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.

b2ap3_thumbnail_UW.JPGhttp://www.pce.uw.edu/certificates/digital-forensics.html

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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

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQxYPXiaO7F03zDfLzy9fCeiyj7obMA0G6jj8US0UWF_LBSKY7Tuq7WFLZykSGdtdYjjBoDZl4Softpedia NewsFBI Uses Spyware to Catch Tor-Based Child Pornography If you were wondering, the Flash plugin comes turned off by default in all Tor Web browsers. For this particular reason, if you ever read a tutorial on how to pr ...

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I have been known to have the superpower of being able to break steel balls while locked in a rubber room, so trying to break Tor seemed possible. With more than a few personal tests, I found Tor works well.  Reading through dozens of white papers written by computer scientists (waaaayyyy smarter than me) only confirmed that Tor works...very well.  It is just the user, either by using outdated Tor browser bundles or other user-created accidents that are easily led to their front door.  In my current book, Hiding Behind the Keyboard, I have written a chapter solely dedicated to the Tor browser and included some methods where investigators can force a user error to identify criminals. In short, for investigators it is a game of chance when Tor is involved in an investigation.

Writing about Tor is a bit touchy. Generally, individual countries create and enforce laws for that country. Some countries allow near unfettered freedom of speech and others less so. Some countries go to extreme measures to identify and punish anyone speaking out against their government or government officials.  Technically, the methods to uncover Tor users in both types of countries are the same.  Some countries go so far as to shut down the entire Internet to prevent any use at all by its citizens. The touchy part is that the methods to go after criminals are the same methods used to go after legimiate users (whistleblowers, activists, etc...).   

China tightens noose on Internet as anti-censorship tools suddenly shutter - Washington Times

http://news.google.com Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:29:28 GMT

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ4S__sARQwUCjQj6xlXikkzYxHZMr-5dgXdzJOKPjG_VEKcHE0UIUw5bD8w0DKowAhIVMKwiJ4Washington TimesChina tightens noose on Internet as anti-censorship tools suddenly shutter. Censorship circumvention tools designed to bypass Internet restrictions are again under attack in China as software meant to let users around th ...

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Which brings me to the many news articles and NSA/Snowden leaks about Tor. Nearly all are based on exploiting the user and not Tor. Sure, high-tech spyware has been used to infect Tor browsers to uncover IP addresses and such, but the only reason this has been working is because the user has failed to use the most current version of Tor. And much like a house of cards will fall with one card pulled out, an entire criminal organization using Tor to commit crimes will fall when one thing (the user) is exploited through user errors or forced errors.

Tor is not perfect, and certainly not best for all Internet use, but it has its place when needed. As one example, whistleblowers have a legitimate need for anonymity to report violations. Another would be anyone using a public computer (library, hotel, etc...) and would like the Internet provider see everything they are doing online, not for criminal activity, but simple personal privacy.

For forensic analysts, the biggest takeaway I can give is that if you are not looking for Tor use in your cases, you may be missing LOTS of evidence. Think back to the last time you even searched for Tor remnants in an analysis. How about the last time you even thought about looking for Tor in an examination.  Or better yet, have you ever even considered it? Examiners who conduct an "Internet Analysis" of a computer system is not being complete without including searching for remnants of the Tor browser.  The mere existence of the Tor browser can affect your analysis conclusions.

In two investigative/forensic books I have been working, Tor is a factor for analysts, but it is not the only factor. Tor is but one part of any person's overall communication strategy. Rare is communication based on a single method, but instead included many types of communication methods used in conjunction with other.  A cell phone text message can be a reply to an e-mail sent through Tor which was a reply to a face-to-face contact.  When uncovering covert communications, the goal is to find all the methods in order to put the entire communication threat together, without missing pieces. If you have not been looking at Tor, most likely, you have missing pieces.

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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.

Those examiners who conduct investigations, not just an analysis of a machine, will enjoy the guidance on tracking user activity, writing reports, drawing conclusions, correlating data, and making inferences.  Those topics are my personal favorites.

