Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Maintaining The KnowledgeBase

As 2019 closes, we move into not just a new year, but also a new decade.  While, for the most part, this isn't entirely significant...after all, how different will you really be when you wake up on 2 Jan...times such as this offer an opportunity for reflection and for addressing those things what we may decide we need to change.

I blogged recently regarding Brett's thoughts on how to do about improving #DFIR skills, and to some extend, expanding on them from my own perspective.  Then this morning, I was perusing one of the social media sites that I frequent, and came across a question regarding forensic analysis of "significant locations" on an iPhone 6. I really have no experience with smart phones or iOS, but I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look, so I did a Google search.  The first result was an article that had been posted on the same social media site a year and a half ago.

I recently engaged with another analyst via social media, regarding recovering Registry hives from unallocated space.  The analyst had specifically asked about FOSS tools, and in relatively short order, I found an 8 pg PDF document on the subject, written by Andrew Case.  The document wasn't dated, but it did refer specifically to Windows XP, so that gave me some idea of the time frame as to when Andrew "put pen to paper", as it were.  Interestingly, Andrew's paper made use of one of the FOSS tools the analyst asked about, so it worked out pretty well.

The industry is populated by the full spectrum of #DFIR folks, from those interested in the topic and enthusiasts, to folks for whom digital analysis work is part of their job but not an everyday thing, all the way through academics and highly dedicated professionals.  There are those who don't "do" DFIR analysis all the time, and those whose primary role is to do nothing but digital analysis and research.

And there's always something new to learn, isn't there?  There's always a question that needs to be answered, such as, "how do I recover an NTUSER.DAT hive from a deleted user profile?"  I would go so far as to say that we all have questions such as these from time to time, and that some of us have the time to research these questions, and others don't.  Some of us find applicable results pretty quickly, and some of us can spend a great deal of time searching for an answer, never finding anything that applies to what we're trying to accomplish.  I know that's happened to me more times than I care to count.

The good news is that, in most cases, the information someone is seeking is out there.  Someone knows it, and someone may have even written it down.  The bad news is...the information is out there.  If you don't have enough experience in the field or topic in question, you're likely going to have difficulty finding what you're looking for.  I get it.  For every time I run a Google search and the first half a dozen responses hit the nail squarely on the head, there are 5 or 6 searches where I've just not found anything of use...not because it doesn't exist but more likely due to my search terms. 

Training can be expensive, and can require the attendee to be out of the office or off the bench for an extended period of time.  And training my very often not cover those things for which we have questions.  For example, throughout the past two decades, I've not only spoken publicly multiple times on the topic of Registry analysis, as well as written and conducted training courses (and even written books on the topic), but it never occurred to me that someone would want to recover the NTUSER.DAT hive from a deleted profile.  And, even though I've asked multiple times over the years for feedback, even posing the question, "...what would you like to see covered/addressed?", not once has the topic of recovering deleted hives come up.

That is, until recently.  Now, we have a need for "just in time training".  The good news is that we have multiple resources available to us...Google, the Forensics Wiki, and Brett's DFIR Training site, to name a few.  The down side is that even searching these sites in particular, you may not find what you're looking for.

So, for the coming year...nay, the coming decade...my request or "call to action" is for folks in the community to take more active steps in a couple of areas.  First, develop purposeful, intentional relationships in the community.  Go beyond following someone on social media, or clicking "Like" or "RT" to everything you see.  Instead, connect with someone because you have a purposeful intention for doing so, and because you're aware of the value that you bring to the relationship.  What this leads to is developing relationships based on trust, and subsequently, the sharing of tribal knowledge.

Second, actively take steps to maintain the knowledgebase.  If you're looking for something, try the established repositories.  If you can't find it there, but you do find an answer, and even if you end up building the answer yourself from bits and pieces, take active steps to ensure that what you found doesn't pass undocumented.  I'll be the first to tell you that I haven't seen everything there is to see...I've never done a BEC investigation.  There are a lot of ransomware infections I've never seen, nor investigated.  My point is that we don't all see everything, but by sharing what we've experienced, we can ensure that more of us can benefit from each other's experiences.  Jim Mattis, former Marine Corps warfighter and general officer, and former Secretary of Defense, stated in his recent book that our "own personal experiences are not broad enough to sustain [us]."  This is 1000% true for warfighters, as well as for threat hunters, and forensic and intel analysts. 

So, for the coming of the new year, resolve to take a more active role not just in learning new things, but adding to the knowledgebase of the community.

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