8 Best Forensic Decryption Tools to Aid in Investigations

Introduction
Encryption has become ubiquitous across devices, apps, and networks – over 80% of web traffic is now encrypted. Full disk and default encryption are now commonplace features built into operating systems like Windows and iOS. Popular services like WhatsApp and Signal offer end-to-end encrypted messaging.

This is great news for individual privacy but poses immense challenges for forensic investigators. Encryption lets criminals "go dark" and evade surveillance or hide incriminating digital evidence. Even lawful access warrants cannot penetrate encryption without the right decryption capabilities.

Specialized decryption tools provide a counterbalance by unlocking access to encrypted data. They empower investigators to extract evidence from password-protected files, encrypted hard drives, mobile devices, and messaging apps. Decryption aids criminal prosecutions, counter-terrorism, insider threat detection, and other legal warrants.

Decryption methods rely on bypassing encryption keys to reverse the mathematical cipher transforms. Common technical approaches include brute-force password attacks, exploits of encryption flaws, decryption algorithms, accessing encryption metadata and cached credentials.

With many decryption tools now available, several criteria should be evaluated:

  • Supported encryption types and devices
  • Automated detection of encrypted data
  • Decryption speed and hardware acceleration
  • Capabilities to retrieve keys, passwords and artifacts
  • Stealth modes to prevent detection
  • Workflow integration and automation

The tools below represent leading solutions optimized across these facets. The high-level comparison table summarizes their respective strengths:

Tool Key Highlights
Passware Kit Maximum decryption versatility across files, drives and mobiles with top-class speed
Elcomsoft Forensic Specialized for instant full disk decryption with stealth zero-footprint operation
Paladin Forensics All-in-one platform with 100+ pre-installed tools for first responder triage
Mobile Verification Toolkit Detects surveillance spyware infections on both Android and iOS devices
Windows Media Forensics Automated forensics of images, videos and metadata in Windows Photo libraries
CredentialsFileView Lightweight utility to reveal cached Windows credentials
Hashcat High-speed password cracking leveraging GPU hardware acceleration

Tool 1: Passware Kit Ultimate
Passware Kit Ultimate delivers an unmatched combination of broad platform support and accelerated decryption capabilities. It conquers encryption across files, hard drives, mobile devices, containers, databases, email, websites, and web applications.

It supports instant decryption of over 340 file formats – ranging from Office documents to compressed archives to financial software. Unique capabilities unlock password-protected items like Bitcoin wallets, QuickBooks, 1Password, Samsung Secure Folder, Telegram, WhatsApp and more.

For mobile devices, Passware extracts and decrypts data from over 250 Android and iOS device types – including Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and encrypted mobiles. It recovers up to 27 data types per device including messages, calls, locations, app data and media.

Passware also focuses on accelerated speed and performance.Optional GPU acceleration harnesses the power of gaming video cards to radically boost decryption speeds. Companies report cracking times up to 50X faster with high-end NVIDIA cards compared to just CPU.

Disk encryption is also covered with full support for BitLocker, VeraCrypt, FileVault 2 and PGP – plus the capability to crack TrueCrypt volumes by attacking cached passwords and keys.

Pros

  • Unmatched decryption versatility across many platforms
  • Significantly faster cracking with GPU acceleration
  • Used globally by government agencies and corporations

Cons

  • Fairly expensive licensing model
  • macOS can require Apple T2 addon

Passware licensing varies based on features, from $495 for the Standard Kit to $995 for the full Enterprise Kit. Academic and volume discounts available. All licenses include 1-year of maintenance and updates.

Tool 2: Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor
Where Passware offers wide versatility, Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor focuses specifically on encrypted hard drive decryption across Windows and macOS systems.

It instantly unlocks access to drives protected by:

  • BitLocker (Windows)
  • FileVault 2 (macOS)
  • VeraCrypt
  • TrueCrypt
  • PGP

In addition, Elcomsoft Forensic can decrypt BitLocker and FileVault 2 drives leveraging fast RAM-based attacks. This targets cached credentials in memory rather than slower brute-force passcode guessing.

Once unlocked, investigators get real-time read/write access to encrypted volumes mounted as standard drive letters. The tool also preserves all original encryption metadata like the actual password/key used.

A major benefit is the zero-footprint design preventing detection or traces of forensic activity. The untouched encrypted drive stays completely unaltered. Unlocking is done safely via on-the-fly decryption directing to a temporary decrypted view.

The solution offers many automation and integration features as well. It includes instant drive identification and parsing of encryption details. Custom scripts extend functionality and reports chronicle case details.

Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor brings purpose-built capabilities to bear for protecting evidence and extracting secrets from encrypted storage. The $799 single-seat license can pay for itself on a single decisive case.

Tool 3: Paladin Forensics Suite
Paladin takes an open-source Linux platform approach to bring unified simplicity to first responders and field investigators across many specialty areas.

The Ubuntu-based distribution boots a customizable forensic environment with over 100 pre-installed tools covering needs from encryption to social media analysis. All open-source apps are pre-compiled for instant easy access without dependencies or command lines.

In terms of decryption, Paladin includes hash cracking tools like John the Ripper and Hashcat. Multiple password recovery apps brute force or dictionary attack everything from PDFs to ZIP files to Windows credential vaults.

Data extraction capabilities parse mobile and desktop backups plus iOS graykey images. Foremost, Scalpel and Autopsy dissect hard drive images while analyzer scripts reconstruct web artifacts and metadata. Hex editors and registry decoders complete out-of-the-box coverage.

For mobile, Paladin leverages ADB and Apple iTunes for Android/iOS data pulls including decrypting keychain, messages and app data backups. Oxygen Forensic packages add even deeper mobile forensics.

Paladin‘s real selling point is the elegantly unified delivery of leading forensic technologies. Everything integrates together in a straightforward menu-driven interface within the secure SIFT Linux environment. The project benefits from constant community contributions back to the open-source ecosystem.

Pricing operates on a name-your-own-price model typically from $50-$150 based on features. For wide-ranging forensics at all levels, Paladin brings compelling strength through simplicity.

Tags: