Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Mystery of MUICache...solved??

Holy Registry keys, Batman!

Okay, I've been tossing this around for a while, and even put it on the back burner, but never completely forgot about it. The issue is this MUICache Registry key, or more specifically:


This is an issue, as a while back, I started noticing references to malware creating values beneath this key...specifically, Trojan-Alexmo and Adware-BlowSearch. The technical write ups simply stated that the keys were created, but gave no indication as to their use. Was this a new startup location that malware authors had discovered? What is the key used for? I did some searches, but found way too much information to wade through and digest. I posted questions, but didn't get responses.

So, I'm over on ForensicFocus today, and "Lance" (I'm assuming this is the Guidance Lance) says something about the MUICache key values that point executables having window names as their values. You know, when you open up the command prompt on XP, for example, it says "Command Prompt" as the title (Trivia Question: Does anyone remember how to change that title in a DOS batch file, so something other than "Command Prompt" appears??) of the window. Well, I opened up my RegEdit and took a look at the entries under the key. I took a close look at some of the values that pointed to executables, and tried opening some. I began to see that the information in the Registry wasn't what I was seeing as the window titles.

So then I fired up Perl, and ran a script that I use that retrieves file version information from executables (ie, EXE, DLL, etc.). Lo and behold, but there under the FileDescription value, was the string that I was looking at in the Registry!

So, what does this mean? Well, I started doing searches for "Muicache + filedescription" and I found this archived entry from the OldNewThing blog. From there, I found others...in particular, this one from the Sun Java forum.

From reading through these entries, my understanding of this issue is that the values that you see under the MUICache key are not placed there by the executable, but by the shell (ie, Explorer.exe). Therefore, when a technical description of malware states that the executable "creates an entry under the MUICache key", this isn't technically correct. In fact, what's happening is that the shell is creating the entry when the malware is run.

From the forensic analysis aspect of things, how does this help us? Well, it shows that an application was run on an XP (I don't have a Win2k system to test right now) system at some point, whether the executable is there or not. However, we don't know when the application was run, as there is no MRUList associated with the entries. One indicator may be a corresponding entry for the executable in the PreFetch directory.

Well, it would seem that the veil of secrecy on that particular issue has been pierced...at least, to a degree. There are still questions, such as, is there a limit on the number of entries in this key?

Also, there needs to be some testing done. For example, if someone gets a Trojan on a system, and gets the user to launch it somehow, one would think that an entry would appear beneath the key. However, if the attacker were able to get another executable on the system, and launch it via the Trojan (something as simple as a netcat listener would suffice for testing), would an entry be made for that second executable? It would stand to reason that malware that runs as a service wouldn't appear in this entry, because such applications are not tied usually tied to an interactive user's account.


Addendum 30 Dec: In case it wasn't clear, one of the points to my entry is that at least on A/V vendor had done "analysis" of some of the new malware (linked) and found that one of the changes that occurred on the system was that values were added to the MUICache key. Googling for this kind of thing reveals "analyses" at other A/V sites that include equally vague information. However, it seems that this key is NOT, in fact, set by the malware in question but instead by the shell.

So, as an aside, whom do you trust when it comes to this kind of analysis?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Registry Reference

I've been working away on a Registry reference, basically, an Excel spreadsheet of Registry keys. The idea is to list them with some sort of categorization, listing each by key name/path, value (if applicable), a brief description, and then any references that may apply.

In the case of what I'm working on, most of the references so far are MS KB articles that describe the keys and/or values.

The descriptions are meant to provide information regarding how these keys/values are useful during forensic investigations. Many of them can also be useful during live response investigations, as well.

Work is coming along smoothly...oddly enough there isn't a great deal of this sort of information out there. I've been pointed to several resources, and in most cases they lead back to either my original spreadsheet, or stuff from AccessData.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The age of "Nintendo forensics"...

...is coming to a close. Or, rather, it needs to. Looking around, seeing what's going on in the community, and in particular, in the news, I have to think that the days of blindly imaging a system and then running searches for keywords or images are going to be a thing of the past soon.

Windows systems in particular hold a wealth of information. There are areas of systems that are largely unexplored by many forensic analysts, particularly on the law enforcement side of the house. Now, I know that this is in large part due to case loads, staffing, training, and simply time. However, more knowledgeable law enforcement officers (at all levels...local, state, and even federal) as well as more knowledgeable system administrators (and even CIOs) will serve to level the playing field between the good guys and the bad guys.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the fact that Windows XP and 2003 are becoming more prevalent by the day, and soon Vista will be in production and on the streets. We (the forensic community) can no longer operate from an MS-DOS standpoint.

Don't get me wrong...data reduction through the use of searches, file hashes, etc., is still extremely useful. However, a search for an ASCII string may turn up very little when searching the Windows Registry. One needs to understand the format of the Registry (even on the binary level) and how the Registry is structured. The same holds true with other file formats...OLE/compound documents (MS Word being the most prevalent example), PE files, Event Log files, INFO2 files, and even shortcuts. Yes, there are tools that can be run to pull information from the files but does the person running the tool understand what's happening "under the hood"?

Now, some of you are going to say, "Hey, I don't need to know how to locate and program the computer systems in my car in order to drive a car.", and I'd say, "You're right." However, what I'm talking about is pulling more comprehensive information from an image of a Windows system, and building a better case. In the face of more sophisticated malware, the expanding use of rootkits, and the increase of publicized anti-forensic techniques, I'm beginning to see how a greater level of knowledge is necessary.


Posts have been sporadic, and not nearly as frequent as before...I know. That'll change.

For now, though, I've got a question for the readers...one that you can really help me with. Just about every month, I run across someone (usually online) who says, "I wish I knew more about this...". In the past, it was things like NTFS alternate data streams. More recently, it's been USB device artifacts in the Registry. The thing is, regardless of the topic, I will do a simple Google search and turn up some pretty good resources (if it's stuff I've done, I cheat a little and just send them the link).

So, my question is this...how do you make things more visible? Take information as an example. You write an article about something that may be very useful to a group of people. You get the article published in a magazine or journal that caters to that group of people. However, not everyone in that group gets the journal.

Things I've tried include presenting at conferences (and in the case of my book, giving away free copies after the presentation), writing articles, posting to online forums, talking to people, etc. Now, I'm not saying that that's all that can be done, or that I've done any of those things enough. What I am asking is, what are some things that I can do to market stuff I've done...not just books, but code and any other information that I develop/produce.

Thanks...thoughts and especially solutions are appreciated.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Registry Reference

One thing I've really noticed over the years is that while some information is available out there on some Registry keys and values, there really isn't much that is useful/credible and geared toward forensic analysis. So I've been considering starting up a reference resource...well, I brought the subject up on a couple of lists, mostly looking for input, and the overwhelming response was, "Great! Let me know what I can do to help."

I haven't really settled on a format, per se, outside of basic elements, such as key/value path, data type of the value(s), a description or explanation of the key/value and what conditions lead to the creation/modification of the key/value, credible references, and the name of the submitter. One thought I had was to list everything in HTML, making it easily portable. Another thought was to use a database of some sort, because in doing so, scripts can be written to search the database, or extract information into text, HTML, XML, etc....whatever format suits the user.

Again, the goal is to provide credible, referenced information about Registry keys, as Registry analysis is something that simply hasn't been explored up to this point...at least, not in any great depth.

If you've got any thoughts on this, let me know. And yes, I am aware of the paper AccessData put out...thanks.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Finding a rootkit

Mark Russinovich over on SysInternals.com posted a blog entry yesterday about how he located a rootkit that was installed after he purchased a CD.

One has to raise the "HUH??!?!" flag (those are the three letters I chose, but I'm sure that there are other blog posts out there on this subject that will be brought to you by the letters "W", "T", and "F"...) on this one.

The SANS Internet Storm Center picked it up, as well. So did F-Secure, and they have their own technical description here.

So...imagine if you will...not only are you looking over your shoulder with regards to the bad guys and malcode, but now you have to be careful of the legitimate guys, as well. Sony is legitimate, right? What happens if a worm comes out that doesn't have its own rootkit payload (there was a worm for AIM recently that did), but instead looks for the presence of a commercial DRM rootkit, and hides itself that way? What will that worm be called? "W32.SonyPiggyback"?

Face it folks...do a search on SARC for "rootkit" and see how many entries you find over last year. Ouch!

Addendum 3 Nov: I generally try to stay on-track in this space, my blog...keeping on topic with regards to forensic analysis of Windows systems. However, I have to say that Wired really has it wrong. Specifically, "But in our view, the hacker and virus threat is something of a red herring...". Red herring? How so? The article goes on to say, "Sony may even have committed a crime under the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act...".

Wow. The EULA doesn't specifically state that its installing a rootkit, but given the knee-jerk reactions of most folks, is anyone really surprised? After all, it was just last February that Microsoft hit the stage of the RSA Conference, full of sound and fury over rootkits, but signifying nothing. So they bring something that's been around for a while to the forefront of attention...and because Microsoft said it, the media jumps all over it. And guess what? There are even courses you can take in writing rootkits. So...someone in Sony is trying to figure out how to protect their "property", and look what they stumble across.

Should Sony be faulted for what they did...perhaps. Should they be faulted more so than other companies (a company is a business, remember...a real-world construct designed to make money) who've taken "extreme" measures that end up making self-righteous folks indignant?

I'm not making a call on that. What I am concerned about is the number of folks out there who've installed this stuff, and suddenly there are a whole bunch of other files on the system with the same prefix (in this case, "$sys$"). I'm concerned about the first worm that does a check for the Sony stuff...why download your own stealth technology when there's already a perfectly good one on the system.

Okay, enough of that. Brian Krebs picked up on this and blogged...if you have a few minutes, scroll through some of the responses. Maybe you'll feel moved to leave a comment...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Peeking inside Word documents

I was chatting with someone yesterday who asked me where I found the files I used to test the Word Metadata Dumper, and I simply said, "Google."

Yep, that's right...I just Googled for Word documents from the .mil domain, as well as the .gov domain. Wanna know how to search Google for all sorts of other goodies? Check out Johnny Long's web site, or grab a copy of his book on "Google hacking".

Want to get a little up-close-and-personal with someone else, maybe even someone else you don't know? Remember the "Extreme File Sharing" post from Security Fix? I'd tried it and found some of the very same things...files left behind by malware with keylogger capability, etc.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sleuthkit on Windows

Hey, guess what I did last night!! I installed Sleuthkit and Autopsy on Windows XP!

For you Linux and *BSD gurus who felt a nauseating disturbance in the Force...it wasn't that burrito you had...it was me!

Okay, okay...it wasn't just me...I had help.

When I'm working with things on my home systems and looking at forensic analysis, I like to use ProDiscover to grab a dd image of a VMWare session, my thumb drive, etc. As it turns out, I had a 5GB image of an XP Pro system, so I copied that over to the evidence locker and fired up Autopsy. I didn't run completely through many of the things that I could have done, because it would take some time to do so...but as far as the things I did try, they worked great.

Don't have an image of your own to play with? Well, the instructions for installing Sleuthkit and Autopsy on Windows also has instructions for how to image a floppy drive...so, you can entertain and amaze your friends by recovering deleted files! Or, you can go to the Digitial Forensics Tool Testing site and grab an image or two to work with.

My hat's off to Brian Carrier, for having created these tools.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Perl for Forensics

Perl is freely available, and Perl scripts are essentially open source. Perl is used by forensics products such as The Sleuthkit and ProDiscover. Perl is used in the Metasploit framework. Perl is great for automating repetitive tasks, parsing files...and it's free. Perl runs on Windows, most Unices, the Mac, and a plethora of other platforms.

O'Reilly has a ton of books on Perl...from how to program to how to use Perl for a variety of tasks.

So my question is, how useful would a book on using Perl for forensics be to you? Say, a reference tome that discusses:
  • Collecting live/volatile data using Perl
  • Correlating data from multiple sources using Perl
  • Analyzing data, or presenting data for analysis
  • Analyzing file formats (retrieving metadata, etc.)

Obviously, a book like this should include copies of all code used or mentioned in the book. As ProDiscover uses Perl as it's scripting language, a book such as this should also include a variety of "ProScripts". The book should also include not only the files analyzed in the book, but additional example files that the reader can explore and practice on...perhaps even an image of drive to examine.

Is this a book you'd be interested in? If so, what would you like to see? What topics do you think should be covered? How would you envision such a book, particularly as something that you'd pick up off of a shelf at a bookstore and decide to purchase? What do you see as the market for such a book?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

VMWare Playa

As a user of VMWare, I received an email the other day that mentioned a new, free product called the VMWare Player. This is a free product that allows you to play a single VMWare virtual machine on Windows or Linux (rpm and tar versions available for Linux). Very cool. Want to share tools, and other stuff that you may not have been able to share before? Want to try out Windows or Linux, but didn't want to shell out the almost $200 for VMWare Workstation?

VMWare also provides some pre-built virtual machines for you to download. What good is a player if you don't have something to play? One is a browser appliance, which you can use for safer web surfing.

This was also picked up by TaoSecurity, along with some comments from readers of that blog, and a link to a chart showing differences in functionality between the Player and other VMWare products.

Word metadata code posted


I've posted the code that I mentioned in my previous post on Word metadata. This code produces the output seen in the blog entry.

The code is commented, including how to obtain the necessary modules if you're using ActiveState Perl. The PPM commands look like this:

ppm install OLE-Storage
ppm install Startup
ppm install Unicode-Map

Give the code a shot, and let me know what you think. As I said in my earlier post, I'm working on producing a standalone EXE via Perl2Exe, for Windows users.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Yet, even more on Word metadata

While awaiting information on the binary format of shortcut (LNK) files, I decided to try to learn more about structured storage and metadata in Word documents. The best example I've seen of that describes some of the metadata in Word documents is available at the Computerbytesman site, and addresses an issue that Tony Blair's government had a while back. While I was researching my book, Richard Smith was kind enough to share his code for retrieving the last 10 author's for within the Word document with me. Since that time, I've thought about taking another look at the sort of metadata that one can retrieve from within a Word document.

I included a Perl script for retrieving Word metadata with my book. The code is on the CD that accompanies the book, in the code directory for chapter 3. The script is called "meta.pl" and uses the Win32::OLE module to create an instance of Word, and use the API to retrieve metadata. Well, as I've seen with the work that I did on reading Event Log files, the API doesn't always get everything. Also, I've been looking for something a little more platform-independant.

Thanks to Richard Smith, I dug into the OLE::Storage module a bit, and found exactly what I was looking for. First, a quick caveat...the POD for this module, as well as some of the supporting modules, is a bit out of date. However, by using some of the accompanying examples (such as ldat, written by Martin Schwartz, copyright '96-'97) and simply trying some things out, I was able to figure things out. So the script uses that module, and a couple of others...but only after it opens the file in binary mode to retrieve other information from the file.

Okay, on to the output. I started with the Blair document from the Computerbytesman site, and got the same information (I didn't include the VBA Macro information, though). I downloaded a couple of arbitrary Word documents from the Web, via Google, and found some interesting info:

File = d:\cd\wd\04_007.doc
Size = 322560 bytes
Magic = 0xa5ec (Word 8.0)
Version = 193
LangID = English (US)

Document has picture(s).

Document was created on Windows.

Magic Created : MS Word 97
Magic Revised : MS Word 97

Last Author(s) Info
1 : Susan and Shawn Sutherland :
2 : Susan and Shawn Sutherland :
3 : Susan and Shawn Sutherland :
4 : Susan and Shawn Sutherland :
5 : picketb :
6 : padilld :
7 : ONR :
8 : John T. McCain :
9 : horvats :
10 : arbaizd :

Summary Information
Title : I
Subject :
Authress : PICKETB
LastAuth : arbaizd
RevNum : 2
AppName : Microsoft Word 10.0
Created : 08.12.2003, 16:11:00
Last Saved : 08.12.2003, 16:11:00
Last Printed : 08.12.2003, 16:11:00

Document Summary Information
Organization : Office of Naval Research

Pretty cool, eh? Again, I found this document on the web. From my previous post, I asked some folks to send me documents written on the Mac platform, and I received a couple. Here's what the output looks like:

File = d:\cd\wd\ex1.doc
Size = 21504 bytes
Magic = 0xa5ec (Word 8.0)
Version = 193
LangID = English (US)

Document was created on a Mac.
File was last saved on a Mac.

Magic Created : Word 98 Mac
Magic Revised : Word 98 Mac

Last Author(s) Info
1 : : Macintosh HD:Users:name:Desktop:Ex1.doc

Summary Information
Title : The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
Subject :
Authress : name
LastAuth : name
RevNum : 1
AppName : Microsoft Word 10.1
Created : 12.10.2005, 02:51:00
Last Saved : 12.10.2005, 02:58:00
Last Printed :

Document Summary Information
Organization :

Okay, I made a couple of obvious changes, but the point is that there is information within the binary contents of the file information block (FIB) that tells you the platform that a document was created on...for example, if it was created on a Mac, or on a Windows platform. Pretty cool, eh?

So...what do you think? I'll be posting the script soon, along with a couple of other scripts...for example, I'm going to include one that I used for troubleshooting, which simply writes all of the structured storage streams to files on the system. After all, MS describes structured storage as "a file system within a file", so wouldn't you like to see the contents of each of those files? I'm not entirely sure of the usefulness of this with regards to forensic analysis, but someone might find it useful.

An offshoot of all this involves the MergeStreams application (here's something I found at UTulsa) that I've used in some of my presentations. This application allows you to merge an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document, resulting in a much larger, but otherwise unchanged Word doc. However, if you change the resulting file's extension to ".xls", and double-click on it, you'll see the entire, unmodified contents of the spreadsheet. This is due to the streams being merged, and handled by the appropriate application (no, this is not steganography!!). Whenever I've presented on this, I've been asked how this sort of thing can be detected, and up until now, the only solutions I've been able to come up with have include the use of 'strings' and 'find'. With this module, however, you can dump the names of the streams from an OLE document, and if you see a stream named "Workbook" inside a Word document, you can be pretty sure that you've got an embedded document. This is a more accurate method than using 'strings'.

I'll be releasing the scripts soon...there are a couple of things I need to clean up, and I'm having a small issue with the compiled EXE version of the main script (above) that I'm trying to clear up.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Recent rootkit news

I hope you weren't expecting things to stand still...

This past Monday, F-Secure had an entry in their blog about a custom version of Hacker Defender. In this case, "custom" means "private commercial", meaning that someone paid for a specific version of the rootkit. And don't think for an instant that this is the only one...there are other rootkit authors who do the very same thing.

According to the F-Secure blog entry, the version of the rootkit has anti-detection mechanisms. Specifically, it detects modern rootkit detectors via their binary signature, and if it does find one of the detectors, it can modify itself or the detector. F-Secure says that the most recent version of their BlackLight product can detect this rootkit.

This brings up something I saw over on the Incidents.org blog. Handler Patrick Nolan posted an entry about rootkits that run even in safe mode. Yes, that's right...when you try to boot your computer in safe mode (here's the description of Safe Mode for Windows 2000) so that certain Registry keys aren't parsed, such as autostart locations, the rootkit will still launch. Check out this description from Symantec (btw...take a look at everything that last bit of malware does...).

The Registry key you're interested in is:


On a side note, Autoruns has been updated to v8.22, and includes new functionality. I've run it on my system, and it doesn't seem to check the SafeBoot key mentioned above. However, when running your cases and parsing the Registry files from an image, be sure to add this one this one to your list of keys to check. Remember, though...on an image, the correct path would be "ControlSet00x", rather than "CurrentControlSet".

Addendum 14 Oct: I caught an interesting item on the Spire Security ViewPoint blog this morning...there's a link to a VNUNet article (ZDNet's version) that mentions three guys in the Netherlands who got busted with a 'botnet army of 100K nodes/zombies. The bots were evidently W32.ToxBot, which Symantec states has "0-49" infections. In all fairness, though, Symantec's definition of "number of infections" is "Measures the number of computers known to be infected". This leads me over to a post on the TaoSecurity blog about digital security, and the differences between the real, "analog" world and the indicators of engineering failures, and those in the digital world. I can't imagine that all 100K of the zombies infected with W32.ToxBot were simply home user systems. It's entirely possible that many of them were academic and corporate systems...and in the case of the corporate systems, someone should have realized that something was going on.

I've dealt with incidents in the past in which admin machines were infected. When I was the security admin at a financial services company, I had a script that would pull down the most recent IIS 4.0 web server logs from a system that we had (and that I'd locked down, in part by removing all but the necessary script mappings) and parse out the other-than-ordinary entries. Over the course of a couple of days, I noticed Nimda scans from the same IP address. So, I did a lookup of the IP space to see who owned it, and in the end, I got lucky. The infected system was owned by the administrator, who was also the technical contact for the domain. I talked to him via the phone...he stated that he didn't realize that he'd had a web server on his system, and didn't know that his system was infected with Nimda (had been for several days), but once he started receiving calls (mine wasn't the first), he really had no idea what do to about it.

Okay...back to our little 'bot. Take a look at the Symantec write-up for the 'bot, in particular these items:
  • Installs as a service, and oddly enough, it actually writes a description for the service, as well
  • Besides the Registry keys for the service, it adds entries under "Control\SafeBoot\Minimal" and "Control\SafeBoot\Network" so that it is initiated even if the system is booted to Safe Mode
  • It looks for the "HKLM\Software\VMware" key, and doesn't run if it finds it (Note: this same technique was used in SotM 32)

Nothing in the write-up indicates the use of rootkit capabilities, but from the capabilities this bot does have...wow. How much harder would it have been for normal admins to detect it if it did have rootkit capabilities (ie, the use of rdriv.sys, for example)?

CA's write up on the ToxBot family

Addendum 21 Oct: VNUNet posted an article 2 days ago, announcing that rootkit creators have gone professional, selling custom versions of their software. While "creators" is plural, there is only one such rootkit announced in the article. This was /.'d, as well. Contrary to what the author of the article would have you believe, this is NOT new.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More on Word Metadata

This past summer, I gave a couple of presentations, one that covered file metadata. I got to thinking...I've parsed Event Log files and Registry files in binary format...why not do the same with Word documents and see what else is in there besides what the MS API is telling me? After all, a particular value that references "hidden" data may be set to 0 (or 0x0000), but the actual data itself may still be there.

Remember the issue with Blair's gov't? When I found this, I tried using the MS API (via OLE) to retrieve the metadata concerning the last 10 authors of the file, and I simply could not get it to work. However, Richard Smith had no trouble doing so.

I started looking around and found the MS Word 97 binary file format (BFF) (here in HTML). I haven't had any trouble parsing the file information block, but what I am having a bit of trouble doing is locating the beginning of the table stream. Many of the values I'm interested in are listed as "offset in the table stream", indicating (to me, anyway) that the offset is from the beginning of the table stream.

If anyone has any information on this, I'd greatly appreciate some help with this.

Also, for testing/verification purposes, I was wondering if anyone out there with a Mac would do me a favor and create a couple of simple Word documents on that platform, zip them up, and send them to me. Some of the metadata within the Word document tells you whether the file was created or revised on a Mac. When you send the files, if you could specify the platform and version numbers (of the os and the application), I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Perl Programming on Windows

Let's see a show of hands for everyone out there who uses programs Perl on Windows systems. Okay, thank you...please put your hands down. Now, how many of you use Perl to manage Windows systems? Okay, thank you very much.

Now...how many of you want to use Perl to manage your systems?

Whether you're an experienced Perl programmer and not familiar with Windows, or you're a Windows admin and don't know much about Perl, let me the first to tell you...Perl is a very powerful tool that you can learn to use, and use to harness your infrastructure.

Books like Learning Perl and Learning Perl on Win32 Systems will get you started. Even Advanced Perl Programming and Perl for System Administration can help. Dave Roth's books and web site can help. But to really get into the guts of what you can do, you need to (in the words of Nike), just do it.

At it's simplest, Perl can be used to automate tasks. Using Perl, you can create a Scheduled Task that reports certain information and has it waiting and available when the sysadmin comes in in the morning. Throw in a little error checking, and you will have reports on why some things may not have completed successfully...like systems being turned off, services not being available, etc. What would you like to do? Run nmap? Not a problem. Run it against your systems first thing in the morning, or over lunch, and have the output written to a file on your system. Once that's done, use Nmap::Parser to sort through the data and create reports. Great for sysadmins, pen testers, and security analysts running vulnerability assessments.

Perl can be used to implement WMI, and collect information from managed systems. Many of the tools I have available on my web site implement WMI. Using WMI, you can scan remote systems for processes, services, and even perform software inventory scanning from a continent away. Or how about reaching out across the country to locate rogue WAPs via managed Windows XP systems?

Perl is a very powerful tool that can harnessed to automate a wide variety of tasks performed by sysadmins, as well as security analysts. Data collection and parsing, as well as some modicum of analysis, can all be easily automated. Some of the things I use Perl for include:
  • Retrieve data from deep within the local system, or from remote systems
  • Parse binary files, based on structure documentation, knowing what each DWORD means, etc. (ie, PE header analysis, Event Log and Registry parsing, etc.)
  • Retrieve metadata from files (ie, Word/Excel docs, JPGs, PDF files, Prefetch files, etc.)
  • Querying service information
  • Data correlation across multiple sources (ie, Registry, files, etc.)
  • Automation of information discovery in ProDiscover IR
A side effect of all this is that you end up learning how Windows systems function by themselves, as well as within a domain. If you're automating a task, you end up learning a great deal about the task and the issue that the task addresses, as well.

If this is something you're interested in, drop me a line, post a comment, etc.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Book Report

I haven't blogged in a while, and I came across something worth blogging about. While I don't have the actual numbers in front of me, I've received word from my publisher that my book has only shipped 3500 copies domestically since it was published in July, 2004. From the numbers I received in April of this year, 3055 of those copies were in the first couple of months.

So what does this mean? I have no idea at this point, other than it doesn't seem to be enough justify another book. That's right...given all the material I've produced in the 15 or so months since the first book was published, I've already started putting another book together - an advanced version of the first one, with more technical, detailed information.

The last bit I got from the publisher is that it's up to me to find out what you, the readers, want in another book in order to get the final, published product to move off of the shelves. From what you've told me so far, it just about amounts to incident response war stories, case studies, and maybe even challenges you can work through. All that I can do...but again, it really doesn't sound promising.

I guess I need to start looking around for another avenue for publication. Fortunately, I got one good pointer at lunch today that I need to follow up on...

Addendum 5 Oct: I thought maybe I should give a brief description of what I was looking to provide in the next book. I wasn't planning for my next effort to be a second edition of the first...rather, my thought was to use the first as a stepping stone and launch off into a more advanced effort. I'd like to go more deeply into actual forensic analysis, with the focus being on analysis. Too many times, I've read papers and books that talk about analysis, and for the most part will only go so far as to say "run this tool, and if you see this in the output, something may be amiss..." I'd like to address data correlation and analysis, across the board...use multiple sources of information (i.e., file system, Registry, Event Log, etc.) to build out as complete a view of the issue as possible. I think that the best way to do that is to present the information, and then present examples via live case studies. This book would be interspersed with "war stories", case studies, and examples. I'd also like to include challenges, and exercises for the reader to work. This one would cover both live and post-mortem analysis.

If you've followed this blog, you're familiar with some of what's going to appear in the book...the tools I've released, things I've mentioned here (with more detailed research and analysis) will all be part of the book.

What do you think of something like this? Is this a pipe dream, or is it something you'd like to have on your reference shelf?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Remote Forensics System

I was grabbing some tools from the Foundstone tonight, for a presentation I'm working on, when I ran across something called the "Remote Forensics System". That sounded very interesting, so I Googled it and found a PDF at the Foundstone site that describes the RFS.

I read through the document and found a lot of very good information. In fact, I was envious...to be a grad student again, and have the time to do this kind of work [heavy sigh]. At least part of the system runs on the JRE, and they've incorporated triggers in to the overall system, so that if something pops up on the IDS, for example, data will be automatically retrieved from systems. Cool!

I'll need to read through the document again to get some idea of how the data collected is actually analyzed. However, it does sound like a great idea! My hat's off to Chris Prosise, listed in the Acknowledgements as the advisor.

Imagine my surprise when I found the Forensic Server Project mentioned in section 5 of the document! Wow! Someone actually went by the site and took a look at what I'd done. Unfortunately, the bibliography

System Clock

Recently, a post in a public forum appeared, asking about how to verify the accuracy of the system clock. That got me to thinking...how do you verify the accuracy of the system clock, given nothing more than an image of a Windows system?

I decided to start some of my own research, and to post in other lists to see what others were doing. I received several responses, but most have been along the lines of:
  • Completely missing the part about an "image"
  • Using email headers
Now, these responses aren't bad, because they do point out something very important...that there really isn't any set way to establish the accuracy of the system clock, based solely on the contents of an image. The use of email headers does, however, assume that the intermediate systems that stamp the email have accurate system clocks...something I wouldn't be willing to bet on.

So I set about performing my own experiments to see what happened. First, I ran InControl5 to baseline my system. When the baseline was complete, I double-clicked the time display on the far right of my Task Bar, and that opened the "Date and Time Properties" window, which is essentially the timedate.cpl Control Panel applet. I modified the system time, clicked "OK", then ran the second half of the InControl5 process.

Viewing the results, I ran across a couple of interesting things. First off, the following UserAssist key had been updated.


I ran my "uassist.pl" Perl script to translate the values under this key, and found "timedate.cpl". Unfortunately, this key doesn't maintain its values along with an MRU list, so we don't know which was the last value, and therefore, the LastWrite time of the key is of little value to us.

When I actually opened the Control Panel and double-clicked the "Date and Time" applet, another entry occurred in the above UserAssist key...specifically, "UEME_RUNCPL:"C:\WINDOWS\system32\timedate.cpl",Date and Time".

Since I'm on an XP system, I thought I'd take a look in the Prefetch directory and see if there were any tidbits lurking around. Well, the thought didn't simply occur to me...the output of InControl5 told me that the file named "Rundll32.exe-randomstuff.pf" had been changed in some way. Knowing that rundll32.exe is a legit MS app, and that it's used to run things like Control Panel applets, I opened the .pf file in BinText and found Unicode strings that referenced timedate.cpl and w32time.dll, amongst other things.

All this is fine, in that it gives us clues, but I don't think that it's all that definitive. Another place to look, however, is in the Event Log. Specifically, within the Security Event Log there may be an event ID 520 (Category is "System Event") that states that the system time was changed, and includes the username, previous time, and new time. Very helpful!

Barring that (pretty definitive, isn't it??), there may be discrepancies in the actual times associated with the event records themselves. For example, if an event record with a higher number (more recent event) has a generated or written time that's before a previous event, then you may be on to something.

So far, many of the responses I've seen have said something along the lines of "look at your watch when you're standing in front of the system, before you unplug it and image it"...but, like I said, answers like that sort of miss the point of the question.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Every now and again, I poke my head up for a breath of fresh air and a look around...and I wonder if others face the same issues and challenges I do. For example, knowing where to look during forensic analysis for information relevant to the case at hand.

So, my question to all of you out there is this...what issues do you face? What things do you see, need more information/documentation about? What are the things during a case (or just after you've completed one) that leave you wondering? What are those things that would make great research projects?

Sometimes, those things you are wondering about may already have been solved, addressed, or encountered by someone else.

Please feel free to post a comment here, or email me directly...which ever works. If you email me, I might post your idea, but I won't use your name without your consent.

Addendum 28 Sept: Well, I've received a single email so far in response to this post, and the ideas are (a) case studies, and (b) challenges. I'll see what I can do about posting both, but I'm sure that it would be extremely beneficial to hear from others.

Besides the usual suspects that provide forensic challenges (ie, HoneyNet, DFRWS), there are others available. Try TigerTools (the page has links to three different challenges; Feb, March, and July). I'm sure there are others...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Some way cool visualization stuff

F-Secure has a way cool visualization presentation on the Bagle worm...check it out. Scroll down to the Fri, 23 Sept entry entitled, "A different look at Bagle". Very cool.

