WhatsApp Forensics

With more than 1.5 billion users and 5.5 billion messages per day, WhatsApp is without a doubt the most popular messenger in the world. All messages sent using WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption, meaning they are unreadable if intercepted by anyone, including law enforcement and WhatsApp itself. More importantly, WhatsApp communications are never stored on the WhatsApp server. It is no surprise with this type of security built-in to the application it is often the choice communication platform of users with nefarious agendas. Keeping that fact in mind, it is imperative investigators are armed with methods and tools to recover this essential data

Oxygen Forensics offers the most comprehensive WhatsApp data extraction and decryption tools in the market.

WhatsApp From Mobile Devices

End-to-end encryption, as described, only offers security for a “man-in-the-middle attack” or simply live interception.  However, the data on an Apple iOS or Android device is available in a decrypted format. The problems investigators often face in today’s mobile device examinations involving WhatsApp and other apps is often how to overcome a device with a screen lock or device encryption.

When it comes to iOS devices, all WhatsApp data can be extracted in a basic iTunes backup procedure. However, for Android devices, we often recommend a physical extraction method to recover WhatsApp’s evidentiary files. We offer a wide range of physical collection methods that are successful on a large variety of Android devices. Remember, when examining an Android device always check the SD card for a WhatsApp backup.  This file is always encrypted, but we have you covered! You will find information about Oxygen Forensics’ innovative decryption methods below.


WhatsApp data extracted and decrypted from a mobile device.

WhatsApp From Cloud

A WhatsApp user, using an iPhone or Android device, may choose to back up their chats to iCloud or Google Drive. It is important to understand; WhatsApp backups are encrypted by default and to decrypt them a forensic investigator should have access to the SIM card to which this WhatsApp account is assigned. Armed with this SIM and investigator can recover and decrypt this valuable WhatsApp data.  However, there are other methods to decrypt this recovered data using the WhatsApp Cloud token.  This is outlined more in the following paragraphs.

Extracting WhatsApp data from various cloud services there could be additional hurdles like two factor authentication (2FA) or two-step verification.  Our Oxygen Forensic Cloud Extractor documentation contains detailed instructions on how to overcome these additional challenges.

Extraction of this valuable cloud data is extremely important.  This collection may contain data that had been deleted from the device which can easily occur if synchronization is set to each week or each month.


WhatsApp extraction directly from cloud services.

EXCLUSIVE FEATURES

WhatsApp Backup Decryption

The standard WhatsApp backup decryption method used throughout the industry is based on a key file.  With our innovative methods, Oxygen Forensics offers a new decryption method that requires only a phone number! This method is a great alternative to the commonly used key file. Case in point: If you have found an encrypted backup on an Android’s SD card with no access to the Android internal memory where the decryption key is stored simply use our innovative decryption support. Our Oxygen Forensic Cloud Extractor offers you an exclusive opportunity to decrypt this backup by receiving a code to the phone number assigned to the recovered SIM card.

Not only data from the device is recoverable, but Oxygen Forensic Detective can also recover a special WhatsApp Cloud token from physical extractions of Android devices.  This token can be utilized to decrypt WhatsApp backups from Android devices, WhatsApp Google Drive, and WhatsApp iCloud backups associated with the same phone number.


WhatsApp backup decryption and display.

WhatsApp Cloud (Server)

It is known that WhatsApp does not store any communications on its Server that have been delivered.  Messages and unanswered calls that cannot be delivered (e.g., it has no Internet connection, or it is switched off) will be temporally stored on the server. Oxygen Forensic Detective has the unique ability to access this data from the cloud via only the phone number or special WhatsApp Cloud token extracted from Android devices.

Recommendation:

If you have a locked mobile device that you cannot acquire try this:  switch it off, wait for a few moments, remove the SIM card and place it into another phone that is unlocked to a carrier. Select WhatsApp Cloud service in our Cloud Extractor, select to receive a code to the SIM card.  Now you will have access to the undelivered messages, unanswered calls and their contacts.

WhatsApp extraction directly from cloud services.

