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Fri, 7 Feb 2014

Channel 4 - Mobile Phone Experiment


This evening we were featured on Channel 4's DataBaby segment (link to follow). Channel 4 bought several second hand mobile phones that had been "wiped" (or rather reset to factory default) from various shops. Our challenge was to recover enough data from these seemingly empty phones to identify the previous owners.


After a long night of mobile forensics analysis, we had recovered personal data from almost every phone we had been provided with. This information included:


  • Browsing history

  • Cookies (e.g. email and Facebook)

  • Contacts

  • SMS messages

  • Photographs

  • Address information

  • Personal documents


It would have been theoretically possible to use the cookies to impersonate the users - i.e. log in as the previous owners. We opted not to do this, as it was crossing an ethical line.

What's the lesson here?


Be very careful when selling your phone. It's fairly trivial to recover large amounts of data from mobile phones - and the tools to do so are freely available.

How can I protect myself?


This will depend on what type of phone you have, and specifically whether the data is encrypted, and if it is, if the key is recoverable. Unencrypted phones were easy game.


iPhone devices encrypt their data by default, which makes it hard (almost impossible) to recover data after performing a factory reset. There are some attacks against iPhones older than 4s which may have more success.


Android devices by default have no encryption, which means that somebody (like us) could easily recover large amounts of supposedly deleted data. It's a good idea to keep your phone encrypted.


Both Windows phone 8 and BlackBerry allow optional encryption to be configured, but this is not enabled by default. Windows phone 7 does not support encryption of the core filesystem.


If you have an existing phone that you're about to sell we'd recommend you encrypt the phone twice after resetting it to factory default (once to destroy your data, the second time to destroy the key used for the first round).


Keep in mind, this applies to all storage media - hard drives on laptops, camera memory cards, etc. It's largely recoverable, even when seemingly deleted.


We would like to thank Paolo Dal Checco (@forensico) and fellow SensePost'er Vlad (@v1ad_o) for their help during the experiment.


On a legal note, the experiment was conducted on a laptop with full disk encryption, and *all* data was deleted after returning the phones to Channel 4.

Mon, 30 Dec 2013

Goodbye to 2013, hello to 2014

With 2013 coming to a close, I thought it pertinent to look back at the year we've had and also forward to what's promising to be an incredibly exciting 2014 for us.


2013 for SensePost, was a year of transition. With a new leadership structure in myself, Shane and Dominic, we had a chance to stamp our style and vision and also learn from Charl and Jaco. One of the first leadership choices was to expand our reach and open our first office in London, aptly in a borough called Hackney. Here, we grew our family and welcomed some amazing people into the plak. After a few short months, we had outgrown the office and needed to look for bigger premises, this time in another aptly named area: Whitechapel (think Jack the Ripper).


Back in South Africa, after moving to bigger premises down the road, we finally got a chance to make it feel like home. These two new offices have allowed us to continue to grow at a steady pace, whilst still keeping the SensePost vision and vibe alive.


On a technical level, as this is what we are really about, we've had an amazing year. As part of this new vision, we made some key appointments:


Craig Swan, who originally was part of the assessments team and left, returned home to assume the role of Training Manager. On a training front, we've had one of the busiest years to date. From Blackhat in Las Vegas, Brasil and Seattle, to 44Con in London, for our friends in the US and our courses held in Southern Africa, we've trained hundreds of students in the art of offensive security. We've also created two new courses for the Hacking by Numbers series, one concentrating on mobile assessments and the other on malware reverse engineering. However, we are not resting on our laurels and with Craig on-board, 2014 is looking like being an amazing year for education at SensePost.


Victor Tadden, an experienced technical Project Manager, joined the assessment team to help us be more efficient with our delivery of projects. He brings with him a wealth of software dev experience and has already made a significant impact in the way we work, especially managing to wrangle pen testers together daily for scrum meetings, a feat many will tell you is akin to herding cats.


Tiago Rosado joined us from Portugal to head up our Managed Vulnerability Service, a key service line that many of our clients rely on for a more holistic view of their security posture. Our MVS service line is being revamped for 2014 and Tiago will help us achieve this.


