Malware Forensics Field Guide for Windows Systems: Digital Forensics Field Guides

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Dissecting the dark side of the Internet with its infectious worms, botnets, rootkits, and Trojan horse programs (known as malware) is a treaterous condition for any forensic investigator or analyst. Written by information security experts with real-world investigative experience, Malware Forensics Field Guide for Windows Systems is a"tool" with checklists for specific tasks, case studies of difficult situations, and expert analyst tips.

• A condensed hand-held guide complete with on-the-job tasks and checklists

• Specific for Windows-based systems, the largest running OS in the world

• Authors are world-renowned leaders in investigating and analyzing malicious code

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"For anyone working in this field, this is an invaluable book that deserves a permanent place in your toolkit. For those entering into this line of work, it’s worth reading so that you know what you’re in for."—Network Security,December 12013
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597494724
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 990,575
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Cameron H. Malin is Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation assigned to a Cyber Crime squad in Los Angeles, California, where he is responsible for the investigation of computer intrusion and malicious code matters. Special Agent Malin is the founder and developer of the FBI’s Technical Working Group on Malware Analysis and Incident Response. Special Agent Malin is a Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) as designated by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), as designated by the International Information Systems Security Consortium, a GIAC certified Reverse-Engineering Malware Professional (GREM), GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and a GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA), as designated by the SANS Institute.

Eoghan Casey is an internationally recognized expert in data breach investigations and information security forensics. He is founding partner of, and co-manages the Risk Prevention and Response business unit at DFLabs. Over the past decade, he has consulted with many attorneys, agencies, and police departments in the United States, South America, and Europe on a wide range of digital investigations, including fraud, violent crimes, identity theft, and on-line criminal activity. Eoghan has helped organizations investigate and manage security breaches, including network intrusions with international scope. He has delivered expert testimony in civil and criminal cases, and has submitted expert reports and prepared trial exhibits for computer forensic and cyber-crime cases.

In addition to his casework and writing the foundational book Digital Evidence and Computer Crime, Eoghan has worked as R&D Team Lead in the Defense Cyber Crime Institute (DCCI) at the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) helping enhance their operational capabilities and develop new techniques and tools. He also teaches graduate students at Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute and created the Mobile Device Forensics course taught worldwide through the SANS Institute. He has delivered keynotes and taught workshops around the globe on various topics related to data breach investigation, digital forensics and cyber security.

Eoghan has performed thousands of forensic acquisitions and examinations, including Windows and UNIX systems, Enterprise servers, smart phones, cell phones, network logs, backup tapes, and database systems. He also has information security experience, as an Information Security Officer at Yale University and in subsequent consulting work. He has performed vulnerability assessments, deployed and maintained intrusion detection systems, firewalls and public key infrastructures, and developed policies, procedures, and educational programs for a variety of organizations. Eoghan has authored advanced technical books in his areas of expertise that are used by practitioners and universities around the world, and he is Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier's International Journal of Digital Investigation.

James M. Aquilina, Esq. is the Managing Director and Deputy General Counsel of Stroz Friedberg, LLC, a consulting and technical services firm specializing in computer forensics; cyber-crime response; private investigations; and the preservation, analysis and production of electronic data from single hard drives to complex corporate networks. As the head of the Los Angeles Office, Mr. Aquilina supervises and conducts digital forensics and cyber-crime investigations and oversees large digital evidence projects. Mr. Aquilina also consults on the technical and strategic aspects of anti-piracy, antispyware, and digital rights management (DRM) initiatives for the media and entertainment industries, providing strategic thinking, software assurance, testing of beta products, investigative assistance, and advice on whether the technical components of the initiatives implicate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and anti-spyware and consumer fraud legislation. His deep knowledge of botnets, distributed denial of service attacks, and other automated cyber-intrusions enables him to provide companies with advice to bolster their infrastructure protection.

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Read an Excerpt

Malware Forensics Field Guide for Windows Systems

Digital Forensics Field Guides


Copyright © 2012 Elsevier, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59749-473-1

Chapter One

Malware Incident Response

Volatile Data Collection and Examination on a Live Windows System

Solutions in this chapter:

• Volatile Data Collection Methodology

° Local vs. Remote Collection

° Preservation of Volatile Data

° Physical Memory Acquisition

° Collecting Subject System Details

° Identifying Logged-in Users

° Current and Recent Network Connections

• Collecting Process Information

• Correlate Open Ports with Running Processes and Programs

° Identifying Services and Drivers

° Determining Open Files

° Collecting Command History

° Identifying Shares

° Determining Scheduled Tasks

° Collecting Clipboard Contents

• Non-Volatile Data Collection from a Live Windows System

° Forensic Duplication of Storage Media

° Forensic Preservation of Select Data

° Assessing Security Configuration

° Assessing Trusted Host Relationships

° Inspecting Prefetch Files

° Inspect Auto-Starting Locations

° Collecting Event Logs

° Reviewing User Account and Group Policy Information

° Examining the File System

° Dumping and Parsing Registry Contents

• Examining Web Browsing Artifacts

• Malware Artifact Discovery and Extraction from a Live Windows System


This chapter demonstrates the value of preserving volatile and select nonvolatile data, and how to do so in a forensically sound manner. The value of volatile data is not limited to process memory associated with malware, but can include passwords, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, Security Event Log entries, and other contextual details that together can provide a more complete understanding of the malware and its use on a system.