I know that there are visualization tools available for social network analysis. Raytheon's SilentRunner (who owns it now??) uses n-gram analysis to build context and create a basis for it's mapping, and is very interesting. I wonder if the above malware visualization will eventually include details of the actual functions themselves...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Creating a timeline analysis tool

I'm not a DBA, and I don't play one on TV. So when it comes to writing a timeline analysis tool, I'm not going to be able to do it myself. But here's what I propose...

I'm most comfortable on Windows platforms, and I know folks that prefer Linux, so that's cool. I know that there are people out there who are familiar with databases, and others that are good graphics programmers. What I'd like to see about doing is opening a project on SourceForge, and see if we can't get a decent start on developing a solution. Here's how I envision it going...and please keep in mind that this isn't the be-all-and-end-all, just my impressions:
  • Identify data sources (we've already gotten started with this, but we don't have to be restricted to Windows systems)
  • Identify data sets (data source/log normalization, etc.)
  • Identify a database format, using mySql (table definitions, etc.)
  • Identify and create a graphic component for presenting the data sets
So...here's what I think we need...and please feel free to weigh in here...we'll need someone to take responsibility for the database structure. I think I remember some good install instructions for mySql on Windows - if anyone knows of a resource that's not from the mySql site, please let me know. I do think that the database is pretty important...even if the actual graphic representation of the data never really comes to fruition, at least we'll have a good structure for a single structure to analyze the actual data.

As far as the graphics programming goes, I'm not really sure where to go with that one. Would it be better to go with some of the stuff that's already out there, or create something new with Java or some other cross-platform solution?

So...who's interested? If I get enough interest, I'll go ahead and see about creating a project on SourceForge. Like I said, I can provide various means of extracting the data. For example, most of my Perl scripts that parse raw binary files from Windows can be made cross-platform, and easily modified to dump the information into a database. I can also write the necessary scripts for ProDiscover. Providing solutions to pull data from a source and populate the database is something that will be on-going, I'm sure.

Now, there's no doubt in my mind that this sort of project will take a while...if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I don't expect it to be done overnight. However, I would like to see it get done, b/c I do think that it would be extremely useful to a lot of people.


Addendum: I just did a search on SourceForge for "timeline" and there are several projects listed, but most don't have anything more than a simple page...no project files, nothing. There are some projects with files, but I'm not entirely sure that they'd be suitable.

However, there is something promising...check out the Timeline view of GenealogyJ. My concern would be the volume of data, but it does look like a good start.

Also, my hope is that this will be compartmentalized...meaning that the graphics component won't be database-dependant. That way, there can be several different interfaces for presenting the data, and they can develop over time.

ISC Rootkit Discovery

This post appeared on the Incidents.org (ISC) blog two days ago, and is a very interesting read. The handler, Tom Liston, who works with Ed Skoudis over at IntelGuardians, writes the post in a humorous, Ian Fleming-esque style.

Take a look at the section marked "A view to a kill". Here, Tom mentions a couple of .sys files that seem to be a rootkit. I've run across this before...specifically a file named "rdriv.sys".

Tom's write-up in the final section of the post that describes what actions the malware takes on a system is very interesting, and an excellent read. The one big thing I took away from all this is that the good guys really need to get off their butts and start sharing information like this...tools, techniques, what's been found, etc. This needs to really start happening, because the bad guys are obviously doing it...and doing it much better than the good guys. It's pretty clear that the bad guys are moving away from the old days of "hacking" and writing malware as pranks, and this sort of activity is now driven, at least in part, by economics and financial gain.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


I've started to see that this issue of "timeline analysis" really isn't one of getting data as much as it is one of visualization. Graphically representing data in some manner for presention it to the audience, can be very powerful. It's been said that a "picture is worth a thousand words", and in many cases, this is true. So, the question becomes, how does one best present a timeline of activity on a system?

For starters, let's simply consider any system. One would hope that any solution would provide for mulitple systems, with the Windows host-based data sources having been covered in previous posts. We could incorporate firewall logs, logs from other systems, syslog, etc., all under the same case heading. There would need to be some sort of normalization process, of course, before the data was incorporated into a database. Along these lines, I'd met with the MountainWave folks many moons ago, in a previous life (...once, in a galaxy far, far away...), before they were purchased by Symantec. Their CyberWolf product was pretty cool, and performed normalization of logs, in a manner similar to what I'm referring to here.

Okay...so once you've populated your database, what next? Ah, yes...queries.

For presenting your data, there are many freeware visualization toolkits available, such as VTK, OpenDX, and GraphViz...but how useful are these...really? Well, GraphViz may have some potential.

One of the commercial tools I've been told is being used is CaseMap from CaseSoft. From what I've been told, though, getting the data into CaseMap can be almost as much of a manual process as Analyst's Notebook. A caveat, though...I haven't worked a great deal with either of these products, so I don't know if the issue of manually entering data is one of operator error or not.

This is all still kind of up in the air...how do you present the data? I think that culling information from a database and presenting a scalable view is still a viable option. The analyst can choose a date and time, and the tool will provide a zoomable view of the data, much in the same way as when you do a search on

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cross-platform scripts

I've heard back from one or two people who've run the lsevt.pl, lsreg.pl, and regp.pl scripts I posted a bit ago. For the most part, I've heard pretty positive comments...things have worked well for most folks. The scripts seem to work just fine so far, regardless of the operating system they're run on...as long as it's running on an x86 processor. Yep, you guessed it...endianness is an issue.

However, one astute user was running the scripts on a G5 (PPC processor) and let me know that if you change the arguments of the unpack() function, the scripts work just fine, regardless of which microprocessor they're run on. The change comes in replacing all of the "S" (short, WORD, 2 bytes) and "L" (long, DWORD, 4 bytes) with "v" and "V", respectively. So, take the regp.pl script for example...in the _getNodeType() subroutine, you'll see:

return unpack("S",$record);

Change that to:

return unpack("v", $record);

In the readNkRecord() subroutine, you'll find:

my (@recs) = unpack("SSL3LLLLLLLLLL4LSS",$record);

Change that to:

my (@recs) = unpack("vvV3VVVVVVVVVV4Vvv",$record);

I won't be making these changes to the scripts myself...at least not right away. However, I am working on another book, so I will include those changes in the scripts before I add them to the CD.

Issues with timeline analysis

I've been doing some searches regarding timeline analysis, delving deeper into this. I still don't think that scatter plots and histograms are the way to report on and present this sort of information...there is just too much information that can and needs to be presented, and too many possible ways that it can be viewed.

In my Googling, I'm finding a good deal of references to "timeline analysis", as well as to the term "reconstruction". A lot of this is being offered as a service. There are also products available that can assist you in your timeline development and analysis, but many seem to be limited strictly to file MAC times. Given the various sources for timeline analysis that are available on a Windows system, relying simply on the file MAC times is not doing anyone any good.

So, I think that we're doing pretty well when considering sources of information, and now the question is, how do we present this information so that it's understandable? Is there an "access view" that looks at last access times of files, where a "modified view" would look at last modification times of files, as well as Registry key LastWrite times? What about things like times maintained in the document properties of OLE docs (ie, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, etc.)? At what point is there too much information? How does one winnow out the valid, normal, usual stuff to get to the interesting stuff?

There's definitely some room for thought and development here. At this point, my thoughts are that there there'd be some sort of database involved, along with perhaps a Java interface for issuing queries and displaying the information. I haven't written Java GUIs in while, but perhaps a zoomable, scalable depiction of a timeline would be a good start...the investigator could pick a time of interest, and the initial queries would display a view of the timeline of activity, plus and minus a certain amount of time (determined by the investigator). Perhaps an interface into the database that shows which information is available, and lets the investigator select items to add and subtract from the view would be helpful. Add to that color coding of event records from the Event Log, and some other graphical representations of severity of events, and we may have something useful.

I mentioned Java above so that the whole thing would be cross-platform, but I can easily see where HTML or XML would work as well. With a mySql database, and the necessary filters to parse out any sort of information that is available to the investigator and get it into the database, I think we may have a pretty serious tool on our hands.

Thoughts? I know for my own part, I still have a lot of thinking to do, regarding such things as anomoly detection and anti-forensics. However, I think that this may be best handled by discussion within the community.