WhatsApp via QR Token from PC

Users can now access and communicate using WhatsApp Desktop and WhatsApp Web Apps from a computer. Our exhaustive research revealed that these apps do not store any databases on the computer being used to communicate. However, with our free Oxygen Forensic KeyScout utility, built into Oxygen Forensic Detective, you can detect a WhatsApp QR token on a computer where WhatsApp was used. This valuable token will allow you to extract complete WhatsApp data in our Cloud Extractor. The only condition is that the WhatsApp owner’s mobile device must have an active Internet connection. If the mobile device is locked, no problem! This WhatsApp QR code method is ideal for data extraction from locked mobile devices. However, if you have an unlocked mobile device but for some reason the extraction continually fails, simply scan the WhatsApp QR code from the device in our Cloud Extractor to acquire all the current WhatsApp data.   

What an INCREDIBLE 2018!

What an incredible year at Oxygen Forensics, Inc. in 2018!  Not only have we continued to gain more customers from around the world, we have brought to the #DFIR community some amazing solutions to today’s digital forensic problems. Oh, we have been busy; however, one thing remains, our customers will always be first!  Our slogan of helping to make this world safer was supported by these incredible innovations of 2018 and our valued customers.  Let’s look at a few we are extremely proud of in all areas of forensics to include mobile, cloud, drone, IoT, and even computer.

MOBILE FORENSICS

LOCKED DEVICE SUPPORT. We added additional supported devices to our innovative screen lock bypass methods by adding the EDL method for Android devices based on selected Qualcomm chipsets. Our cutting-edge method supports a wide range of Qualcomm chipsets and works on 500+ Android devices of 26 manufacturers that include Acer, Alcatel, Asus, Coolpad, Gionee, Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Micromax, Motorola, Nokia, OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi, ZTE, etc. We also significantly extended and updated our Spreadtrum physical extraction method by adding support for over 100 new Android devices with 4, 8 and 16 Gb of RAM. Our updated algorithm allows for easy turn-key addition of new Spreadtrum models when requested. And finally, we added the ability to extract available photos, databases and files from a wide range of locked Samsung devices via MTP.

PHYSICAL IMAGE DECRYPTION. It’s all too common with today’s modern Android devices and their encrypted user partition. This problem, which often makes a physical extraction useless, is and will continue to be a hurdle for investigators. This year we added the ability to brute force and decrypt physical extractions of LG devices running Android OS 6.x and 7.x. You can either find the password using the built-in Passware module or enter the known password manually.

CLOUD FORENSICS

We owned 2018 with each new release by introducing industry-first methods of WhatsApp data extraction. Our new WhatsApp QR code method allows investigators to acquire all WhatsApp data using a WhatsApp QR token extracted by our KeyScout utility from a Windows computer. That means you can acquire WhatsApp data without the phone! It gets even better! Oxygen Forensic Detective also offers two more industry-exclusive WhatsApp forensic features – WhatsApp backup decryption via phone number and access to the WhatsApp Cloud Server (implemented in 2017). It must be mentioned – we support 60 unique cloud services; many of them are ONLY supported in our software!

 DRONE FORENSICS

DRONE SUPPORT. In 2018 we added physical extraction of DJI Spark and Mavic Pro drones via rooting which continues to remain an industry unique feature. Now you can gain access to drone flight logs, telemetry, and exclusive metadata using a standard USB cable. An additional unique feature, only found in, Oxygen Forensic® Detective, is the ability to extract valuable user data from from DJI cloud and SkyPixel via tokens extracted from a mobile device.

IOT DEVICE FORENSICS

DIGITAL ASSISTANTS. Digital assistants are already a part of everyday life and have been successfully used to solve several crimes. Oxygen Forensic® Detective brought investigators the power to extract data from Amazon Alexa and Google Home from both a mobile device and their cloud services. Access to these device cloud stores was made simple with a username and password or token. These valuable pieces of information can be found and extracted from both a computer or mobile device. Detective acquires valuable information including account and device details, contacts, messages, calendars, notifications, lists, activities, skills, and more.

HEALTH-TRACKING WEARABLES. Health-tracking wearables and apps can record heart rate, sleep periods, location, and more. Data from these common every-day devices have already assisted law enforcement in several high-profile crimes. Oxygen Forensic® Detective in 2018 gave investigators the ability to extract locations, workouts, health and other valuable data from Fitbit, Google Fit, and Samsung Health both from both mobile devices and cloud services.

