Pincodes, Passcodes, & TouchID on iOS - An Introduction to the Aggregate Dictionary Database (ADDataStore.sqlite)

Have you ever wondered how Apple can put out statistics such as “The average iPhone is unlocked 80 times a day”? How the heck do they know?

Now I do not know for sure that they use this database, however I'd consider putting some cash down on this bet. The Aggregate Dictionary database aggregates (hence the name) certain features of the iOS operation system.

This database is located on the physical device in the path below, and it is not backed up in iTunes/iCloud backups.

  • /private/var/mobile/Library/AggregateDictionary/ADDataStore.sqlitedb

It is worth mentioning here, the ‘dbbuffer’ plaintext file) in this same directory – is exactly what the filename suggests, a buffer for the database. Worth looking at for entries not yet written into the main database.

The ADDataStore.sqlitedb aggregates data on a 7-day per-day basis (first day in, first day out). You will generally see the last weeks worth of data. The day is stored in the column ‘daysSince1970’ which can be converted to human-readable time by using the SQL date function as shown below. It is worth noting this data is being stored in UTC.

I’ve known about this database for a while but have not had the chance to really dig into it. Recently, a reader emailed me about a case they were working on and wanted to know if the passcode was turned on or off on a specific day. Luckily this investigator had a physical acquisition to analyze and the specific day was in the last week of when the acquisition was created. The physical acquisition has many more of these logging databases are available for analysis too! - Want to see more about these awesome databases, check out my iOS of Sauron presentation.

The ADDataStore.sqlite database stores all sorts of seemingly odd settings in the ‘key’ column of the ‘Scalers’ table. The key that I was interested for this readers inquiry was the ‘’ key which stores the passcode type. The ‘value’ column stores a numerical representation of the passcode type last used during each day (UTC time). If the user changes their passcode type throughout the day, it will store the last one configured.

I have enumerated the following passcode types. The example device show above used the 6-Digit passcode, then recently switched to a Custom Numeric passcode.

  • -1 = 6-Digit
  • 0 = No Passcode
  • 1 = 4-Digit
  • 2 = Custom Alphanumeric
  • 3 = Custom Numeric

We can take a look at how many times the device was unlocked successfully or unsuccessfully by using the keys ‘’ and ‘’, respectively. The user was mostly successful inputting their passcode, but put the wrong passcode in once (highlighted in pink).

Hrm. Those values look small – the user is probably using TouchID instead of manually entering their passcode. TouchID allows users to enroll up to five fingers to unlock their devices. Note: They still need a passcode to do this, but it allows the user to have a more complex passcode because they can use their enrolled fingerprints to unlock the device for convenience and general usability

Looking at the ‘’ key we can determine how many finger “templates” have been enrolled. The example tells us that four fingerprints were enrolled.

By default the enrolled fingers are named ‘Finger 1’, ‘Finger 2’, and so on as shown below. (Nerd Note: When you are in this screen as a user of the device you can check if a finger is enrolled because it will be highlighted in gray as shown - well, I thought it was neat.).


...just kidding...its actually kinda interesting.

I did want to show the complexity of this database therefore I decided to post this as some readers might find it interesting, however don't take my word on this - I can be wrong. In encourage everyone to do their own testing!

This is where it becomes less clear and more research will need to be done. In the Scaler table at any given moment there are many entries that contain the keyword “fingerprint” for all sorts data. I've listed some of the more interesting keys below.

  • – Binary value – 1 = Enabled, 0 = Not enabled
  • – This appears to be the number of times that TouchID was used (whether or not it was used to unlock the device).
  • & - Match attempts (Not entirely sure the difference as of yet – I think one may be for unlocks (autonomous) and others for other TouchID functions.)
  • – How many times a TouchID was attempted but not allowed for some reason, perhaps fingers were the wrong ones or greasy from a hamburger! (c’mon, we’ve all been there)
  • – I found this key to be incremented when I attempted to unlock the device with the wrong finger too many times.
  • – The user put in the passcode, however they were not required to do so.

Enrolling Fingerprints

  • – Fingerprints “enrolled”
  • – Apparently I didn’t move my finger enough when enrolling. 

TouchID Passes – Various keys that I’ve seen that show the specifics of how a TouchID match was passed. Many of these are hard to test to explain.

