iTunes Backup Passwords 'Much Easier' to Crack in iOS 10, Apple Working on Fix

iOS 10 uses a new password verification mechanism for iTunes backups that makes them easier to crack, according to testing performed by Elcomsoft, a company that specializes in software designed to access iPhone data.

Encrypted iTunes backups created on a Mac or PC are protected by a password that can potentially be brute forced by password cracking software. The backup method in iOS 10 "skips certain security checks," allowing Elcomsoft to try backup passwords "approximately 2500 times faster" compared to iOS 9 and earlier operating systems.

ios10
Obtaining the password for an iTunes backup provides access to all data on the phone, including that stored in Keychain, which holds all of a user's passwords and other sensitive information.

At this time, we have an early implementation featuring CPU-only recovery. The new security check is approximately 2,500 times weaker compared to the old one that was used in iOS 9 backups. At this time, we are getting these speeds:

iOS 9 (CPU): 2,400 passwords per second (Intel i5)
iOS 9 (GPU): 150,000 passwords per second (NVIDIA GTX 1080)
iOS 10 (CPU): 6,000,000 passwords per second (Intel i5)

In specific terms, security analyst Per Thorsheim of Peerlyst says Apple has switched from using a PBKDF2 hashing algorithm with 10,000 iterations to using a SHA256 algorithm with a single iteration, allowing for a significant speed increase when brute forcing a password.

ios10passwordcrackingelcomsoft

Image via Peerlyst

In a statement given to Forbes, Apple confirmed it is aware of the issue and is working on a fix.

"We're aware of an issue that affects the encryption strength for backups of devices on iOS 10 when backing up to iTunes on the Mac or PC. We are addressing this issue in an upcoming security update. This does not affect iCloud backups," a spokesperson said. "We recommend users ensure their Mac or PC are protected with strong passwords and can only be accessed by authorized users. Additional security is also available with FileVault whole disk encryption."

As Apple points out, this security oversight is limited to backups created on a Mac or PC and does not affect the security of iCloud backups. Most users likely do not need to worry about this issue as it requires access to the Mac or PC that was used to make the backup.

Apple has updates for iOS 10 and macOS Sierra in the works, and it's possible a fix will be included in the new versions of the software. iOS 10.1 and macOS Sierra 10.12.1 were seeded to developers and public beta testers earlier this week.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
53 months ago
Physical access to ANY machine is a security risk, no matter how strong password encryption is.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 months ago
They must hurry up. Yahoo was lucky enough their stocks were already worth nothing before the hacking.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 months ago
I love Apple, but this sort of thing is so frustrating from a company that is trying to make privacy be such a huge part of its brand. Without security, privacy cannot exist. It doesn't have a huge effect on me, but it lowers my level of trust that Apple knows what it's doing.

As a developer, this is a pretty glaring flaw, so I can only assume (or hope, rather) it was a temporary implementation that accidentally got through to a release version. Whatever happened, it's bizarre.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 months ago
Pretty lazy on their part.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 months ago
Lowered security threshold because hacking is becoming less of an issue in 2016...?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 months ago

But this is NOT physical access to the iPhone. They are talking about decrypting the BACKUP data. This data is typically on e hard drive on a PC or Mac or maybe in Apple's iCloud

This is iTunes backups. Most don't use iTunes backups these days, even fewer would have had time to make one for iOS 10. While this doesn't demand physical access to an iPhone, it seems to me like it would demand physical access to a PC or Mac (and only a PC or Mac, not an iPhone or iPad).
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

Apple Distributing New Heated Display Removal Machine for iPhone 12 Repairs

Thursday October 22, 2020 6:20 pm PDT by
Apple is providing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers with a new heated display removal fixture for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro repairs, according to information obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. To open iPhone 12 models, technicians will be required to slide the device into a specialized tray, and then place the tray into the high-temperature fixture for two...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

Teardown Video Confirms iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Use Same 2,815mAh Battery

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:47 am PDT by
With the iPhone 12 launching on Friday and in just a few hours to Australia and New Zealand, hands-on videos, teardowns, reviews, and other iPhone-related content has been coming out. A new teardown video delves into both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro, confirming battery life for both models and giving us a closer look at their internals. The video from Io Technology is in Chinese, but ...

Images of Supposed AirPods Diagnosis Tool Shared Online

Thursday October 22, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly rolling out a new tool to Apple service providers for testing AirPods, according to leaker known as "Fudge," who shared images of the tool on Twitter. Apple appears to be seeking to reduce unnecessary AirPods services by more accurately diagnosing the cause of a fault. Instances of a dirt-blockage, which may be difficult to ascertain visually, can apparently be...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:13 am PDT by
Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple). The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...