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Posts tagged ‘RAM’


Compromising Disk Encryption Through Cold-boot Key Recovery

Note: This is a 2008 post I managed to recover from my archive of

A team of researchers at Princeton University have devised a way to compromise disk encryption mechanisms, and even other disk image encryption mechanisms, by recovering latent data such as encryption keys, that remain in RAM after a computer has been rebooted/turned off. They’ve tested their attacks against encryption mechanisms such as Microsoft’s BitLocker, TrueCrypt, Linux’s dm-crypt and Apple’s FileVault.

This technique is ingeniously simple, and they’ve written a tool from which they can boot a computer, and do a memory-dump of the latent memory data, which they then run through another utility which searches the memory dump for encryption keys, which can then be used to decrypt the encrypted drive/images.

With regards to Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, the group discovered that the system stores multiple copies of users’ login passwords in active memory, making them vulnerable to such imaging attacks. Those passwords are often used to protect the keychain, which stores many of users’ other passwords, including the FileVault password, and potentially other encrypted disk images. This is potentially something Apple should address, and they don’t really want to be storing passwords and keys in memory, if they don’t have to. Keeping as little sensitive data in active memory as possible would greatly reduce the chances of it being compromised in imaging attacks such as these.

Check out their great video below, and read more about it after the jump! Read moreRead more