Brett's Blog

Just some ramblings.

Massive Government Surveillance - Not a new thing

I'm close to wrapping up my latest book, Hiding Behind the Keyboard. One of the more interesting things I found while researching the electronic surveillance chapter is a historical note of massive electronic surveillance...way back in the early  1890s

Considering that government surveillance is one of the hottest topics today, no doubt brought into the spotlight by Edward Snowden, I found this one historical bit of surveillance in New York to be a reminder that electronic surveillance has been around much longer than what the average person may know.

Before getting into the New York Police massive surveillance story, you should know that wiretapping has been around as long as communicating electronically has existed.  For example, as soon as the telegraph was used, the telegraph communications were intercepted. During the Civil War, a "wire tapper" was an actual job in the war to intercept telegraphs!  But that's not what I mean in regards to mass goverment surveillance. The New York Police Department's history with wiretaps is what I found to be really interesting, even more interesting than the NSA surveillance disclosures

In short, back in the late 1800s, New York made wiretapping a felony but the NYPD believed they were above this law. They tapped people at whim and without warrants, including tapping Catholic priests.

In fact, NYPD quickly discovered that they could tap into any phone line of the New York Telephone Company, at anytime  to listen to any person on the line. They even tapped into hotels to listen to hotel any guest.

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Libraries and the Tor Browser

Libraries and the Tor Browser

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a librarian for my opinion on library patrons using Tor in public libraries. My initial reaction, based upon having done more than a few cybercrime cases, is that Tor in public libraries is a bad idea. How can law enforcement track criminals who use library computers when the Tor browser is being used?  And libraries are government entities! Tax dollars would be spent helping criminals commit crimes on the Internet and remain anonymous. By all means, NO! Don’t do it!

From a law enforcement perspective (which I have not lost since my days in law enforcement), the Tor browser makes cybercrime investigations practically impossible to identify the user for 99% of cyber detectives and this is a major problem for investigators.  The remaining 1% of cyber analyts have access to supercomputers and virtually unlimited budgets that is beyond the scope and reach of the regular police detective.   Since the Tor network is so effective in providing anonymity to Internet users and police are practically powerless against it, why support it since criminals are using it?

About a half second later, my opinion changed.

The public library protects freedoms more than most people will ever know (except for librarians…they know about freedom protections). Sure, police protect freedoms by protecting Constitutions (state and federal versions) but law enforcement has a dilemma. On one hand, they swear to protect freedoms and on the other, the freedoms restrict their ability to protect.  Using the First Amendment as an example;

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Teaching Digital Forensics at the University of Washington

Teaching Digital Forensics at the University of Washington

Several years ago, I taught at the UW Digital Forensics Continuing Education program before taking a break. Now I'm back at it.  A new course with new material, including mobile device forensics.  A change in the program is that the course is offered online as well (not on demand, as the classroom will be broadcast in real-time).

A continual theme in the program is case development.  From the smallest piece of evidence through gathering more evidence, broad analysis to specific targeting focus, to search warrants, and putting an entire case together; that is the goal of the course.

My primary purpose is teaching how to do an actual digital forensic case as I firmly believe that a certification without competence is not useful in the least bit.

A potpourri of software is used throughout the program to show that there are many ways to get to the answer using different tools.  In fact, the tool is not the focus as much as running a case is.  Using software tools gets the information you need to further your case development through case closure.

Consider registrating for the course, it'll be lots of work, but lots of fun to work cases along the way.

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A little update coming for Mini-WinFE

A little update coming for Mini-WinFE
b2ap3_thumbnail_misty.jpg b2ap3_thumbnail_miniwinfe.JPG    The developer of Mini-WinFE will be adding a script that will install EnCase Forensic Imager into Mini-WinFE. Misty is a little busy right now, but in a few weeks, should be a reality.  So, you'll have another imaging tool option in WinFE that is freely available to use.    You'll notice that WinFE hasn't had much of any updates  for some time and when the updates do happen, they are little tweaks if much else. That is because there isn't too much more that can be added to WinFE. It's quick and easy to build, easy to use, and fills a niche when and where needed.    If you haven't built a WinFE yet...why not? To date, there have been over 8,000 downloads of Mini-WinFE alone, not counting thousands of downloads of Winbuilder to build WinFEs, and thousands of builds using the command line.    Lastly, since WinFE is rarely updated, I've imported the free wordpress blog to mine for simplicity of keeping up with WinFE updates and posts. To keep up with WinFE updates, follow me on Twitter
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Tor is perfect! (except for the user....)