  • – Incremented when a match was made after the home button was pressed.
  • – Incremented after boot when TouchID was used (after passcode of course).
  • – Incremented after the home button was pressed or “pressed” if you have an solid state button.
  • – I assume this one has to do if you are a live body or not.

TouchID Fails – On the flip side, if a fingerprint fails – we have many keys with many reasons, many with the same characteristics as above but failed.

  • – I guess I might have been a bit under the weather? ;)

Getting specific, TouchID unlocks appear to be recorded in the ‘*’ keys.

As far as as I can tell the keys containing “unlocksByFinger” (colored below in yellow) contain the actual number of unlocks, however in the example below the total unlocks were 11, not 22. I am not sure why there are two entries – I’m sure they record different items, however I cannot find documentation to sort out each one. I would rely on the ‘’ entries. (As an aside, it’s worth noting that if you get ‘Finger2’ entries, they have an ‘s’ appended ie:, maybe a strange type in the code?)

The ‘fail’ in the key would seem to suggest it records “failed” attempts however my testing shows these are in the green highlighted ‘unlocksCanceled’ entries instead.

What’s the ‘QT’ stand for? I have no idea. I tried looking through Apple documentation to find out, but I’ve got nothin’. Suggestions are welcome!

You might think, “Hey, I see Finger 0, Finger 1 in there – that must be the unlocks for each enrolled fingerprint right?”. That’s what I thought, however that was not the case in my testing. In my tests no matter which finger I unlocked the phone with it would be added to the ‘Finger0’ count.

Another key that looks interesting and related are the ‘’ keys. I would have thought these would be equal to the number of times the fingerprint template was used, however it appears that is not the case. I can try two different fingers (each enrolled) and sometimes they show up under the expected number (ie: finger 1 = and sometimes it won’t – however one of them will increment. Not sure what is going on here.

In conclusion - I’ve only barely touched one of the tables in this database. There is so much data in this database! There is also the ‘DistributionKeys’ and ‘DistributionValues’ tables which store more numerical-based stats versus the incremental/binary stats of the 'Scaler' table. Try the following SQL query on your own and see what you find!

date(DistributionKeys.daysSince1970*86400,'unixepoch','localtime') as daysSince1970,
from DistributionKeys
left join DistributionValues on DistributionKeys.rowid = DistributionValues.distributionID
whereDistributionKeys.key like '%unlock%'

I will hopefully be putting out a few more blog entries on other data found in this database (and other databases!). I will of course post updates to this research if and when I get the chance to do it! Stay tuned!

New macOS Sierra (10.12) Forensic Artifacts – Introducing Unified Logging

I know its been a while since I've last posted - I've been hard at work delving into macOS Sierra and iOS 10 to add new artifacts into my course. Here is something new that macOS Sierra has to offer us forensic analysts!

macOS Sierra (10.12) introduced a new logging mechanism called Unified Logging. The developer reference document  states that the same mechanism will be used for iOS 10, tvOS 10, and watchOS 3 as well.

The developer docs also state that unified logs will take the places of Apple System Logs as well as Syslog which is what rely on quite heavily for log analysis on 10.11 and older systems. As of 10.12.1, these logs still exist in /var/log so don’t discount them just yet. (Also as far as I know, Audit logs are still fair game.)

The unified logs are stored in two directories:

  • /var/db/diagnostics/
  • /var/db/uuidtext/

The first file path (/var/db/diagnostics/) contains the log files. These files are named with a timestamp filename following the pattern logdata.Persistent.YYYYMMDDTHHMMSS.tracev3. These files are binary files that we’ll have to use a new utility on macOS to parse them. This directory contains some other files as well including additional log *.tracev3 files and others that contain logging metadata. The second file path (/var/db/uuidtext/) contains files that are references in the main *.tracev3 log files.

The new utility used to interact with these log files is simply called ‘log’. The ‘log’ command can be used to do everything from collecting, removing, configuring, and reviewing logging data. The new ‘Console’ application can be used to view logs in real-time (volatile logs) but you may find it easier to use the ‘log’ command to view log historically or those that are extracted from another system.

The ‘log collect’ command can collect records from a certain timeframe, log size, or type into a *.logarchive archive bundle. *.logarchive files can be imported into the Console application.