Harlan writes in this book that sharing helps us to know what is possible. That makes sense, because how can you know what you don’t know.

I can say unequivocally that writing a digital forensics book is primarily, if not solely, to share information. Few (no one?) gets rich writing a computer technical book in the niche of digital forensics. The market for a digital forensic book is probably a fraction of a fraction of a fraction when compared to a Tom Clancy or JK Rowling book. With that, consider that when Harlan says he writes to share, he really means that he writes to share, just like all other forensic book writers.

The personal risk to sharing, which everyone knows, is that you could be totally wrong, slightly inaccurate, poorly written, disproved later, or maybe you “discovered” something that everyone else already knew. This risk of sharing keeps the majority of examiners quiet and makes it seem that there are only a few examiners that share information. That is why we see the same names popping up online and conferences through the years. But in the audiences listening to these same names, there are smarter people, better examiners, and great investigators. They just don’t speak up or share information.  (nudge..nudge...feel free to share...no one will bite you).

That is one of Harlan’s premises to keep going and he reiterates it in the book and his blog and when he speaks. We all get ‘smarter’ when we share. None of us move forward when we don’t share.   To share is to take a risk of being wrong and embarrassed. Worse still is the fear to be wrong and get attacked online. However, for all those that share, either by asking questions, giving suggestions, or describing methods you have created or use, my hat goes off to you. It takes guts to put yourself out there, knowing that the sharks are circling and sniffing for blood.

Back to my personal interest in this book. When I have found a method or tool that I like, I want everyone to use it. I don’t hold it close to my chest or hide it. I share it. I become an evangelist to that tool or method to get the word out. The reason? The more examiners in the field that use it, the more chance the method/tool becomes an industry standard. Then it gets improved upon, further developed, “court accepted” in that the results obtained by that tool/method are accepted into a court, and I get to use the tool/method more.

The best personal example I can give to prove this point is with WinFE (http://winfe.wordpress.com). From a two-page Word document typed by Troy Larson of Microsoft, I marketed that little ingenious tool as if I was making a million bucks off it. It’s now in use by every country that does forensics and in just about every agency or company in those countries. It’s even taught in forensic training programs in both the public and private sector. So now, anyone can create and use WinFE without worry of using a non-industry accepted tool. This happened only because those that used WinFE, shared the knowledge of how to use and when to use it. Imagine if we did that with every “new” effective method or tool.

The key point in the prior two paragraphs is that Harlan’s book has lots of those types of ideas that he has shared. He gives credit to ideas created by others along with sharing his own ideas.

My only negative words on WFA/4 is…maybe X-Ways Forensics could have been put in it...but that's what we have the XWF Guide for..

My suggestion on WFA/4…buy the book. You will not regret it.  My other favorite books are here http://winfe.wordpress.com/books/.

 

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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.

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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.

The steps:

1)      Download Autopsy and install to your workstation.

2)      Download Winbuilder

3)      Download the WinFE write protection script (place in the WinBuilder tweaks folder)

4)      Build your WinFE

Step 1

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It's free!

Download and install Autopsy to your workstation. http://sleuthkit.org/autopsy/

Step 2

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It's free!

Download and install WinBuilder (go to www.reboot.pro on how the program works).  This is based on the Win7PE_SE project.

Step 3

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Guess what? This is free too.

Download the WinFE write protect script.  http://winfe.wordpress.com

Place the write protect script (WP.script) in the Tweaks folder of WinBuilder

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Without this one little thing (wp.script), you only making a "PE", not a "FE" build.

Step 4

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Run WinBuilder.  Read my previous write up on how to do this to save time in trying to figure it out.  I’ve already spent more than a few hours which you don’t have to go through.  Be prepared, you will have errors and builds that don’t work.  But once you get it right and see how it works, you will have a tool which will provide invaluable use for years.  Trust me on this; you will not regret spending the time.  The only regret you will ever have is waiting to try it out.