Addendum 21 Sept: As I think about this more and more, and even go so far as to draw out diagrams on a sheet of paper, trying to conceptualize what a "timeline" should look like, I'm even more convinced that a scatter plot isn't the way to go. Why? Well, a horizontal line (representing a time scale) with a bunch of little dots is meaningless...it has no context. Even if you gave different sources separate icons, and even color-coded them, without more information, it can be useless. Let's say you have a cluster of events around a particular time...Registry key LastWrite times, file last access times, and event records. Well, this could be a boot event. But you don't know that until you dig into things and take a look at the event records from the Event Logs.

Somehow I think that a scatter plot in which each of the dots has some identifying information would be just too much...the graph would be far too busy.

Something that may be of value in this effort is something like fe3d. Yes, I know that it's intended to provide visualization for nmap scans, but I think that something like this, with modifications, would be of value. Take a look at some of the screenshots and try to imagine how to map timeline information to this sort of representation. Of course, there are other freeware visualization tools out there...something else may be easier to use.

I will say this...one of the things that caught my eye with fe3d is the different nodes. Given information dumped into a database, one could include sources from other systems, such as Event Log records from a file server, or data from an IDS, or even firewall logs or syslog data...and have that timeline information represented on a different node, but correlated at the same time scale as the system(s) you're investigating.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sources for timeline analysis

I just wanted to take a moment and list out some of the sources for timeline analysis on a Windows system:
  • MAC file times
  • Registry key LastWrite times
  • Event Logs
  • Other logs (ie, setupapi.log, schedlgU.txt, etc.)
  • INFO2 files

Are there any other sources that should be added?

On a side note, does anyone have any credible/supported information regarding which Registry key maintains the audit policy? This may be something that's very important to check.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Timeline analysis

I've blogged about different forms of analysis in the past, and thought I'd take a look at timeline analysis. I had an opportunity to dig around in EnCase v5.0 recently and noticed a nice graphical timeline visualization tool. Very cool. This would have been helpful in a recent situation, had the issue been with filetimes, and not Registry key LastWrite times.

I know that the TimeLine view is not a new feature for EnCase...I simply haven't had to get really deeply involved in using EnCase in a while. However, lsevt.pl and regp.pl. These scripts parse the Windows Event Log and Registry files, respectively. Lsevt.pl contains instructions within the comments for the code for formatting the output in semi-colon-delimited format, suitable for opening in Excel. Let's say we did that, and then sorted everything on the column with the "Time Generated" field from the event records. Then we could do easy (albiet non-graphical) analysis of events that occurred at a certain time.

The regp.pl script doesn't do this specifically, but minor modifications to the file will print out only the key name and LastWrite times, in semi-colon- or comma-delimited format. Again, open the file in Excel, sort on the LastWrite time column, etc.

I think that it would be interesting to have a tool that does all of that, don't you? One that presents a timeline in a spreadsheet or graphical format, but incorporates not only file/directory MAC times, but Registry key LastWrite times, Event Log event record "time generated" times, etc. Being able to trace back to a specific date and time that, say, a file was created on the system, you might see the progression of files installed, Registry keys created, etc., as well as any preceeding events, such a failed login attempts to an Admin-level account, etc.

Addendum 17 Sept: The more I think about it, the more I find that I'm not really sure what I mean when I say "timeline analysis". I received an email from someone that pointed out limitations in Excel (i.e., the number of lines it could handle) and recommending that I look at gnuplot. That's good information, but how useful is it, really? Think about it. A colorful histogram might be nice, but what does it tell me?

When I've had to use timeline analysis of some sort, I've had a date in mind...usually from a complaint or incident report. In some cases, I've noticed "interesting" events that occurred around the same time, such as the LastWrite time on the Registry key for a service called "rdriv.sys". At that point, what I'd like to be able to do is (a) get a snapshot of everything else that occurred around that time...file changes, other Registry keys, events from the Event Log, etc....within a pretty immediate time frame (within seconds), (b) get another snapshot, but with a bit wider scope (hours, maybe less than a day), and (c) "interesting" events that occurred following the initial event.

In my mind, I'm not entirely sure that this is something that is suitable, particularly during the initial phase of the investigation, to be displayed in a candlestick or even a histogram plot. In some cases, I think it would be way too messy. In others, I'm not sure that sorting on groupings of activities or concentrations of events would be necessarily informative, either...you'd see events like reboots.

Don't get me wrong, though...I do think that perhaps something like gnuplot would be useful in the presentation phase of the investigation. During the investigation, a plot of the frequency of certain types of events, such as failed login attempts, network logins, or of the types of queries to appear in IIS logs, would be useful, I think.

With the glut of files on a Windows system, one would need some method for winnowing the wheat from the chaff. Any sort of plot you do based on the last accessed time of a file, looking for the "bad things" will likely be hidden behind the noise of all of the "normal things" that go on on a system.

So...at this point, my thoughts are along these lines...some sort of database will need to be used in order to facilitate searching...I'm thinking mySql. At this point, I'm not entirely sure what kind of table structure would be most useful, but I do have an idea of the data that would need to go into the database. From files, you'd want things like full path, MAC times, hashes, file version information (useful in narrowing down searches to all non-MS files), file signature status (i.e., pass or fail), any alternate data streams, etc. I think I'd want to populate the database with information from Event Logs, and other logs on the system...schedlogu.txt, IIS logs, setupapi.log, etc. Of course, I'd also want to include Registry key LastWrite times, as well.

Once all this information was in the database, I'd start with some sort of default search queries that allow the investigator to target specific dates and look for anything "interesting" within certain windows of time, around the target event. I don't see simply having a dot showing a file change, or a number representing how many files changed, as useful. For me, I'd have to see which files changed, by name and location, as well as Registry keys that may have changed just prior to or immediately following those file changes/additions. I think that used in combination with the file hashes and versioning information, something like this might be very useful to investigators, and help in narrowing down the time it takes to find "interesting" events.

Addendum 19 Sept: I received the following email over the weekend: "I've long desired a consolidated timeline view of "what happened on this box and when". The filesystem MAC times tell a big part of the story, and now with your perl scripts, I can add two more important pieces of events and registry key writes. In a single view, I can see "DCOM service unexpectedly restarted, file backdoor.exe was created, and the CurrentVersion\Run key was last written". That is powerful!"

Combining MAC times with Event Logs, Registry key LastWrite times, and other log resources, along with explanations (ie, what the Event Log entries mean) would be a pretty valuable source of information, wouldn't it?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Not your everyday Perl on Windows

I program Perl. I program Perl on Windows systems. My Perl scripts don't usually do general stuff like file manipulation; ie, open a file containing lines of text, read in the lines, sort/manipulate the lines in some manner.

I've written scripts the implement the Windows Management Interface (WMI), and the Windows Driver Model (WDM).

I've written scripts that open and parse files in binary mode; ie, the Registry and Event Log files, as well as PE headers.

I've written scripts that use the Perl API, or directly access the Windows API, and I've completely bypassed the Windows API all together.

I'm not an expert...I see myself simply as trying really hard. And I find myself wondering if others want to see what I've done...not just the code, but the process I've gone through.

Is this something others are interested in seeing? If so, in what format?

Offline Registry parser on Linux

I thought I'd post this, as I found it pretty interesting...

I got some feedback from someone who'd used the offline Registry parsing script...he told me that it worked well for him. What was interesting to me was that he was running the script in Perl v5.8.4, on Debian Stable, with kernel 2.6.5 for the i686 architecture.

He pulled down the script, and copied some Registry files over from a Windows VMWare session, and things worked fine.

Wow. That's great feedback! And positive, too.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rewriting the MS API

I've released lsevt.pl, a Perl script that I developed to parse through raw Event Log files. As I mentioned in my GMU2005 presentation on the subject of Event Log files, I had one instance in which parsing through an Event Log file manually revealed a "hidden" event record, one not seen by the MS API.

I released my initial script earlier, but it was proof-of-concept, and I received requests to complete the script and return all available information from the event records. So I added parsing of the event source, computername, message strings, data, etc.

