Forensic software can retrieve FileVault password in some cases

The encryption keys for Apple’s FileVault 2 full-disk encryption used with OS X Lion can be recovered “in minutes” from memory, password-cracking outfit Passware has announced.

The latest version of the company’s Passware Kit Forensic, v11.4, could extract the keys using a ‘live memory acquisition’ technique that sucked out a memory image via FireWire for analysis.

When the company says “minutes,” it means around 40 minutes on average, but success was still possible regardless of the length or complexity of the password used, Passware said.

The announcement builds on the same product’s ability to recover Apple OS X logins in addition to those of Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption and the open source tool TrueCrypt.

The technique requires certain conditions to work, starting with the computer being turned on and logged in; the FileVault, BitLocker or TrueCrypt keys have to be in memory for Passware Kit Forensic to be able to extract them.

Put another way, the product cannot extract encryption keys on static data or before the keys have been summoned as part of the logging-in process. As long as the login is not automatic users should be safe.

In the case of FireVault, hackers also need to get to the memory contents through a working FireWire port so remote access is not possible.

“Live memory analysis opens up great possibilities to password recovery and decryption. Every user should be aware that even full disk encryption is insecure while the data rests in computer memory,” said Passware’s president, Dmitry Sumin, who believed the product would appeal to forensic specialists looking for a way past encryption.

Passware Kit Forensic costs $995, including one year of updates.

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