The CSI Effect – Expectations Vs Limitations

by James Zjalic

Much has been written about the CSI phenomenon within digital forensics circles, but is there a way we as experts can reduce this effect, maybe not globally but at least amongst our own clients? In just the last couple of weeks, I’ve had requests to enhance a speaker on the other end of the phone, on a recording in which the voice on the other end of the phone sounded like something you would hear on a cartoon. It had the rhythm of somebody speaking but that’s about all it had going for it. Another request asked to enhance a video recording in which the two individuals were seated at a distance, in a dark room, with sunlight streaming through a window across the camera lens and a lamp in front of one of the individuals faces. A third and final example is being asked to enhance the screen of a mobile phone from pictures of said mobile phone. That shouldn’t be a problem you think. Until you consider the pictures were being taken from distances of over a meter of a phone that was turned away from the camera lens.

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File timestamps are used by forensics practitioners as a fundamental artifact. For example, the creation of user files can show traces of user activity, while system files, like configuration and log files, typically reveal when a program was run.

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/

YouTube Video UCQajlJPesqmyWJDN52AZI4Q_i0zd7HtluzY

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