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Apple FileVault cracked in under an hour by forensics biz

Passware scratches Lion's belly, penetrates fruity disk

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Apple's FileVault disk encryption can be circumvented in less than an hour, according to a computer forensics firm.

Passware claims the latest version of its toolkit (Passware Kit Forensic v11.3) can also unlock volumes encrypted using TrueCrypt, a disk encryption software that ranks alongside PGP as the choice of privacy-conscious computer users, human rights activists and others.

Technology from Passware is reportedly capable of capturing the content of a Mac machine's memory, via Firewire interfaces, before extracting encryption keys. Passware's software previously included the ability to extract Mac passwords as well as the capability to bypass the BitLocker encryption built into later versions of Windows.

Cracking Mac OS X Lion's FileVault encryption using the technology requires physical access to a targeted machine, and the presence of a working FireWire port. As such, it's not much use for remote hack attacks. The encryption keys of password-protected machines cannot be extracted unless machines are turned on.

If an attacker can get hold of a machine that's already switched on or where no password protection is applied then the full key extraction process "takes no more than 40 minutes - regardless of the length or complexity of the password," Passware claims.

Passware Kit Forensic v11.3 is capable of recovering hashed passwords with rainbow tables and extracting passwords from encrypted Mac keychain files as well as building a password list for its dictionary attack (based on the words detected in a computer memory). It can also recover Mac login passwords but only if a machine is actually turned on at the time it is seized.

"Full disk encryption is becoming a major obstacle for digital investigations," said Dmitry Sumin, Passware president, in a statement (PDF). "The latest version of Passware Kit Forensic offers multiple approaches to overcoming this problem, such as live memory analysis and extraction of encryption keys for BitLocker, TrueCrypt, and FileVault. This means forensic experts are better armed to approach investigative challenges with an effective and efficient solution that significantly reduces decryption time and thus allows investigators to focus on data analysis."

Passware is marketing its technology to law enforcement agencies and governments. Well-heeled blackhats prepared to fork out $1,000 would equally be able to get access to the software, which refines existing password-extraction techniques rather than creating a new class of exploit.

More commentary on the hack can be found in a post on Sophos's Naked Security blog here. ®

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