Posts Tagged ‘Google’

In Apple’s land, losing your Apple Account password is not a big deal. If you’d lost your password, there could be a number of options to reinstate access to your account. If your account is not using Two-Factor Authentication, you could answer security questions to quickly reset your password, or use iForgot to reinstate access to your account. If you switched on Two-Factor Authentication to protect your Apple Account, you (or anyone else who knows your device passcode and has physical access to one of your Apple devices) can easily change the password; literally in a matter of seconds.

But what if you do know your password and your passcode but lost access to the only physical iOS device using your Apple ID and your SIM card at the same time? This could easily happen if you travel abroad and your phone is stolen together with the SIM card. There could be an even worse situation if your trusted phone number is no longer available (if, for example, you switched carrier or used a prepaid line and that line has expired).

It’s particularly interesting if you have a child under the age of 13 registered in your Family Sharing, and the child loses their only iOS device (at that age, they are likely to have just one) and their phone number (at that age, they are likely to use prepaid service). So let us explore what happens to your Apple Account if you lose access to your secondary authentication factor, and compare the process of regaining control over your account in Apple and Google ecosystems. (more…)

After testing waters for more than a year, Google has finally pulled the plug and began blocking access to Google Play services on uncertified devices. Why Google took this step, who is affected, and what it means for the end users? Let’s try to find out.

Google Play Services Certification

In March 2017, Google rolled out a Google Play Services update that had a very minor addition. At the very bottom of its settings page, the Services would now display device certification status.

This is how it looks on an uncertified device:

What is this all about?

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With over 1.3 billion monthly users, WhatsApp is the most popular instant messaging tool worldwide, and Android is the most popular mobile operating system by far. This makes WhatsApp acquisition from Android devices essential for the law enforcement. Elcomsoft Explorer for WhatsApp 2.30 can now download and decrypt Android user’s encrypted WhatsApp communication histories stored in Google Drive. If you have access to the user’s trusted phone number or their physical SIM card (to receive a verification code from WhatsApp), you can now use Elcomsoft Explorer for WhatsApp to download, decrypt and display WhatsApp communication histories backed up into the user’s Google Account. Surprisingly, a cloud backup may, in certain cases, contain even more information than stored on the device itself. This particularly applies to attachments (photos and videos) sent and received by WhatsApp users and then deleted from the device.

WhatsApp Encryption

All recent versions of WhatsApp encrypt their backups with a cryptographic key unique per WhatsApp account. Without access to that cryptographic key, the only things Elcomsoft Explorer for WhatsApp could extract from the user’s Google Account are contacts and media files sent and received by the WhatsApp user. The main communication history is securely encrypted with AES-256. To make things even more complicated, the different builds of WhatsApp were using different encryption algorithms, making an all-in-one decryption tool a bit complicated to build. Elcomsoft Explorer for WhatsApp 2.30 solves all of these issues by automatically downloading and decrypting the backup from the user’s Google Account. The cryptographic key is generated automatically based on the authentication code received as a text message and delivered to the user’s trusted phone number.

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In each major Android update, Google improves security on the one hand, and moves a few more things to the cloud on the other. The recently finalized and finally released Android 8.0 Oreo adds one important thing to all devices running the newest build of Google’s OS: the ability to back up SMS text messages into the user’s Google Account.

If you follow our blog, you may recall we’ve already talked about the issue a few months ago. Back in April, we were excited to introduce a new feature to Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer, enabling cloud acquisition of text messages from Google Account. Back then, the feature was limited strictly to Google Pixel and Pixel XL devices running Android 7 Nougat.

The release of Android 8.0 Oreo has finally brought the feature to all devices regardless of make and model, allowing any device to back up and restore SMS text message via the user’s Google Account.

We updated Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer accordingly, enabling support for cloud-based SMS extraction for devices running Android 8. There aren’t many of those yet aside of Google Pixel and Pixel XL devices, but many users of Nexus 5x and 6p have already received the update. More devices will follow. Let’s have a look at how this new feature works. Before we begin, let us first clear the confusion that arises between Android data sync and data backups. (more…)

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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Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer 1.30 can now pull SMS (text) messages straight off the cloud, and offers enhanced location processing with support for Routes and Places. In this article, we’ll have a close look at the new features and get detailed instructions on how to use them. The first article will discuss the text messages, while enhanced location data will be covered in the one that follows.

