Sunday, July 22, 2018

Daily Blog #430: Sunday Funday 7/22/18

Hello Reader,
             Another week already? Time for another challenge to keep your wheels turning and your research skills sharp. This week let's talk about time zones and Windows. With Windows 10 automatically changing your timezone by default based on your location its going to be come more important to know not only where but when someone was at a particular point in time.

The Prize:
$100 Amazon Giftcard

The Rules:

  1. You must post your answer before Friday 7/27/18 7PM CST (GMT -5)
  2. The most complete answer wins
  3. You are allowed to edit your answer after posting
  4. If two answers are too similar for one to win, the one with the earlier posting time wins
  5. Be specific and be thoughtful
  6. Anonymous entries are allowed, please email them to Please state in your email if you would like to be anonymous or not if you win.
  7. In order for an anonymous winner to receive a prize they must give their name to me, but i will not release it in a blog post

The Challenge:
On a Windows 10 system what are the different ways you could determine what timezones a user was in prior to the whatever timezone is stored in the registry?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Daily Blog #429: Solution Saturday 7/21/18

Hello Reader,
            Another week, another challenge. It came down to the wire, that I extended, but we have an answer and a winner. This week's winner Justin Boncaldo sent in the only entry, many others were talking but didn't submit! So remember that submitting is half way to winning when tomorrow's challenge gets posted!

The Challenge:
Cortana used to have a database that kept track of location information and other relevant DFIR data. As of a year ago the database has changed and the location data is nowhere to be found. For this weeks challenge please answer the following questions:
1. Where does Cortana keep it's data now
2. What data does Cortana retain now 
3. Is there any location history left from Cortana

The Winning Answer from Justin Boncaldo:

My brief and initial findings of Cortana's local data. *Note: Due to my initial lack of knowledge on Cortana data, this information was compiled based on my best judgement and is possible to be incorrect. 

As you know, Microsoft's Cortana used to store forensically valuable information within
 - 'CortanaCoreDb.dat' [user/appdata/local/packages/Microsoft.Windows.Cortana.cw5n1h2txyewy/localstate/ESEDatabase_CortanaCoreInstance] and
 - 'IndexedDB.dat' [user/appdata/local/packages/Microsoft.Windows.Cortana.cw5n1h2txyewy/appdata/indexed DB/]

1. It appears that the majority of Cortana's data is now stored in the cloud, and then requested on a necessary basis. By keeping most of a user's data on their own servers, Microsoft helps strengthen user security, allows seamless transition between devices, and allows for data to be utilized faster.

2. Although the two databases still exist on the system, not user data appears to be stored there anymore. Cortana currently mostly stores numerous json files and visual assets locally; necessary for the use of the application and a functional connection to be built with the servers. However, I was able to find two locations with potentially useful information. The first being "Local Recorder" at path  [user/appdata/local/packages/Microsoft.Windows.Cortana.cw5n1h2txyewy/Localstate/LocalRecorder/Speech/SavedAudio]   . This appears to contain locally stored instances of the audio recordings that Cortana takes. WAV audio files are saved using the shortname naming convention, and will automatically delete themselves from the system over time. Audio playback has not been successful for me yet, because these files are displayed with a filesize of 0 Kb. I have yet to compare this creation timestamp to that of a Cortana activation instance.  The second piece of data is WIFI data located at: [user/appdata/local/packages/Microsoft.Windows.Cortana.cw5n1h2txyewy/Localstate/signals/collection/Wifi]. This file stores the network SSID that the device was connected to at the time of voice commands. Unfortunately, this information is also deleted after some time and more testing needs to be done with this.

3. I believe these two locations could both hold valuable information to support other location data. Although they are not directly connected the user to a specific location on the earth, they might be showing that the user was using Cortana's voice commands at a specific time, and that they were connected to a specific network connection at that time too. Again, this is not direct data -and is apparently extremely volatile. More testing will be done to observe more actions of Cortana.  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Daily Blog #428: Forensic Lunch 7/20/18

Hello Reader,
            We had a great Forensic Lunch today with our guest Arman Gungor (@armangungor) from, talking about his research posted on the meridian discovery blog (like this one ) and his work on Forensic Email Collector. Matt and I also talked about the upcoming Defcon CTF and our planned live streams from Defcon providing commentary.

The video got split into two due to broadcasting software issues so here is the first video with Arman:

And here is the second video with Matt and I talking about the CTF

There will be another Forensic Lunch next Friday 7/27/18, looking forward to seeing you then!

Daily Blog #427: Bitlocker Experiments Part 1

Hello Reader,
          In a prior Sunday Funday regarding Bitlocker drives and Windows upgrades I extended my ask a bit too far in what I put into the challenge and justifiably received no submissions. I haven't stopped looking into the question though of how does Windows temporarily disable Bitlocker to allow the machine to boot for an upgrade and how can we as examiners take advantage of it.

In my research into this I've learned about the 'clearkey' which I've heard of before. The 'clearkey' means that the key to decrypt the bitlocker volume is left in plaintext within the volume. This allows for the bitlocker volume to be present and allows the user to in the future, if they so choose, to protect the volume with a password and recovery key. It appears as though some Surface computers come with this mode on when shipped.

However that did not answer my question about upgrades, as the drive isn't being re-encrypted in the upgrade process. It turns out there is an option to temporarily set an existing image into 'clearkey' mode. To do this you would execute the following command in an administrative command prompt

manage-bde -protectors -disable c:

Here is a screenshot of it successfully running

Checking the status of the drive with the command

manage-bde -status

I see the following

 Notice it has left the protection off for 1 reboot by default, just enough for an update to complete.

