Forensic software gets around iCloud security features

Elcomsoft's Phone Breaker can pull data from iCloud accounts with a person's knowledge

A Russian software company has updated its forensic software to work-around the security features Apple recently added to iCloud and increased what information can be extracted from the cloud storage service.

Elcomsoft's Phone Breaker software now supports the two-factor authentication process Apple added to iOS 8 in September for accessing iCloud, Vladimir Katalov, CEO of the Moscow company, said Wednesday in a blog post.

The catch to using the software, which pulls files including photos, calendar information and call logs from iCloud, is that some information about the account is required to access the storage service, according to information on the company's website. Either an Apple ID, password and the second form of authentication or a binary authentication token are needed to use Phone Breaker.

Of course, with that information an iCloud account could be accessed without using Phone Breaker. Phone Breaker's advantage is that it allows a person to view the contents in an iCloud account, select what information they're interested in and only download those files. This method is much faster than downloading all the data in an iCloud account, a process that can take hours even when using Phone Breaker, Elcomsoft said on its site. For law enforcement agencies, which the company counts as customers, speed is critical when investigating crimes.

While Phone Breaker already possessed the ability to mine PCs and Macs for binary authentication tokens, Wednesday's update adds the ability to gather tokens from stand-alone hard drives and forensic disk images.

The type of information Phone Breaker can collect from iCloud has been expanded as well. Files from third-party apps like the WhatsApp message platform and iWork files can be accessed by the software, among other documents. This feature only applies to an iCloud account Elcomsoft said, adding that functionality with iCloud Drive will be added in early 2015. Previously only up to the last three backups could be downloaded, not including iWork and WhatsApp files.

Elcomsoft software has legitimate purposes and is used by the military, businesses and intelligence agencies, the company said. However, the company does not restrict who buys its software and the applications have made their way to the underground market, Katalov previously said in an interview with IDG News Service.

Forensic software like Phone Breaker has been linked to less noble causes. When risque photos of celebrities appeared online in late August forensic software was believed to have been used to access their iCloud accounts.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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