Marc Peiser became our IT Manager and with him, brought a wealth of UNIX experience, having worked for a massive global bank. Marc's aim for 2014 is to ensure that our internal networks are not only robust but also allow us to do what we do. Surprisingly enough, we are frequently attacked and having defense in depth approach to IT is as important to us as it is to our clients.


Internally, we've welcomed some new family members, said goodbye to some.We value those who choose to work here very highly, we want work to be a creative environment where people can have fun, grow and most importantly enjoy coming to work. Nothing makes me more proud than seeing a plakker accepting new challenges, often defining the way the security industry works, or helping others with their security needs. As the penetration industry matures, one of my main goals for 2014 is to ensure that our proven hacker ethos remains.



2013 saw us presenting at conferences throughout the year and for the first time in our history, in a total of eight different countries over five continents. Our research included vulnerabilities in the Internet of things, distributed surveillance frameworks, security analysis of the Trustzone OS and Mobicore and finally using Spatial Statistics to detect Fast-Flux botnet Command and Control (C2) domains.


Technical prowess is still at the very heart of what we do at SensePost. We love to pwn and 2014 will see us continuing to write new tools, approach old problems with a new way of thinking and just being, well, us.


In November, after months of negotiations, came the news that we were to be acquired by SecureData Europe. This new chapter for us will usher in a new era of growth and development for us at SensePost and we are truly excited to be part of the SecureData Europe family.


Overall it was a fantastic year, especially for us, the new EXCO. I am extremely proud to stand alongside some incredibly talented people and call them colleagues and look forward to 2014 and what it brings.


From everyone at SensePost, we wish you a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

Thu, 12 Dec 2013

Never mind the spies: the security gaps inside your phone

For the last year, Glenn and I have been obsessed with our phones; especially with regard to the data being leaked by a device that is always with you, powered on and often provided with a fast Internet connection. From this obsession, the Snoopy framework was born and released.


After 44con this year, Channel 4 contacted us to be part of a new experimental show named 'Data Baby', whose main goal is to grab ideas from the security community, and transform them into an easy-to-understand concept screened to the public during the 7 o'clock news.


Their request was simple: Show us the real threat!


To fulfil their request, we setup Snoopy to intercept, profile and access data from a group of "victim" students at a location in Central London. While this is something we've done extensively over the past twelve months, we've never had to do it with a television crew and cameras watching your every move!


The venue, Evans and Peel Detective Agency, added to the sinister vibe with their offices literally located underground. We were set up in a secret room behind a book case like friggin spies and got the drones ready for action. As the students arrived, we had a single hour to harvest as much information as we could. Using Snoopy, Maltego and a whole lot of frantic clicks and typing (hacking under stress is not easy), we were filmed gaining access to their inbox's and other personal information.


In the end, Snoopy and Maltego delivered the goods and Glenn added a little charm for the ladies.



After the segment was aired, we participated in a live Twitter Q&A session with viewers (so, so many viewers, we had to tag in others to help reply to all the tweets) and gave advice on how they could prevent themselves from being the next victim. Our advice to them, and indeed anyone else concerned is:


How to avoid falling foul of mobile phone snooping
- Be discerning about when you switch Wi-Fi on
- Check which Wi-Fi network you're connecting to; if you're connecting to Starbucks when you're nowhere near a branch, something's wrong
- Download the latest updates for your phone's operating system, and keep the apps updated too
- Check your application providers (like e-mail) security settings to make sure all your email traffic is "encrypted", not just the login process
- Tell your phone to forget networks once you're done with them, and be careful about joining "open" aka "unencrypted" networks

Fri, 22 Nov 2013

Mobile Hacking on the West Coast

December sees SensePost presenting Hacking by Numbers: Mobile at BlackHat West Coast Trainings. This course was first presented at BlackHat Vegas 2013 and 44Con 2013, growing in popularity and content with each iteration. For more information continue reading below or visit https://blackhat.com/wc-13/training/Hacking-by-Numbers-Mobile.html.