The ‘log show’ command will parse the records from the binary log files either from a specific *.tracev3 file(s) or from a *.logarchive bundle . A user can filter on different predicates filters or time frames. It is worth noting that this command by default will not show you “info” or “debug” messages – be sure to keep that in mind. You can choose between different outputs as well including syslog or JSON styles.

Additional References:



Update to MacMRU Parser - Now with Microsoft Office Support!

I've updated my MacMRU parser script, located here:

This update includes support for 'Most Recently Used' artifacts for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 and 2016. I've also added a bit more error checking, so please let me know if you come across a plist that doesn't work or does not contain certain expected keys. It happens, I've run across a few myself - I can't explain why now, but I hope to look into it further.

While researching for this update I noticed something interesting. Microsoft Office used a binary plist format for the 2011 version of the software, but "downgraded" to an XML-based plist format in the 2016 version. Most of the time I see plists headed in the XML->Binary direction.

Got a MacMRU file that I don't parse? Please let me know!

I hope you find this script useful!

Mac News & Updates - 08/11/16






My Upcoming Classes & Presentations:

I’ll be teaching my SANS FOR518 – Mac Forensic Analysis class at the following conferences, there are some bonus @Night presentations as well! I hope to see many of you at one of these conference some day!

[LINK] SANS Virginia Beach (Aug 28 – Sept 2) - This one is coming up soon! This conference is super chill and relaxed, and you get to watch fighter jets from the beach!

  • @Night – The iOS of Sauron- How iOS Tracks Everything You Do

[LINK] SANS Network Security (Sept 12 – 17 in Las Vegas, NV) - Missed Vegas for Blackhat or DEF CON? Didn't get enough of it? Join me...if you're feelin' lucky! :)

  • @Night – The iOS of Sauron- How iOS Tracks Everything You Do

[LINK] SANS DFIR Prague (Oct 3 –  8 in the Czech Republic), Stay for the Summit on the 9th!

[LINK] SANS San Francisco (Nov 27 – Dec 2) 

  • @Night – iOS Location Forensics

[LINK] SANS Cyber Defense Initiative (Dec 12 – 17 in Washington, DC)

  • @Night – The iOS of Sauron- How iOS Tracks Everything You Do

[LINK] SANS Cyber Threat Intelligence Summit (Jan 25 – 30 in Arlington, VA)

  • @Night – The iOS of Sauron- How iOS Tracks Everything You Do

New Script! - MacMRU (Most Recently Used) Plist Parser

I have been studying the new SFL-based MRU plist files found in OS X 10.11. They make analysis hard because they are binary plist files using the NSKeyedArchiver format – see here for my manual analysis of these files. I’ve also included the ‘older’ format plist files used in OS X 10.10 and older.

In order to analyze them better (and student requests) I wrote a Python script to output the contents of these files in an easier to read format. Nothing fancy, just text printed to standard output.

Get the script here from my Github page. I hope you find the script useful! 

The script is meant to be run on a directory; this can be a directory of extracted plist files from an image, a directory on your own system (ie: ~/Library), or from a mounted image (ie: /Volumes/mounted_image_file/Users/<username>/), you get the idea.

This script parses the following plist files:

  • /Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/<bundle_id>.LSShardFileList.plist   
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/   
  •  [10.10-] /Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/   
  • [10.11+] /Users/<username>/Library/Library/Application Support/<bundle_id>.sfl   
  • [10.11+] /Users/<username>/Library/Library/Application Support/   
  •  [10.11+] /Users/<username>/Library/Library/Application Support/   
  •  [10.11+] /Users/<username>/Library/Library/Application Support/   
  •  [10.11+] /Users/<username>/Library/Library/Application Support/ 

The script usage is below. The only required argument is the directory, but the output can include binary BLOB hex dump of the Bookmark data (--blob). Most of the Mac MRUs contain a binary Bookmark BLOB of data that can be useful to determine where a certain file was located or where an application was run from. I’ve included it as an option as it can get very, very verbose.

The script also has two dependencies, and These files can be installed or just simply placed in the same directory you are running the script from. (Installation on OS X 10.11 systems are limited thanks to SIP.)

A few screenshots of example script output:

This example shows the output without the BLOB data of the newer SFL-based MRU files:

This example shows the same output with a sample of the hexdump BLOB data, you can see where this can get quite verbose.

The last example shows the ‘older’ MRU plist files found on 10.10 and older systems. (The files is the same on 10.11.)

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