David Cowen and Lance Mueller talk digital forensics and IEF

Lance Mueller (Magnet Forensics) recently attended CEIC in Orlando, Florida and had the opportunity to meet David Cowen from G-C Partners, LLC. It was great to finally put a face to a name that he has known for some time through his blog and books. Lance has a huge interest in file system forensics, and has been following David’s Tri-Force blog posts and was anxious to hear his scheduled talk on the NTFS Logfile Forensics/Tri-Force during CEIC.

Lance had recently seen a tweet from David where he mentioned using Internet Evidence Finder during the initial stages of his investigative workflow and wanted to ask him a few questions about his overall workflow and where IEF fit within that workflow. He knows the workflow that he is comfortable following, but really appreciates hearing other examiner’s perspectives and reasons for using certain tools at certain times during the examination process.

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Despite timestamps being ubiquitous, the understanding of their exact meaning is mostly overlooked in favor of fully-automated, correlation-based approaches. Existing work for practitioners aims at understanding Windows and is not directly applicable to Unix-like systems.

In this paper, we review how each layer of the software stack (kernel, file system, libraries, application) influences MACB timestamps on Unix systems such as Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and macOS.

We examine how POSIX specifies the timestamp behavior and propose a framework for automatically profiling OS kernels, user mode libraries and applications, including compliance checks against POSIX.

Our implementation covers four different operating systems, the GIO and Qt library, as well as several user mode applications and is released as open-source.

Based on 187 compliance tests and automated profiling covering common file operations, we found multiple unexpected and non-compliant behaviors, both on common operations and in edge cases.

Furthermore, we provide tables summarizing timestamp behavior aimed to be used by practitioners as a quick-reference.

Learn more: https://dfrws.org/presentation/a-systematic-approach-to-understanding-macb-timestamps-on-unixlike-systems/

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