Tor is perfect!  (except for the user....)

I have been spending so much time with the Tor browser over the past months that I have forgotten just how seamlessly it uses a complex network of global servers, and encryption to provide a near perfect level of online anonymity. The Tor browser is extremely effective in providing near 100% anonymity that if not for one little flaw, it would be perfect, and I found that flaw.

The flaw is the user. Yes, every physical device and software application has the same flaw, but with Tor, it is a flaw that can completely negate using Tor for anonymity with misuse. Something as simple as a user not updating the Tor browser when prompted in bold print is enough to break anonymity. The Tor browser can only do so much to warn users to update the browser...

On one hand, criminals using the Tor browser who are lazy, too busy, or not accepting the danger of using outdated Tor browsers run the risk of getting busted.  On the other hand, legitimate users, such as those living under oppressive governments, can be discovered and imprisoned (or worse!) for exercising speech online.  Both situations generally require the user to be the weak link.

FBI Uses Spyware to Catch Tor-Based Child Pornography Suspect - Softpedia News

http://news.google.com Thu, 01 Oct 2015 02:46:49 GMT

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I had a blast presenting for ICAC at Microsot

I had a blast presenting for ICAC at Microsot
b2ap3_thumbnail_ICAC.JPGI gave two presentations today at the NW ICAC conference hosted by Microsoft in Redmond, Washington on the same topic in two parts. I met some great folks in the field doing so really awesome work to protect children. Plus, I got to see some people that I have not seen in a long time. All the sponsors set up a great conference with Microsoft providing the venue. I was only there for the first day and I'm sure the next two days will be just as beneficial to attendees. b2ap3_thumbnail_book4.jpgThe first presentation (Part 1) was a broad overview of my first book, Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard. My primary goal was to give a ton of investigative tips in hopes that at least one will be able to save investigators hours (or weeks or months) of labor in their cases. I flew through the material like a firefighter putting out a house fire to make sure enough tips were given to fit as many investigators needed in their specific cases. Definitely covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Reading my book covers a lot more, but this was fun. http://brettshavers.cc/images/articleimages/book3.jpg      b2ap3_thumbnail_book3.jpgThe second presentation (Part 2) was a brief intro to one chapter in my upcoming third book, Hiding Behind the Keyboard. Probably the best tips came from how to identify Tor users along with how to explain Tor to the layperson, which is sometimes one of the hardest things to do in a courtroom setting. Both Part 1 and Part 2 presentations are independent of each other but the information is complimentary just like both books are. 

 If you are in law enforcement and would like a copy of both presentations, you can download them here for the next month or so before I update the presentations:

 

Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard-ICAC.  

Send me a message after you download the file and I'll e-mail you the password (the slidedeck will be available for short time).

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Book Review: Windows Forensic Analysis Toolkit, 4th Edition

WFAI’ve been waiting until I received the hard copy of this book to write the review. I had the fortune of being the tech editor for this book and enjoyed every minute of it. Although I do not have an ongoing financial interest in this book, I do have a vested personal interest based on the reasons Harlan Carvey lays out in many chapters. I’ll get to my personal interest later in this review.  Also, Harlan has a post on updated book contents here: http://regripper.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/regripper-download-2/

Without reading any reviews, those analysts who buy Harlan’s books will keep buying his books with the full expectation of having a well-written (as in easy-to-read) book on Windows OS forensics. There is no need to read any further in this review if you fit in this category. This is Harlan’s new book. That is all you really need to know. But if you just want my opinion, read on…

The topics in the 4th Edition of WFA are all eye-catching. Volume shadow copies, file analysis, registry, malware, timelines, tracking user activity, and more.   Every topic detailed in all the chapters, is relevant to everyone that touches a Windows system to examine. The difference between Harlan’s books and others is the guidance given. For example, rather than reading a discourse on some technology, Harlan gives practical advice, suggestions, and real-life stories that relate to the points in the book. Since we have all made mistake (or will make mistakes, or have made mistakes but just don’t know it yet), having guidance that reduces mistakes in the way of stories and plain talk is well worthwhile to read.

