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Elcomsoft launches iPhone, iPad cracking toolkit

Russian security specialist Elcomsoft has announced the first commercially available tool for the decryption of iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running Apple's latest iOS version - although you're going to have to jump through hoops to get a copy.

Elcomsoft, which has previously released applications to break the encryption on PDFs and to retrieve user names and passwords from Microsoft's various e-mail packages, isn't the first to break through Apple's encryption - but it is the first to sell its creation.

The software, called the iPhone Forensic Toolkit, allows users to take a bit-by-bit dump of any iOS-based device's file system - retrieving passcodes, passwords, and encryption keys. Apple is aware that such things are possible, and encrypts the file system - but Elcomsoft's software includes a password breaker to circumvent the encryption.

At its heart, it's hardly the most sophisticated of packages: the password breaker uses a brute-force approach to decoding the information, trying multiple combinations of passwords until the correct one is found. For those who rely on a simple four-digit passcode - likely the majority of iPhone users - that process can be completed in seconds.

For more paranoid types, who use longer passwords that mix various letters, numbers, and symbols, the process will take significantly longer - a useful tip for anyone wanting to avoid the spectre of Elcomsoft's creation.

In an attempt to prevent the software being used by ne'er-do-wells to break in to stolen iPhones and iPads, Elcomsoft has announced that it will only sell the software to "select government entities such as law enforcement, forensic organisations, and intelligence agencies." Those wanting to buy a copy will also have to sign a special licence agreement indemnifying Elcomsoft from any and all responsibilities as to how the software is used.

Interestingly, while the first-generation iPad and latest-generation iPhone 4 are supported by the software, the iPad 2 isn't on the approved list - suggesting that the more well-to-do criminal would do well to upgrade sooner, rather than later.