The mobile environment has seen immense growth and has subsequently seen organisations racing to be the first to market with the next best app. The rapid increase in mobile popularity and the speed at which developers are forced to produce new applications has resulted in an ecosystem full of security vulnerabilities. As more organisations are moving from web applications to mobile applications, penetration testers are required to adapt their testing methodology to keep pace with the changing platforms. Mobile applications developers have been lulled into a false sense of security due to the belief that "the platform will take care of the security". The Hacking by Numbers: Mobile course aims to help both penetration testers and mobile applications developers to find and understand common security vulnerabilities on a wide range of mobile platforms. The course teaches a mobile application security testing methodology that can easily be applied to mobile applications on Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Mobile.


Rather than focus on a specific mobile platform or a set of testing tools, the Hacking by Numbers Mobile course covers the following:


  • Android, iOS, RIM and Windows 8 Platform security

  • Communication protocols

  • Programming languages for mobile development

  • Building your own mobile penetration testing lab

  • Mobile application analysis

  • Static Analysis

  • Authentication and authorization

  • Data validation

  • Session management

  • Transport layer security and information disclosure


The structure of the course makes it ideal for testers and developers new to the mobile application security space, starting with the basic concepts of mobile security testing all the way through to decompilation, analysis and modification of mobile applications. As with all Hacking by Numbers courses, the mobile edition focuses on hands-on experience, with numerous lab exercises designed to provide students with practical experience to match the theory.Previous iterations of the course has seen real world applications being downloaded from the app store and common security vulnerabilities being identified.


Lab exercises include:


  • Finding and retrieving sensitive files.

  • Interception and Analysis of network traffic.

  • Runtime analysis of Application memory state.

  • Decompilation and static analysis of applications.

  • Runtime modification of application functions.
    And many more...


Training will be held from 11-12 December and more information can be found at https://blackhat.com/wc-13/training/Hacking-by-Numbers-Mobile.html.


Looking forward to seeing you all in Seattle!

Hacking by Numbers - The mobile edition

West Coast in the house, well actually more like an African visiting Seattle for Blackhat's West Coast Trainings.


We've had a great year delivering the latest course in our amazing Hacking by Numbers training series: Mobile. What's cool about this course, is like the others, we teach a hacking methodology rather than punting a tool or a magic, do it all solutions.


Mobile was created to match the continuous growth in mobile phone usage, with a specific focus on showing you how you would go about testing the mobile platforms and installed applications, to ensure they have been developed in a secure manner. HBN Mobile provides a complete and practical window into the methods used when attacking mobile platforms and presents you with a methodology that can be applied across platforms. This course is structured to cater to penetration testers who are new to the mobile area and who need to understand how to analyze and audit applications on various mobile platforms using a variety of tools.


Some of the material covered in the course includes:


  • Android, iOS, RIM and Windows 8 Platform security

  • Communication protocols

  • Programming languages for mobile development

  • Building your own mobile penetration testing lab

  • Mobile application analysis

  • Static Analysis

  • Authentication and authorization

  • Data validation

  • Session management

  • Transport layer security and information disclosure


The methodology presented is structured to allow testing to be performed on different mobile platforms and is demonstrated using both the Android and iOS platforms. Like all the HBN courses, the mobile edition focuses heavily on demonstration and hands-on practicals.



Blackhat Las Vegas 2013 saw the introduction HBN Mobile with two training sessions being presented. The course was well attended and consisted of students with varying degrees of mobile experience, however, the vast majority were new to Mobile application security and HBN Mobile provided the ideal launch pad for them. The great thing about the HBN series is that it accommodates people from all technical and security backgrounds. This held true with the Mobile edition, where we had reverse engineers, penetration testers, development managers, aerospace engineers and developers just to name a few. The feedback from the course was extremely positive and has been fed back into the course and used to improve it even further. Then we had the chance to give it to students over at 44Con in London and this again gave us a chance to take your feedback and make the course even better.


What's slightly different about this course is that you get to find flaws in common mobile applications available both in the Google Play and Apple App store. In addition, we have devices for you to use, so not everything is done in an emulator. As a result, students on the last course found common security vulnerabilities in numerous well known and popular applications.


On the 11th December in Seattle, I'll be delivering Hacking by Numbers: Mobile edition at Blackhat and I cannot wait to get on that plane. If you want to learn more about how to tear apart mobile apps, this is definitely for you. The regular price goes up on the 5th of December, so take advantage of this now and book your place.



Look forward to seeing you there.