to 10 millions ? Security is really important but it always affects usability. The hash is calculating to verify a password and when each document block is decrypted. If we add hash rounds – the document decryption time is increased. If a document is opening in MS Office during one hour – its unacceptable despite of high security.

Anyway – Office 2010 documents will be more secure than Office 2007 ones. And the new encryption has backward compatibility – all Office 2010 documents can be opened in Office 2007. 

In my previous post I suggested several variants of computer security translated by different laws. Now I’d like to get to ciphers…again viewed by law.

So, how does the law see encryption and decryption issues through glasses of security standard? First of all, it says there simply should be encryption/decryption tools available.

ENCRYTION AND DECRYPTION (A) – § 164.312(a)(2)(iv)
Where this implementation specification is a reasonable and appropriate safeguard for a covered entity, the covered entity must:
“Implement a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt electronic protected health information.”


There is only one way to break through PGP® encryption – GPU accelerated brute force – and that one is too many. New Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery v. 2.80.206 crunches PGP® passwords 200 times faster using graphic chips.

EDPR is all for cutting unnecessary costs, saving time and energy. Just using video cads you have at hand can result in excellent performance. In the graph you can see a huge leap in speed since graphic cards came into action.