When powered on, a subject system contains critical ephemeral information that reveals the state of the system. This volatile data is sometimes referred to as stateful information. Incident response forensics, or live response, is the process of acquiring the stateful information from the subject system while it remains powered on. As we discussed in the introductory chapter, the Order of Volatility should be considered when collecting data from a live system to ensure that critical system data is acquired before it is lost or the system is powered down. Further, because the scope of this chapter pertains to live response through the lens of a malicious code incident, the preservation techniques outlined in this section are not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive; instead, they are intended to provide a solid foundation relating to incident response involving malware on a live system.

Often, malicious code live response is a dynamic process, with the facts and context of each incident dictating the manner and means in which the investigator will proceed with his investigation. Unlike other contexts in which simply acquiring a forensic duplicate of a subject system's hard drive would be sufficient, investigating a malicious code incident on a subject system very often requires some degree of live response. This is because much of the information the investigator needs to identify the nature and scope of the malware infection resides in stateful information that will be lost when the computer is powered down.

This chapter provides an overall methodology for preserving volatile data on a Windows system during a malware incident, and presumes that the digital investigator already has built his live response toolkit of trusted tools, or is using a tool suite specifically designed to collect digital evidence in an automated fashion from Windows systems during incident response. There are a variety of live response tool suites available to the digital investigator—many of which are discussed in the Tool Box section at the end of this chapter. Although automated collection of digital evidence is recommend as a measure to avoid mistakes and inadvertent collection gaps, the aim of this chapter and associated appendices is to provide the digital investigator with a granular walk-through of the live response process and the digital evidence that should be collected.

Local versus Remote Collection

  •   Choose the manner in which data will be collected from the subject system.

• Collecting results locally means storage media will be connected to the subject system and the results will be saved onto the connected media.

• Remote collection means establishing a network connection from the subject system, typically with a netcat or cryptcat listener, and transferring the acquired system data over the network to a collection server. This method reduces system interaction, but relies on the ability to traverse the subject network through ports established by the netcat listener.

Investigative Considerations

• In some instances, the subject network will have rigid firewall and/or proxy server configurations, making it cumbersome or impractical to establish a remote collection repository.

• Remotely acquiring certain data during live response—like imaging a subject system's physical memory—may be time and resource consuming and require several gigabytes of data to traverse the network, depending on the amount of random access memory (RAM) in the target system. The following pair of commands depicted in Figure 1.1 sends the output of a live response utility acquiring data from a subject system to a remote IP address ( and saves the output in a file named "<toolname>20101020host1.txt" on the collection system.

• The netcat command must be executed on the collection system first so that it is ready and waiting to receive data from the subject system.

• Local collection efforts can be protracted in instances where a victim system is older and contains obsolete hardware, such as USB 1.1, which has a maximum transfer rate of 12 megabits per second (mbps).

• Always ensure that the media you are using to acquire live response data is pristine and do not contain unrelated case data, malicious code specimens, or other artifacts from previous investigations. Acquiring digital evidence on "dirty" or compromised media can taint and undermine the forensic soundness of the acquired data.


* Data should be collected from a live system in the Order of Volatility. The following guidelines give a clearer sense of the types of volatile data that can be preserved to better understand malware:

• On the compromised machine, run a trusted command shell from an Incident Response toolkit

• Document system date and time, and compare them to a reliable time source

• Acquire contents of physical memory

• Gather hostname, user, and operating system details

• Gather system status and environment details

• Identify users logged onto the system

• Inspect network connections and open ports

• Examine Domain Name Service (DNS) queries and connected hostnames

• Examine running processes

• Correlate open ports to associated processes and programs

• Examine services and drivers

• Inspect open files

• Examine command-line history

• Identify mapped drives and shares

• Check for unauthorized accounts, groups, shares, and other system resources and configurations using Windows "net" commands

• Determine scheduled tasks

• Collect clipboard contents

• Determine audit policy

Preservation of Volatile Data

  •   After obtaining the system date/time, acquire physical memory from the subject system prior to preserving information using live response tools.

• Because each version of the Windows operating system has different ways of structuring data in memory, existing tools for examining full memory captures may not be able to interpret memory structures properly in every case.