Text Messages: Part of Android Backups (sort of)

Before we begin extracting text messages, let us check where they come from. As you may know, Android 6.0 has finally brought automated data backups. While Android backups are not nearly as complete or as comprehensive as iOS backups, they still manage to save the most important things such as device settings, the list of installed apps and app data into the cloud. Being a Google OS, Android makes use of the user’s Google Account to store backups. Unlike Apple, Google does not count the space taken by these backups towards your Google Drive allotment. At the same time, Google allows for a very limited data set to be saved into the cloud, so you can forget about multi-gigabyte backups you have probably seen in iOS.

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Even before we released Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer, you’ve been able to download users’ location data from Google. What you would get then was a JSON file containing timestamped geolocation coordinates. While this is an industry-standard open data format, it provides little insight on which places the user actually visits. A full JSON journal filled with location data hardly provides anything more than timestamped geographic coordinates. Even if you pin those coordinates to a map, you’ll still have to scrutinize the history to find out which place the user has actually gone to.

Google has changed that by introducing several mapping services running on top of location history. With its multi-million user base and an extremely comprehensive set of POI, Google can easily make educated guesses on which place the user has actually visited. Google knows (or makes a very good guess) when you eat or drink, stay at a hotel, go shopping or do other activities based on your exact location and the time you spent there. This extra information is also stored in your Google account – at least if you use an Android handset and have Location History turned on.

Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer 1.30 can now process Google’s enhanced location data, which means we can now correctly identify, extract and process user’s routes and display places they visited (based on Google’s POI). This significantly improves readability of location data, providing a list of places (such as restaurants, landmarks or shops) instead of plain numbers representing geolocation coordinates. In this article, we’ll figure out how to obtain that data and how to analyze it. (more…)

Every once in a while, hi-tech companies release reports on government requests that they received and served (or not). The different companies receive a different number of requests. They don’t treat them the same way, and they don’t report them the same way, which makes the comparison difficult. In this article, we’ll try to analyze and compare government request reports published by Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Since all three companies report on different things, and the sheer number of data is way too big for analyzing in a blog article, we’ll try to only compare data related to the North American region and Germany (as a single European country). (more…)

Google’s support of two-factor authentication is extensive, ranging from pre-printed backup keys to interactive, push-based notifications delivered to devices with up-to-date versions of Google Play Services via Google Cloud Messaging.

Before we start discussing Google’s two-factor authentication, let’s first look how Google protects user accounts if two-factor authentication is not enabled. If Google detects an unusual sign-in attempt (such as one originating from a new device located in a different country or continent), it may prompt the user to confirm their account. This can (or cannot) be done in various ways such as receiving a verification code to an existing backup email address that was previously configured in that account. Interestingly, even receiving and entering such a code and answering all the additional security questions Google may ask about one’s account does not actually confirm anything. Without two-factor authentication, Google may easily decline sign-in requests it deems suspicious. From first-hand experience, one is then forced to change their Google Account password. (Interestingly, Microsoft exhibits similar behavior, yet the company allows using two-factor authentication in such cases even if two-factor authentication is not enabled for that account. Weird, but that’s how it works.)

Once two-factor authentication is activated, things change. One is no longer locked out of their Google Account even when traveling, and even if attempting to log in from a new device. So let us have a look at what Google has to offer.

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Google is pushing Android to make it a truly secure mobile OS. Mandatory encryption and secure boot make physical acquisition of new Android devices a dead end.

While securing physical devices against all types of attacks, Google continues moving stuff into the cloud. Interestingly, these activities no longer coincide with Android releases; Google can add cloud features later in the production cycle by updating Google Services on the user’s Android device. One such updated added the ability to sync call logs between Android devices by uploading data into the user’s Google Drive account. We researched the protocol and added the ability to extract synced call logs to Elcomsoft Cloud Explorer 1.20. This cloud acquisition could be the only way to extract call logs since all Android devices since Android 6.0 are shipped with full-disk encryption out of the box.

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