To run the script, simply pass in the path to the Event Log file that you're interested in, and redirect the output to a file:

C:\Perl>perl lsevt.pl c:\windows\system32\config\sysevent.evt > sys.log

An example of the output that the script generates is:

Record Number : 10876
Source : Service Control Manager
Computer Name : ENDER
Event ID : 7036
Event Category: 0
Time Generated: Tue Aug 2 02:12:25 2005
Time Written : Tue Aug 2 02:12:25 2005
Message Str : iPod Service stopped

Record Number : 10877
Source : EventLog
Computer Name : ENDER
Event ID : 6006
Event Category: 0
Time Generated: Tue Aug 2 02:12:31 2005
Time Written : Tue Aug 2 02:12:31 2005
Message Data : ff 00 00 00

I've included directions in the script itself for those who prefer the output in a semi-colon delimited format, suitable for opening in Excel.

As always, I hope someone finds this useful.

Memory dumps revisited

A while back, I blogged on Memory Collection and Analysis. Since then, the results of the DRFWS Memory Challenge have been posted, and the results look promising. I haven't had a chance to work with either of the tools, as they don't seem to be available, but they do look interesting.

John H. Sawyer has commented in his blog. One of his more interesting comments, with regards to the MS Debugging Tools, is, "The tools weren't intuitive, I'm not a programmer and you have to have the machine preconfigured to make the dump that the debugging tools can read. LAME!" I think that his sentiment sums up the issue quite nicely...most of the folks using the MS Debugging Tools likely aren't programmers, haven't had the opportunity to work with and learn how to use the tools, and simply haven't configured their systems to use the MS tools...which, like any tool, has it's own inherent strengths and weaknesses.

It does look as if this issue is taking a step in the right direction...we'll see how useful this sort of thing is as long as the tools remain private.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Updated Registry parsing tool

Well, this isn't so much an update as it is a modification. I've released lsreg.pl, a Perl script that allows the administrator/investigator to search raw Registry files (ie, NTUSER.DAT, system32\config\SYSTEM, system32\config\SOFTWARE) for specific keys and values.

The Perl script takes two arguments...the path to the raw Registry file, and the path to the file containing the keys/values you're looking for. An example of the output is:

Key -> CurrentControlSet\Control\Windows\ShutdownTime
LastWrite : Tue Aug 2 12:06:56 2005
Value : ShutdownTime;REG_BINARY;c4 96 a0 ad 5a 97 c5 01

Key -> Select
LastWrite : Wed Feb 23 09:37:25 2000
Value :Current;REG_DWORD;1
Value :Default;REG_DWORD;1
Value :Failed;REG_DWORD;0
Value :LastKnownGood;REG_DWORD;2

Key -> Setup
LastWrite : Tue Apr 29 21:33:53 2003
Value :SetupType;REG_DWORD;0
Value :SystemSetupInProgress;REG_DWORD;0
Value :CmdLine;REG_MULTI_SZ;setup -newsetup -mini
Value :SystemPrefix;REG_BINARY;d2 03 00 00 00 00 39 80
Value :SystemPartition;REG_SZ;\Device\HarddiskVolume1
Value :OsLoaderPath;REG_SZ;\
Value :CloneTag;REG_MULTI_SZ;Wed Feb 23 01:44:25 2000

The script uses no MS APIs (so basically, I rewrote the API), but instead parses the Registry files in binary mode. Notice that the output includes the LastWrite time of the keys. If a key is being searched for, the script returns all of the values in that key, if there are any. If a value is being searched for, the script returns the value and data, if found.

As always, comments and questions are welcome.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Windows Registry as a Forensic Resource

The subject article is now online at ScienceDirect. I wrote this article back in July. In the article, I walk through some of the basics of the Registry and its structure, and then get into where the investigator can look in the Registry for certain information that may help with a case.

Besides addressing autostart locations, the article also discusses Registry entries that pertain to USB removable storage devices and the key/values that contain information on wireless SSIDs that the system has connected to.

Comments are welcome and appreciated.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Updated offline Registry parsing script

I've updated the offline Registry parsing script...it's here. The updates include:
  • Cleaner, more modular code
  • Better documentation of the code
  • Better handling of binary data types
  • Translation (i.e., "decrypting" Rot-13 encoding) of UserAssist Registry key value names
The zipped archive also contains a JPEG image of a PPT slide I put together to shed some light on how the raw Registry files are architected. There's no explanation or description with the image, so if you have some questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line.

To run the script, simply use a command-line similar to this:

C:\Perl>perl regp.pl [path to Reg file] > regp.log

For example, I have a couple of raw Registry files in C:\reg, so my command line looks like:

C:\Perl>perl regp.pl C:\reg\software > regp.log

As with the earlier version, this file is also easily compiled into a stand-alone executable for Windows systems.

Be forewarned...this script will take a while when being run against the "Software" file...the one that holds the HKLM\Software hive. This is due in part to the fact that the Classes key is HUGE!

The next step for me with this project is to complete a script that will allow the investigator to search for arbitrary Registry keys and values. It's been challenging so far, but I've got a pretty good handle on it, so hopefully I'll be able to post something soon.

A couple of final notes...
1. Testing has been limited, as I have only a limited number of VMWare images to pull test files from.

2. This script is intended for raw Registry files (ie, system32\config\software, system32\config\system, ntuser.dat) from NT/2K/XP/2K3 systems.

3. I haven't tested this script on Linux systems, because I don't have regular, unimpeded access to such systems. I am trying to get some things tested on a Mac, but that's someone elses machine.

4. If things don't work as expected, please feel free to let me know. When you do that, though, please give me as much info as you can. I received on email from someone who said that things "looked wonky"...I have no idea what that is. Can you send me the output file, and maybe post the file you ran the script against somewhere (i.e., on a web or FTP site??)? That would be helpful in troubleshooting.


USB device descriptors and serial numbers

Whenever I've talked about USB storage devices and their serial numbers, someone always seems to ask me, "If I have an image of a thumb drive, can I find the serial number somewhere in the image?"

My answer to this question has been, "Why not go back and take a look at the image with a hex editor...or at least, say, the first megabyte of the image, and tell me if you find the serial number listed?" After all, you can see if a USB device has a serial number (and if so, what it is) using tools like UVCView. Well, so far, I haven't received any email from someone who's done this, so I started taking a look into this myself.

The answer to the question is simply, "No." The reason for this answer is that the device descriptor is usually stored in EPROM, Flash, or some form of ROM, and is not read when the device is imaged using tools like 'dd'. Generally speaking, you wouldn't want to allow the device descriptor to be modified, as a user could alter some of the data, causing an incorrect driver to be loaded, and the device could potentially then be unusable.

Therefore, I'd like to make a suggestion to law enforcement (and everyone else) when it comes to imaging USB storage devices. Make sure that you have a tool like UVCView (or whatever is suitable or available for your platform) on hand as part of your imaging kit, and copy the device descriptor from the device as part of the imaging process.

One of the elements of the device descriptor is the vendor ID, which is assigned by the fine folks at USB.org. This information can be used in a manner similar to the first couple of octets of a MAC address; ie, to identify the vendor of the product.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Upcoming Speaking Engagement

I received word this weekend that I will be presenting at the DoD Cyber Crime Conference 2006 in Palm Harbor, FL, in Jan 2006. I will be presenting a case study, a walk-through of an investigation that takes place on a Windows system. I will be basically tying a couple of my previous presentations (i.e., "The Windows Registry as a Forensics Resource", "Tracking USB Storage Devices on Windows Systems", etc.) together with some "practical" application.

The agenda for the 2005 conference looks pretty interesting, with a good deal of emphasis on LEO-type information (i.e., courses/presentations on ILook, law, etc.)

It seems that Richard Bejtlich will be there, as well. I look forward to meeting him, and listening to his presentations.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

NTFS ADSs, again

I was browsing over on CPAN today, as I do a couple of times a week, to see if there were any new and interesting Perl modules available. I found one called Win32::StreamNames, and decided to take a look. This module, by Clive Darke, takes a filename as an argument and lists any ADS stream names associated with it. I don't see the StreamNames module on the list of Windows packages at ActiveState, but hopefully, it won't be long until it appears.