I'm going to encrypt a vhd next week and do some testing to see how the tools recognize this. When I'm back in the office in a week (still in Abu Dhabi!) I'll let one my machines upgrade and see if 'cleartext' mode is in fact enabled on my Bitlocker drives allowing me to decrypt them!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Daily Blog #426: Directory Copy and Paste Artifacts in Windows 10

Hello Reader,
              I've talked about this in the Forensic Lunch and I think showed it once in a Test Kitchen but I don't think I've written about it in the blog. After reading the ongoing discussion on Twitter about the need to document beyond tweets and videos, you should read Brett Shavers post here , led me to understand that I need to put it in the blog as well to make it more accessible long term. In my mind I've already shown and shared this but I can't expect that everyone has watched and memorized the 100+ episodes of the Forensic Lunch.

So new as of at least Windows 10 (this needs to be tested on Windows 7 and Windows 8) there is a now a jumplist that is capturing the full path of every directory that is copy and pasted. For those of you doing external device investigations that means we have a data source that will show us what data our suspects have been copying and pasting onto external drives ... but only if what they are copying and pasting is a directory. Individual files being copy and pasted does not appear to be tracked, just directories.

You will want to look into the Jumplist with Appid f01b4d95cf55d32a and within it you find an entry for every directory that has been pasted. You will not get the source location but rather the destination which in my mind is more useful. The MRU date associated and the creation time of the directory will show you when as well.  

Daily Blog #425: How I Use It: Userassist

Hello Reader,
             I'm currently teaching in Abu Dhabi and hanging out with my family at night which means I'm not investing the time to do the next level of MAPI testing I need to do. Instead after the warm reception yesterdays post received I thought I would follow it up with a new series I will add to over time called ' How I Use It'.

Often times we talk about artifacts and evidence sources and how to interpret them, in fact there are so many that most people often forget what they know about them. What we don't often talk about is how we as examiners use that data within their casework to make conclusions or points.

So in this first post in this series of how I use different artifacts I want to talk about the Userassist key. This isn't a new key, it's been around since I first saw it in 2002 and wrote about it in the first Hacking Exposed Computer Forensics book in 2004 but people seem to overlook its usefulness.

Userassist records those programs that a user has executed from the GUI, that I would hope is well known at this point. I've posted about it once in 2013 ( and even earlierin 2009 ( both times I didn't really go into detail of what I use it for.

So here are my main analysis points from reviewing this artifacts:

1. What kinds of programs is my suspect executing?

It's difficult to judge the technical proficiency of a suspect from the statements of the people who knew them as their frame of reference in judging their technical abilities is usually focused around how well they use Excel or Outlook. So rather than letting their statements of their abilities to be 'master hackers'  I like to see what kinds of GUI programs they've been executing.

Is it just Office, Outlook and IE?  Or are they loading regedit, going into the command prompt and looking into different system mmc's.  The difference in what they are executing helps me judge the types of artifacts I should expect to find and how closely I need to inspect the dates and artifacts the system is showing me.

In addition I can look for evidence of encryption tools (Veracrypt/Truecrypt), wipers (eraser/bcwipe) and even anti forensics tools (Ccleaner, everyone's favorite). All from one helpful key that will even tell me how many times they've executed it.

2. How far back does the Userassist go? Is it complete?

The Userassist key starts populating data when your first profile is first created and you've logged in for the first time. That means that the history of programs within the key should go back as far as the user profile creation. If there is a gap, especially if it is a large gap, you could be seeing evidence of anti forensics. Start looking for what happened immediately before the gap began to see what could have cleared the data.

Also remember that deleted registry keys, just like deleted files, are not gone just because we delete them. So make sure to use a tool that will show you any potential deleted userassist keys or values. tools like Registry Explorer, YARU and others can expose this data to you while exploring the keys.

3. What email clients is my suspect using?

I'm often looking for my suspects email archives. Rather than guessing what Email client they are using (yes some people don't use Outlook) I can just go to the Userassist key to find out. Unless you have a very interesting suspect using a command line based email reader (pine in windows subsystem for linux?)  the rest are GUI based and should be recorded. If I find no email clients I need to look for what web mail services my suspect is using in their browser history.

4. What web browsers is my suspect using?

Lastly in my normal inspection of the Userassist I'm looking to understand what web browsers by suspect is using. It is not uncommon now for a suspect to be using 2, 3 or even 4 different web browsers on their system during one day. So I use this as a sanity check to make sure:

1. I'm looking for history from all of those browsers, its easy to miss one and focus on the others
2.  I need to make sure my forensic tools support the browser being used, I'm looking at you Maxthon, as its easy to miss a whole browser history cache because you didn't realize the limits of your tool.

So that's the first 4 questions I would answer when reviewing this key and I review this key early in my investigation along with other basic artifacts (execution history, file access and device usage) to start understanding what to expect from this system.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Daily Blog #424: The registry key so nice they named it twice, computername computername

Hello Reader,
               I enjoy teaching forensics as students always ask questions to make you figure out things you just take for granted. A good example of this was last month while in Amsterdam I had a student ask, hey why is the computername registry key in the System registry (located under System\\Control\ComputernName\CompuerName) under a registry key named computername. 

I've always made jokes about this key, see post title above, but never really took the time to understand why it was setup this way. A couple of google searches and some in class testing later I had my answer.

It turns out that when you change the name of your Windows computer in the control panel that a new key is added to the base computername key. This new key called ActiveComputerName contains the old name of the computer prior to you changing it while the new name you have given the computer is now stored in the ComputerName key.

Here is the ComputerName key after renaming the computer

Here is the old name of the computer, located in the ActiveComputerName key

Here is the new name of the computer in the ComputerName key

On reboot the activecomputername key is deleted and the new ComputerName key is kept.

So there you go, there is in fact a reason and a function for the duplication in the computername registry key. Every key, every decision has a story and understanding how it works and why will only make you a better examiner.