Download iCloud backups without the device, risk considerations

The ability to save data, sync information, and manipulate information online is extremely convenient and productive.  The risks that exist with this activity are fresh and emerging.  Unlike the physical-world risks that are impacted by kinetic attacks; weather impacts, and human events where the current state remains stable (i.e., the building doesn’t move addresses dynamically over night) the online Cloud-mobile device ecosystem does not.

This lack of state is an aspect that is both a feature that serves and cuts the enterprise.  The ability to provide updates without patches to the user is a key feature to cloud-mobile providers, and something in fact expected now of the end-users.   The virtual elimination of patching is upon us.

To highlight but a few alternate challenges that must be considered:

  • Configuration management – the onboarding of new applications and systems into an enterprise is done in a manner that ensures the system components themselves comply with the enterprise policy and industry operating standards.  This is challenged and new triggers and actions are required for cloud-mobile systems, as these may have new features (i.e., file transfer) automatically available to all users over night
  • Access and authorization – as the title implies (though such attacks are not limited to that of Apple) the technology deployed may permit alternative data access methods.  In the cloud-mobile ecosystem there is a presumption by the user that there is a physical link between the device (iphone / tablet) and possession implies such control / protection.  This is a fallacy of cloud-mobile, as possession of the device is not the key but instead the credentials associated to the stored repository of data.  Therefore the safeguards and information governance programs must focus on these assets (the credentials).
  • Geo-Location – Knowing where the data is processed & stored is critical, but not to a severity of knowing a zipcode.  Precise locations being shared introduce a security risk in general and do not serve the risk mitigation process.  Instead, gaining confirmation on regions of operation (i.e., so that weather can be considered in BCP), and the number of in parallel instances that will be running are important additions to consider with regard to these facilities.

So, as the “attack / forensic method” described in the title … one can w/ the authentication credentials of the user connect to iCloud and download a user’s total backup.  This may include contacts, documents, etc…  The tool is described here.

Again the point here is to begin considering operational and information security risk at the governance and sustainment level with respect to these mobile-cloud ecosystems.  Not focus on the single symptom of operating in this environment (having data d/led from iCloud).

Other thoughts?

James DeLuccia

/cp ITCC


One response to “Download iCloud backups without the device, risk considerations

  1. It costs $200 to be able to download the files…. I have it. Email me at if you need a rip done

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