The book has too much information to be covered in a review. There is more information on accessing volume shadow copies using several different methods than I want to review. The same can be said for file analysis, registry analysis, timelines, and every other topic. Harlan gives several options to accomplish the same task, using different software.   Although I wrote a book on one software (X-Ways Practitioners Guide), I obviously use more than just one software. Any forensic book, other than a manual or software guide, that does not give options with various types of software does not give the reader options to solve problems.

Another facet of Harlan’s book is his never-ending harping of asking everyone to ‘share information’. That sentence may sound negative, but truthfully, I don’t know how Harlan has the energy to push the sharing of information for so long. The book is sprinkled with this tone and I echo the importance of sharing information. I did my best to keep up with Harlan’s book as I tech edited it, working his suggestions. Some of the methods he wrote were new to me, which I would not have found on my own without happening upon the method in a blog..maybe.

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X-Ways Online Training Course

X-Ways Online Training Course


I will be publishing an X-Ways Forensics Online Training Course on June 30, 2014.  The course is based off the X-Ways Practitioner's Guide, the X-Ways manual, and a decade of experience using X-Ways...it is not the official X-Ways training course, but it also does not come with the price tag of the official course.   From Monday, the X-Ways course will be $195 but I will publish a discount code good for two weeks (through July 14) for 25% off.

I'll send out a reminder on June 30 through twitter and the XWF blog, so follow the blog or twitter account to catch the discount code.

The manner in which I made the X-Ways course is so that you can follow along with XWF in learning how to work a case with X-Ways Forensics.  The course describes the options and buttons in XWF, but also shows how to simply work a case.  There are literally so many features in X-Ways, that without training, you will be missing about 50% of what you should be doing.  I found that even the most current version of the X-Ways manual does not list features in XWF...lots of information to keep up with, tons of features to consider, easy to miss something that you should not miss for such a powerful forensic tool.

If you want to be notified of the coupon code, be sure to follow the X-Ways blog at http://xwaysforensics.wordpress.com/ or the twitter account at https://twitter.com/XWaysGuide.

 

 

Windows Forensic Environment Online Training Course


I also have just released an online course on the Windows Forensic Environment (WinFE).   I have videos of most build methods, tips and tricks, pro's and con's, and aspects of WinFE that you may find important.  I also included every bit of downloadable swag in the course too (batch files, wallpaper, scripts, etc...).

All in all, this is probably the best source of WinFE you will find.  I encourage you to share it and use it, after all, this is a free tool and this course is free.  If anyone has suggestions on making the course better, let me know and I can try to squeeze in some improvements.

[caption id="attachment_1231" align="aligncenter" width="700"]winfe http://courses.dfironlinetraining.com/windows-forensic-environment

 

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Is it worth the time to figure out WinFE?

Yes, no question about it.

WinFE is one of those things in forensics you hear about and move on to something else because you don't want to spend the time to "build an ISO" (maybe you've not
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More on Autopsy and WInFE

I was right.  This is cool.

Using Autopsy on WinFE Lite worked as expected; however, I wanted to test it with a WinBuilder build of WinFE to address limitations found on WinFE Lite (notably, the inability to view videos or inside zip files).

In short, the WinBuilder build allowed viewing of videos and accessing zip files with Autopsy.  There were a few other customizations that I made for appearance and ease of use that you may find helpful in presenting training on WinFE (if you do that) or in creating your own WinFE for onsite preview/triage.

2013-07-15-17-33-1247
Add Autopsy to the WinFE start menu.

Basically, with Autopsy, any first responder or parole supervisor can triage/preview an evidence machine, onsite, without cost of software or hardware.  You just need a CD, DVD, or USB with WinFE and Autopsy.  For the first responders who are not forensic examiners, a WinFE boot disc/USB can be made with Autopsy clearly presented on the desktop and start menu.  I would suggest that other forensic tools be included in the event they may be needed by a forensic analyst.  An example would be a first responder finding evidence on a machine during a triage/preview and the machine needs to be imaged.  Either the first responder can image the machine or preferably, a trained person should be called to image the machine.  Having the apps pre-installed eliminates the need to reboot the machine to another build of WinFE, or plugging in additional drives with programs, and so forth.

In order to get you in gear with the potential of a completely free WinFE and software (you need a license for Windows to build it…but otherwise, it’s all free), I’ve posted the steps below.  Before you ask for help with WinBuilder, go to www.reboot.pro and read the help forums.  There is as much documentation you need for directions on how to download and run WinBuilder along with as many scripts (added features) as you could ever need.

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