We introduced data extraction from smartwatches based on Mediatek chipset. Oxygen Forensic® Detective now performs logical acquisition of MTK smartwatches and allows forensic experts to extract device model, contacts, calls, messages, multimedia files, and other valuable data. We supported over 30 smartwatch models in 2018!

COMPUTER FORENSICS

PASSWORDS AND TOKENS. This year we introduced our portable KeyScout utility that armed investigators with a tool to seek and locate tokens and passwords saved in desktop web browsers and other applications, like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Mozilla Thunderbird. An added bonus, KeyScout finds credentials in iCloud for Windows, WhatsApp Desktop, Telegram Desktop and Unigram apps and also collects the passwords to Wi-Fi hot spots. The collected credentials can then be imported into Oxygen Forensic® Cloud Extractor for immediate use.

DATA PARSING AND ANALYSIS

JETENGINE. We closed 2018 with our innovative 64-bit module – Oxygen Forensic® This powerful forensic utility allows investigators to quickly parse volumes of data and leverage advanced analytical tools to quickly pinpoint and quantify evidence. The days of slowly processing large data sets from mobile devices, IoT sources, cloud services, and drones are over! Now you can extract data in Oxygen Forensic® Detective and then import it to Oxygen Forensic® JetEngine for fast data parsing and analysis.

 

The numbers will always tell a better story! As of 2018 Oxygen Forensic® Detective supports data extraction from 24977 unique device profiles, 453 unique apps, 8806 app versions and 60 cloud services!  We are looking forward to a great 2019 with our continued great customer support, innovative research and development team, fabulous staff, and the best customers in the world.

Location, Location, Location

Location PinAs a former law enforcement officer, I am cognizant of the importance of location information. Using this type of data we were often able to tie a party involved in an investigation to a particular place and time. Back then, location data might have come from a witness statement, surveillance video, audio capture, or another archaic source. Today, there are almost 8 billion beacons around the world carried in the pockets of humans, offering investigators a wealth of information about individuals’ whereabouts. However, many times this captured location information from an individual’s mobile device is overlooked by the agent.

Digital forensic investigators often rely on the data at hand on the physical device (e.g., parsed applications on the device, chat messages, media) to make a determination of location at a particular date and time. This is often fruitful using digital examination tools and training, but what if the necessary data is not stored on the device?  What if the device is locked with a passcode, wiped, unavailable, or destroyed?  This has been, and will more often be, a problem with investigations into digital data on mobile devices. With these limitations investigators will need additional sources of data.

The data stored within the cloud for each individual using a mobile device can be many times larger than that of the mobile device. From backups to the storage of app data, a user’s cloud can be massive. Just think of your own device. When you uninstall an app or switch out a phone, you simply have to download the app and re-authenticate, and magically the app populates the data. This data in the cloud can be a treasure trove of evidence. What about services on the device that are not really an app, but are just a digital breadcrumb of a service?

Google Location is a service that is not new, but collects a scary amount of user data – fantastic as a digital forensic examiner. Google flat out explains, much like Amazon or other data companies, that data will be used to make their services better. With that being said, Google will capture the location of the device to better the usage of an application’s location services, their own Wi-Fi Positioning Service, or other “additional” services. The use of the Wi-Fi positioning service is brilliant for examiners, especially when users do not have GPS on their devices or even turn it off.  Since the capture of GPS data is done by crowd sourcing, a user’s Wi-Fi can actually determine their location because a previous user had their GPS enabled and reported that location of the access point BSSID. Now, a user walks by and the location simply registers (not even authenticates) the coordinates onto the user’s device. BOOM, a GPS point is created into Google Location services for the user’s account.

A great example can be seen in the image below, which shows the area surrounding our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. This is a simple dump of data using Oxygen Forensic Detective’s built-in Oxygen Forensic Cloud Extractor and the selection of my Google Location.  Those are not crayon marks or added lines, but routes created by the raw data extraction containing location information. By closer inspection along the Potomac there is a great running path I frequent in the mornings and there is a clear line up and back. It should be noted I do not have a tracking application running at anytime, simply my device in my pocket. Furthermore, Google Location is not an app that is installed but a service that other apps can access when needed and also used by Google to “improve” services. This means the app is not parsed or generally supported by commercial tools.

