Brett's Blog

Just some ramblings.

WinFE Success Story

I get a few stories of how WinFE saved the day and a few of these heroes let me retell their story. This is one of them. The ‘detective’ wishes to be unnamed, but for sake of argument, I know who he is…

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 A detective from a California law enforcement agency that had attended the SEARCH “Network Investigation and Digital Triage” course contacted the instructors with assistance in building a WinFE based on Windows 8.1. The detective was given guidance and links to the various resources needed to create the WinFE8.1SE. The detective was further given assistance in adding in the utilities he would need and finally validating the build to insure that it was forensically sound.

 In a follow up call, the detective indicated that the he had obtained the duplicate images he needed, with one minor modification. He found that one of the target drives was mounted through an add-in card and was not initially recognized by WinFE8.1SE. Noting that Colin Ramsden’s write protect utility allowed for adding drivers to the system, the detective located the add-in card drivers and added them to the system. WinFE8.1SE and Colin’s WP utility then recognized the additional drive and allowed mounting it read only. The detective then successfully obtained duplicate images of both target drives.

 

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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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Vote for your favorite book

Don’t forget to vote for the XWF Guide at http://forensic4cast.com/2014/04/2014-forensic-4cast-awards-meet-the-nominees/.  But of course, only vote if you liked it :)

And if you didn’t like it (which means you don’t have XWF…), vote for my other book, Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard.  But again, only vote if you liked it :)

And if you didn’t like that book either…give me your phone number.  We need to talk…

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Vote for your favorite book.

Don’t forget to vote for the XWF Guide at http://forensic4cast.com/2014/04/2014-forensic-4cast-awards-meet-the-nominees/.  But of course, only vote if you liked it :)

And if you didn’t like it (which means you don’t have XWF…), vote for my other book, Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard.  But again, only vote if you liked it :)

And if you didn’t like that book either…give me your phone number.  We need to talk…

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Humbled and honored

[caption id="568" align="alignleft" width="150"]4cast Forensic 4cast Awards


I just saw that the book of the year nominees at the Forensic 4cast Awards include both the X-Ways Practitioner's Guide and Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard.  For those that made the nominations, that was very kind.  For those that vote for either book, I thank you in advance.

Both books are pretty good.  Each gives plenty of tips and information to save you hours of frustration, and more importantly, close some cases.  There is a sample chapter of Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard here: http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/feature/Placing-the-Suspect-Behind-the-Keyboard  There are reviews at Amazon for both books that may be helpful if you were thinking of getting either book.

If you use X-Ways.....you need the X-Ways Guide, no matter how long you have been using X-Ways.  When I asked Eric to help me write this book, he ran with it and did a super job of helping create an easy to read guide to using a very powerful forensic tool.  I have more than a ton of emails of how the book converted Encase/FTK primary users into XWF primary users.

As for the Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard, that has also helped more than a few examiners close a case with a simple (yet elusive) tip, trick, method, or process that saves hours, if not days, of work.  Again, even if you have been doing forensics for a long time, nothing says you can't learn or relearn something you may not know or have forgotten.

Thanks again to everyone.

Brett

 

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"Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard" discount code

Cool.  Looks like there is a new discount on my book, "Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard".  Plus, it also looks like an entire chapter is available for download.

[caption id="1142" align="alignleft" width="266"]discount Cool. A discount. Get it while you can!


PSBKI'm also giving a presentation on this book at NOLACON (New Orleans, Louisiana).
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Network Investigation & Digital Triage by SEARCH.org




Network Investigation & Digital Triage


Very cool.  SEARCH.org teaches WinFE in its Network Investigation & Digital Triage course.

[caption id="attachment_1108" align="alignleft" width="700"]search http://www.search.org/get-help/training/high-tech-crime-investigations/instructor-led-training/network-investigation-and-digital-triage/




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WinFE (and of course, XWF)

Taking WinFE to even another level on a multiboot thumbdrive.  Very cool, but I spread this word to you because there are few things in life neater than a forensically bootable CD/USB with X-Ways Forensics.

From Hacking Exposed: Adding the WinFE Image to the Multiboot Thumbdrive Image (Video)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce9eQ0OG2jA

http://hackingexposedcomputerforensicsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/daily-blog-248-adding-winfe-image-to.html

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From Hacking Exposed: Adding the WinFE Image to the Multiboot Thumbdrive Image (Video)

Taking WinFE to even another level on a multiboot thumbdrive.  Very cool.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce9eQ0OG2jA

http://hackingexposedcomputerforensicsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/daily-blog-248-adding-winfe-image-to.html
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A gathering of the X-Ways users in Australia

The X-Ways Users Conference is here in a few weeks.  My kind of conference: Australia and fellow X-Ways users! 

 

Maybe next year for me...but it sure would make for a good vacation, I mean, training trip.

 

 

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