Monday, March 17, 2014

Daily Blog #267: Sunday Funday 3/16/14 Winner!

Hello Reader,
        Another Sunday come and gone with another individual added to the list of winners, only three months left of my year of blogging so make sure you get your shot in the coming weeks! This weeks' iCloud challenge got a lot of responses with varying degrees of information. This weeks' winning answer took me a few reads to really 'get' but the information provided is the most complete so its worth reading a couple times to get it right. So Congratulations Thomas Pullen you won this week's challenge!

The Challenge:
Cloud backups of mobile devices are now built into almost every major operating system. For iOS devices please answer the following questions.

1. How many backups per device would you expect to find?
2. What triggers a backup to the cloud to occur?
3. What tools currently exist to access icloud backups?

The Winning Answer:
Thomas Pullen
Apple gives 5gb free storage per device unless you buy more, so you'd only expect to find 1 backup per device. backup is incremental. devices CAN have multiple backups if there is enough storage (50gb is the current maximum). i don't think there is a limit to the number of backups made other than account storage, but when restoring the IOS device it may limit to the most 3 recent backups made.

iCloud doesn't backup everything, just the following:

-Photos and videos in your Camera Roll
-Device settings
-App data
-Home screen and app organization (not the apps themselves)
-iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages
-Visual Voicemail
-the first 1,000 photos of photo stream, if enabled (photos don't count towards storage limit)
-icloud keychain was introduced with IOS7. this is a dubious thing to store in the cloud, and a perfect reason to use elcomsoft phone password breaker.

note that you can have up to 10 iCloud accounts per device, but only one iCloud account can be the primary account (associated with your Photo Stream, Find My iPhone, Backups, and document sync). Secondary (and tertiary) accounts can only sync mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, bookmarks, and notes.

so technically, if the IOS device has 10 iCloud accounts, you can actually have 20, 30, 40 "iCloud backups" per device, although only 1 is the primary one. to be more precise, the secondary accounts would probably live inside the backup of the main account, but it's still the backup of separate iCloud email, notes, etc.
i think...but i'm not sure...that these other iCloud account info would still be backed up in the phone's primary iCloud account. see
however it's rare that users buy more storage space so most people have just the 5gb.

Backups occur when the user has an iCloud account added to the phone, and the phone is plugged in to a charger, locked, and connected to a wi-fi network.
Also, backup can be forced...settings, iCloud, storage and backup, backup now.

iCloud data is stored in public cloud storage, usually Amazon or Microsoft servers.(!) Apple encrypts the data and holds the encryption keys.

elcomsoft phone password breaker can access some of the iCloud data stored online without alerting the user that it's been used. even if two-step verification is used. however, and this is important, you need the apple ID and password. see and

also, a court order could force apple to turn over the data to LEOs or agencies. it goes without saying that access to a computer with iTunes backups is often helpful.
also, there is social engineering...ask the user, get their apple ID and password however you can.

tools that just retrieve email, or adding the iCloud account to a windows or mac, or just logging into aren't strictly speaking "accessing the iCloud backup" so aren't worth mentioning here. right now, the only ways i know to access the actual iCloud backup are to use Elcomsoft or get Apple to deliver it to you via court order.