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Another Discount on the XWF Guide at $37.96

Amazon reduced the price, grab it while you can before it goes up (again).

 

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C4All X-tension update

Update November 14, 2014

Download link to version 3.6.2.d https://www.dropbox.com/s/zewn7myskf...6.2.d.zip?dl=0
This update changes the way the video stills are treated when extracting movies.
-now video stills are extracted if the parent movie is extracted, regardless of whehter
the video still has been type verified.

 

 

 

 

That is for version 3.6.2.d that fixes a few issues with C4All not handling some characters.

 

 

 
 
 
Videos and links to updated guides.
 
 
 
Steps for c4all X-tension updated November 2014.doc
www.dropbox.com/s/sfd3...4.doc?dl=0

Steps to prepare and run C4All X november 2014.doc
www.dropbox.com/s/23ts...4.doc?dl=0

I recommend downloading both guides. ***both Udpated November 2014***

Links to Youtube videos to run X-Tension
www.youtube.com/watch?v=HP6DTzpG0KI - part 1 of 3
www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCIcrA9CldI - part 2 of 3
www.youtube.com/watch?v=53cLlcogr40 - part 3 of 3

 

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Barely any updates to WinFE :(

winfeUnfortunately there are so few updates nowadays to WinFE, that this blog is woefully neglected...on a positive note, since WinFE practically needs no updates, there is hardly a need to keep up on WinFE once you have mastered building it.

The best and most current source of all-things-WinFE is from a free online course at http://courses.dfironlinetraining.com/windows-forensic-environment so other than taking the course, this blog will not have additional information building WinFE.

The course includes downloads and links to downloads to build every publicly known version and build type of WinFE, from the basic WinFE, WinFE Lite, WTE WinFE, Mini-WinFE, and WinBuilder WinFE.

The WinFE wordpress blog will be used only for sporadic WinFE updates and related information since WinFE has practically reached the best it can be at current software standards (Windows 8).  The only posts that may be original from here on out would be case examples, but that quickly grows old (I booted a machine to WinFE and imaged it...).  A few instances are very neat, like imaging a Surface Pro, and for those interesting cases, I'll post them as I come across them or am sent information about them.

At its foundation, WinFE is a strong forensic OS platform, built on the latest Windows operating system, which can run most types of forensic software.  That's about it.  Simple, but amazingly effective at a forensic boot platform.  Since it is so very simple, the updates to the WinFE blog become less and less.  Therefore, the free webinar course covers everything you need to learn about WinFE along with every download needed, plus tips on building, using, and testifying to the use of WinFE.

After you view the course and build a few WinFEs, you'll see that WinFE is only a forensic boot OS.  But you will also see that because it is a Windows boot OS, you can do so many things with it that you can not do with a Linux forensic OS or with a hardware writeblocker.  That is the beauty of WinFE.  Simple. Ingenious. Hard to improve upon (at this point...).

You have my permission to use the WinFE course and its materials in a manner that benefits WinFE at no cost.  That means you can use information from the course to teach WinFE at conferences or any training session.  WinFE is free (technically, you need a Windows OS license...but otherwise its free), and I've made the course free as well.  When teaching or writing about WinFE related to the source and you choose to attribute to the source, that's nice of you, but not necessary if you don't want.

Take a run at the WinFE course.  Watch all the videos or only the videos of interest. They are broken down by build types and how-to videos.  The most important benefit you can get out of the course (other than learning how to build/use WInFE) is getting some formalized training in front of you about WinFE.  It's one thing to spend hours (days?) figuring out something but quite another when you can get the meat-and-potatoes of what you need to know in the shortest period of time.  I'd reckon that even if you attend a presentation on WinFE, you will get so much more out of the online course that you won't regret the time spent.

I've also said a few times, that once you build and use a WinFE, you will regret not having done so years earlier.  Don't forget, WinFE has been around since 2008...it works even better now than back then.

outline

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