Figure 1. Oxygen Forensics office in Alexandria, VA, USA

So, what does this mean to you the investigator? Maybe you do not have an application which shows the device was in the area. However, with a cloud extraction an investigator can filter the data to the date/time in question and determine location of the account and possibly the individual. Google Location data, along with other app data, can be the smoking gun an investigator needs. Best yet, Google Locations are captured for any device (laptop, Apple, Android) where the user is signed into their account. Again, this information can be extraordinary in today’s investigations.

By using data from multiple sources (e.g., mobile device, cloud backups) an investigator can turn a circumstantial case into one that is bullet proof. Today’s investigators need to be ready to look in other sources for that digital gold. Good luck!

Oxygen Forensic Detective 10.4 is here! Examine more data from more sources than ever before

The latest version of our flagship software, Oxygen Forensic® Detective is now live and available for download by customers with current licenses.

In addition to added support for dozens of application updates, version 10.4 offers several major new features to enable investigators to extract and examine more data than ever before.

Decrypt WhatsApp Backups

In some cases, you may have a WhatsApp backup file extracted from an SD card or the internal memory of an Android device, but you do not have a key file to decrypt it. Oxygen Forensics now offers a new method to decrypt WhatsApp backups in such cases. All you need to do is import a WhatsApp backup into Oxygen Forensic® Cloud Extractor by clicking “Decrypt WhatsApp backup files” on the startup window. You will be offered two options for backup decryption – using the phone number associated with the backup or a WhatsApp Cloud token extracted from the Android device. Once data is decrypted you can open it in Oxygen Forensic® Detective for detailed analysis and reporting.

Import GrayKey iPhone Images

Oxygen Forensic® Detective 10.4 supports import and parsing of GrayKey images made from Apple iOS including devices ranging from iPhone 5S to iPhone 8 as well as iPhone X, running iOS versions up to 11.4.1. To import a GrayKey image select Import Apple backup/Import GrayKey image from the Import menu on the toolbar. Oxygen Forensic® Detective parses and recovers all available data including contacts, messages, calls, calendars, pictures and files, application data, passwords, geo coordinates, and much more.

Acquire Locked Samsung Devices

Oxygen Forensic® Detective 10.4 enables partial acquisition of locked Samsung devices via MTP. The method is compatible with devices running Android 4.4.x, 5.x, 6.x, 7.x. with the security update no later than October 27, 2017. All you need to do is connect a device via cable in Oxygen Forensic® Extractor and select Search for MTP devices in Automatic connection settings. The software will bypass screen lock and extract pictures and databases that are available via MTP.

Detect Similar Photos with PhotoDNA

We’ve added the ability to identify pictures with similar images using PhotoDNA hash sets. Select Search similar images in the Search menu. The software will automatically find similar images and group them together. This method allows to identify similar images that were, for example, modified or edited and allows forensic experts to find sensitive content within a short period of time.

Extract Wi-Fi Hotspot Connections

We’ve extended the functionality of Oxygen Forensic® KeyScout to support discovery of previously accessed Wi-Fi hotspots and their passwords on the subject’s computer. To collect Wi-Fi hotspots, run KeyScout on a computer. Once they are acquired you will see a Wi-Fi Access Points tab in KeyScout. You can save collected Wi-Fi data to an OCPK file for use in Oxygen Forensic® Cloud Extractor OCPK Viewer.

Examine Bluetooth Connection History

Oxygen Forensic® Detective 10.4 offers extraction of Bluetooth connections from iOS devices. Now you can acquire the information about both paired and nearby devices: MAC address, device name, and last detected time.

Authenticate via Google Prompt

We’ve added the ability to sign in to Google services with 2FA enabled by using Google Prompt. Four authentication types are now available for Google services: SMS, authenticator code, backup code, and Google Prompt.

Extract Qualcomm Devices with Improved EDL

EDL method for Qualcomm devices has been improved in the latest version. Manual selection of EDL bootloader is now available along with automatic bootloader upload. EDL method allows extraction of data from 450+ Qualcomm-based Android devices.