I haven't installed this module yet, but I will try to do so once (if??) it appears on the ActiveState site. It looks as if it might be useful for automatically parsing and categorizing ADSs, and flagging what's bad, and what Windows just does normally.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Offline Regisry Parser

I've posted the current iteration of the code I wrote for an offline Registry parser here.

The code is written in Perl, and uses only one module...and that's just to handle time/date translation. I've got some documentation in the code, and I know that I need to clean it up a bit...but take a look.

Here's what the code does...let's say that you've got an imaged Windows boxen, and you want to take a look at the Registry to get certain values out. Well, the script will dump the contents of the NTUSER.DAT file, or the SOFTWARE or SYSTEM files.

To run the script, use a command line like:

C:\Perl>perl reg.pl [path_to_file] > output.log

The script parses the Registry file in binary mode, and prints out the keys with LastWrite times (in GMT format), as well as values, the data type of the value, and the data associated with the value.

This script isn't the most efficient way of parsing the Registry, but it works. You can search/grep through the output file to find the information you're looking for.

I developed the script on Windows, but my goal is to make it cross-platform. Also, I'm going to use the subroutines in the script as building blocks for scripts that search for specific keys and values, based on user input.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

When does size really matter?

Well, when you're talking about Registry values, that's for sure!

On 24 Aug, Secunia released an advisory about how overly-long Registry value names were not being displayed in the Registry Editor. The advisory basically says that Registry values names that are "overly-long" will not be displayed in the Registry Editor, and that this "problem reportedly also exists for overly long registry keys."

So...what's the issue? Well, a great deal of malware maintains persistence on a system by creating a reference to itself in an autostart location, meaning that by making a reference to itself in one of these locations, it will automatically be started when the system starts, when a user logs in, or when the user takes some action. No direct interaction is required from the user to launch the application. Most folks doing incident response and forensics on Windows systems know to check these locations for indications, but now, it seems that some tools are not capable of displaying the value names if the name is longer than 254 bytes/characters.

The Internet Storm Center has a couple of diary entries about this, and are working to not only create a list of tools that do and do not display/react to these long names, but also to get vendors to update their products appropriately. Tom Liston, one of the ISC watchstanders, created a tool that will search your Registry for long value names.

I've written a Perl script that will parse offline Registry files...I'll need to add a check for value names that are longer than 254 bytes.


I was quoted in Tony Bradley's article in "Processor". The article talks about involving IT in the planning of the infrastructure, to include the physical facilities. One of the things I've seen over time is that some companies hire cut-rate admins and IT staff because in the short term, it's less expensive. After all, it makes good business sense to save money in the short term, right? Why hire someone (or a couple of someone's) for $65K a year, when you can get them for $40K? Well, that may be all well and good if you're trying to beef up an already experienced staff, but not good if you're trying to create a staff.

Something the article really doesn't go into is the development of IT staff...that's something that needs to be addressed in a lot of organizations. Some places will go out of their way to incentivize the marketing and/or sales dept, or HR, or other areas, but sometimes the IT staff is largely overlooked. Apathy in your IT staff can be a pretty big security risk.

Morpheus Searches

Many times, law enforcement will have a need for information concerning specific applications. In some cases, those specific applications are P2P file sharing clients. Recently on another list, someone asked about Morpheus, and I thought I'd take a look. After all, you never know when you're going to have that same question yourself.

I got a copy of the P2P client application and installed it. I opened and then minimized the application. I ran the first half of the "two-phase mode" for InControl5. I ran a couple of searches in the client, then completed the "two-phase mode" for InControl5, and took a look at the report. As I suspected, the search terms were not kept in a file, but were instead maintained in the Registry, in the following key:


The LastWrite time on this key will tell the investigator when the key was last written to, ie, when the last search term was added to the list.

I'm sure that more comprehensive testing could be done; in fact, it might be of benefit to compile information about several P2P clients, such as where search terms are maintained, etc.

Anyone out there need or have this info? What are the specific P2P/file sharing clients that you're running across, and what information are you looking for about them?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Event Log Analysis and Reporting

I've long thought about what kinds of things can be derived from a normal, default Event Log, mostly based on my needs at the time. What I was looking for usually depended upon what my job function happened to be at the time. In some cases I might be looking for a particular user's logon time, and in others, I was looking for reports from A/V software.

Now, I'm looking at Event Logs from the perspective of...I don't really know what I'm looking for, or what might be useful. For example, I can cull through a System Event Log and look for instances of event ID 6005 followed by an instance of event ID 6009, which indicate when the system was started. Depending upon the audit configuration of the system, other information can be derived as well.

So...what kinds of things are other looking at, or looking for, in the Event Logs? What types of things should be correlated?

Friday, August 19, 2005

GMU2005 in review

Well, GMU2005 is over with...I'm looking forward to GMU2006, or whatever they'll end up calling it.

First off, shoutz out to the staff, volunteers, sponsors and attendees who made GMU2005 possible. It was fairly well put together, though not without its hiccups...but that's too be expected.

I ended up giving a total 4 different presentations, but was on the podium 6 times. Usually, after 4 hrs of presenting, I wasn't really in the mood to attend any of the training or other presentations. Funny how having to keep the balls in the air for four hours straight can sort of take it out of you. Some presentations ended up being cancelled, either due to good reason, or b/c the speaker wasn't able to make it. I did want to attend Terry Gudaitis's presentation on cybercrime profiling, but she presented at the same time I did, albiet in a different room. However, she was nice enough to send me a copy of her presentation, which I found very interesting.

During and after my presentations, I got a lot of great questions...questions are always good. I could see from the questions that a lot of folks were interested in actually using what I was talking about, especially with regards to my USB storage device presentation. After lunch on Thursday, one of the attendees told me that he'd received an email from the HTCIA listserv, asking how to determine if an iPod had been connected to the system. So, this guy broke out my presentation and sent the original poster the answer! Very, very cool! And Cory, if you're reading this...thanks for putting me on the spot with this guy - I did end up giving him a free copy of my book.

Speaking of giving away free copies of my book...if the publisher doesn't have a bookstore at the conference, I usually get in touch with them and ask them to provide me with free copies of the book to give away at the end of my presentation. I usually give one away to someone who can answer a trivia question. For the first presentation on Tues, I gave a copy of my book to the guy who brought a video cable to the room so I could plug my laptop into the projection system (that was one of the hiccups).

A couple of notes/comments for attendees of conferences like this...most presenters work pretty hard in order to not only put a presentation together, but to also make it pertinent and useful to the audience. Sometimes, this can be tough...the content of the presentation depends upon the make-up of the conference attendees. If you think that the presenter did a good job, tell him or her that. If you've got comments about what the presenter could have done to make the presentation a little better, let them know. Keep in mind that there are some things that a presenter can control, and other things they can't...such as providing desks to write on and paper copies of the slides ahead of time, etc. This sort of thing really helps, as it lets the presenter know how they did, and maybe even what they can do next time that might improve the presentation.

A question I get a lot (and I mean A LOT) when I give presentations is, "...what happens if you...?". This is the case, whether I'm talking about NTFS alternate data streams, USB connected storage devices, or embedding/merging OLE documents. I've developed a stock answer for these questions..."why don't you try it and tell us." I don't do this to be mean or rude...I just think that a lot of times, the questions aren't reasoned through before they're asked. Now, don't get me wrong, I love questions...they get me thinking and if I can give a presentation and walk away having learned something, I'm happy. But, members of the audience, please keep this in mind...I'm not rich, and I do have a life. Yes, there are a lot of things out there that maybe I didn't cover in my research or presentation...but that's usually because I didn't have the time (I have a life, or had a deadline) and/or because I'm not rich and can't afford to purchase one or two of every type of USB device available on the market. I'm sure that in the course of a case, you're going to come across a specific piece of equipment that I didn't specifically cover in my presentation, but that's why I try to lay out the process I used to get the information that I did...so you can follow that process.

So...I just wanted to say that in case anyone attending my presentations thought that I was being rude when I responded the way I did to that particular question.

Anyway, as a wrap-up for this entry, I heard other attendees say that some of the presentations were good, others weren't so good, but overall they were pretty happy with the conference as a whole. Next year should have a much larger attendence, so if you're interested in attending or presenting, keep your eye on the RCFG website.