Saturday, August 18, 2007

Copying Files

I've been party to or heard a good number of discussions lately regarding USB removable storage devices, and one of the topics that invariably comes up is, how can you determine which files were copied from the system to a thumb drive, or vice versa.

In most instances, folks are working only with the image of a system, and do not have access to the thumb drive itself. They can easily find the information that tells them when a thumb drive was first connected, and when it was last connected...and then the next question is, what files were or may have been copied to the thumb drive (or from the thumb drive to the system)?

The fact is that Windows systems do not maintain a record of file copies or moves...there is simply no way for a forensic analyst to look at the image of a system and say which files were copied off of the system onto a thumb drive. In order to determine this, you'd need to have the thumb drive (or other media) itself, and be able to see that you had two files of the same or similar size (you can also compare the files with md5deep or ssdeep), one of which is on each piece of media. From there, you could then check the file MAC times and possibly make some conclusions regarding the direction of transfer.

Many times in a conversation on this topic, someone will bring up Windows shortcuts or LNK files. To be honest, I'm not really sure why this comes up, it just seems to be the case. Shortcuts can be created manually, of course, but with regards to files, they are created when a user double-clicks a file, such as a Word document, to open it. Repeated testing on my part (including testing done by others) has yet to turn a method by which normal (as in "normal user activity") dragging-and-dropping a file or using the "copy" command will result in a Windows shortcut file being created.

Does anyone out there have any thoughts or input on tracking this kind of activity, having nothing more than a single system image to analyze? If so, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

2 comments:

JimmyWeg said...

...Windows shortcuts or LNK files. To be honest, I'm not really sure why this comes up...

I suppose that, if a user opened the file from the thumb, a link would be created, and it would reference the path to the thumb. As the link contains the target's date stamps, it could be meanignful from that standpoint, too, depending on how the dates correlate to the original file on the host machine.

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