• Therefore, after capturing the full contents of memory, use an Incident Response suite to preserve information from the live system, such as lists of running processes, open files, and network connections, among other volatile data. A number of commonly used Incident Response tool suites are discussed in the Tool Box section at the end of this chapter.

• Some information in memory can be displayed by using Commandline Interface (CLI) utilities on the system under examination. This same information may not be readily accessible or easily displayed from the memory dump after it is loaded onto a forensic workstation for examination.

Investigative Considerations

• It may be necessary in some cases to capture non-volatile data from the live subject system, and perhaps even create a forensic duplicate of the entire disk. For all preserved data, remember that the Message Digest 5 (MD5) and other attributes of the output from a live examination must be documented independently by the digital investigator.

• To avoid missteps and omissions, collection of volatile data should be automated.

Physical Memory Acquisition on a Live Windows System

  •   Before gathering volatile system data using the various tools in a live response toolkit, first acquire a full memory dump from the subject system.

• Running incident response tools on the subject system will alter the contents of memory.

• To get the most digital evidence out of physical memory, perform a full memory capture prior to running any other incident response processes.

• There are a myriad of tools that can be used to acquire physical memory, and many have similar functionality. Often, choosing a tool comes down to familiarity and preference. Given that every malware incident is unique, the right tool for the job may be driven not just by the incident type but by the victim system typology.

Investigative Considerations

• Remember that some tools are limited to certain operating systems and capture only up to 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM; others can acquire memory from many different operating system versions, gather up to 64 GB of RAM, and capture the Windows pagefile. If possible, determine subject system details and select appropriate forensic tools prior to beginning incident response. Having numerous tool options available in your toolkit will avoid on-scene frustration.

• In addition to assessing tool limitations based upon operating system and memory capacity, also consider whether to use a command-line utility or a graphical user interface (GUI)-based tool.

• This section will explore some of the ways to acquire physical memory contents, but consult the Tool Box section at the end of this chapter for further tool discussion and comparison.

Acquiring Physical Memory Locally

  •   Physical memory dumps can be acquired locally from a subject system using command-line or GUI utilities.

Command-line Utilities

* A commonly used command-line tool for physical memory acquisition is HBGary's FastDump.

• FastDump Community version is a free version of FastDump that supports the acquisition of memory from 32-bit systems with up to 4 GB of RAM.

• FastDump Community version does not support Vista, Windows 2003, Windows 2008, or 64-bit platforms.

• Using FastDump Community version, the following command captures the contents of memory from a subject Windows system and saves it to a file on removable media (Figure 1.2):

• FastDump Pro is the commercially supported version of FastDump, which supports all versions of Window operating systems and service packs (2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 Server).

* FastDump Pro can capture memory from both 32-bit and 64-bit systems, including systems with more than 4 GB of RAM (up to 64 GB of RAM), and supports acquisition of the Windows pagefile with the memory dump.

• Using FastDump Pro, the following command captures the contents of both memory and the pagefile from a subject Windows system and saves it to a file on removable media (Figure 1.3):

GUI-based Memory Dumping Tools

* Agile Risk Management's Nigilant32 is a GUI-based incident response tool.

• Nigilant32 provides an intuitive interface and simplistic means of imaging a subject system's physical memory using a drop-down menu in the tool's user console.

• To image memory from Nigilant32, select the "Image Physical Memory" option from the "Tools" menu, as shown in Figure 1.4.

• At the prompt, select the location where the memory dump file will be saved; memory imaging will start thereafter.

Remote Physical Memory Acquisition

  •   Physical memory dumps can be remotely acquired from a subject system using F-Response.

* F-Response is an incident response framework that implements the Microsoft iSCSI initiator service to provide read-only access to the full physical disk(s) of a networked computer, as well as to the physical memory of most Microsoft Windows systems.

• There are four versions of F-Response (Field Kit, Consultant, Enterprise, and TACTICAL) that vary in deployment method, but all provide access to a remote subject system drive as a local mounted drive.

• F-Response is flexible and "vendor agnostic," meaning that any tool can be used to acquire an image of the subject system's hard drive and physical memory once connected to it.


Excerpted from Malware Forensics Field Guide for Windows Systems Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Syngress. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Malware Incident Response: Volatile Data Collection and Examination on a Live Windows System Chapter 2. Memory Forensics: Analyzing Physical and Process Memory Dumps for Malware Artifacts Chapter 3. Post-Mortem Forensics: Discovering and Extracting Malware and Associated Artifacts from Windows Systems Chapter 4. Legal Considerations Chapter 5. File Identification and Profiling Initial Analysis of a Suspect File on a Windows System Chapter 6. Analysis of a Suspect Program Appendix A: Tool Glossary

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