Support the Unsupported

Mobile forensic software is often heralded as the end all, do all, completer of all cases.  However, the probability that an examiner will be faced with the dissection of an unsupported app is quite great. Lets take it a step further and point out, at least in a most basic way, how an examiner can uncover valuable data without relying on the automated solution in this often inevitable situation.

In this document we will examine a SQLite database from built in browsers of both Android and iOS file systems.  Understanding the examiner has to go the extra mile if they are to find the 0’s and 1’s in the digital haystack the results are significant to the overall case. These examples can be used with any SQLite database that an examiner might run into during the investigation so long as they are not encrypted.

The first step in any investigation should be to run a series of search queries to identify relevant material for the case.  This is a necessity. Simply thumbing through the volume of data now found on a mobile device is not practical. I find it extremely beneficial to use Oxygen Forensic® Detective to search within the file content. Searching within files is a necessity to uncover strings within database files that are not fully supported, not supported at all, or simply not decoded.

Figure 1: Search in file content

 

Figure 2: Database within an app using webkit.

Once you have your search hits, and are focused on the files of interest, the deep dive of these files can start. In my example in Figure 1 I used a regular expression ((\W|^)[\w.+\-]{0,25}@(yahoo|hotmail|gmail)\.com(\W|$)) to search for free (i.e. gmail, yahoo, hotmail) email addresses in an effort to uncover any additional addresses of interest. This search uncovered an email address within a database file within the Android built in browser. The interesting fact this database; it is not the stock database for the android browser, but rather a database created by the application for storage of mobile enabled websites. A website within a browser that stores data? Much like a nesting doll that continues to contain a replica of the doll that housed the smaller doll.

Browsers are ripe with databases similar to this example when the WebKit platform is utilized. The fact that these types of databases are processed by only a few tools, Oxygen Forensic Detective is one of them.  So, if a user used the browser to surf their Facebook account, the examiner will surely miss this data if they are simply looking at the Facebook app that was parsed by the mobile solution. In this example, this artifact, housed in this particular Android browser, is one that very few even realize or even understand is available. Again, the critical take-a-way is to comprehend the idea that modern mobile browsers from iOS to Android are packed with these user created manifestations, but few solutions have the ability to even recognize this valuable artifact, let-alone automatically parse the information.   However, do not just concentrate on browsers, but also with the built in browsers in messaging, or other apps.

Let us take a look at an example. In Figure 3 is a database file from the Dolphin browser from an Android device.  This file is viewed in Oxygen Forensics® SQLite Viewer. This file hosts content (yes content) of gmail messages. Not just the snippet HTML but the actual message in it’s entirety. Granted, the data in the database is only going to be the most recently cached emails when the user visited their email account, but it is possible it contains information critical to your case and no modern tool at this date will parse and decode this information automatically. This is not the gmail app, but the user accessed their gmail page from a browser. Since there are multiple tables that make up a database file, Oxygen Forensic® SQLite Viewer can build and execute SQL Queries across a single file and even multiple database files.  You can use the built-in query builder to drag and drop tables and match keys without knowledge of a single SQL command.  The Visual Query builder will create the command while you are building the data to be extracted.

 

Figure 3 : Single table of Webkit database found in Dolphin Browser for Android.

If you have a strong sense of SQL and have custom commands you can use directly in the SQL Query Editor as shown in Figure 4.  So, you do not have to rely on the Visual Query builder to create the SQL command just write away to create powerful commands against the database.  What is even more impressive is the power to run the query against the free-page area of the main database and WAL files.  This means to you….DELETED DATA.  So, using the powerful tool built into Oxygen Forensic Detective will be of great assistance.

Figure 4: Complex SQL Query from SQLQuery Builder now used in Oxygen Forensic® SQLite Viewer, creates a powerful query over multiple tables.

These treasure troves are created on the fly, per the user’s activity. Now, throw in the multitude of internet browsers, messaging apps, or any with built in browsers it becomes an impossibility that the mobile forensic solution of choice will be able to parse and decode this data in all situations. Again, it comes down to the expert behind the keyboard and their commitment to performing a complete examination.

Oxygen Forensics, Inc. is committed to supporting the forensic community and offers world leading solutions to uncover, recover, and analyze data from mobile devices, cloud services, and IoT devices.