University of Illinois shaping curriculum to train digital sleuths

As the field of cybersecurity, which can include police officers, private investigators and government officials, is expected to grow in the coming years, a diverse team at the University of Illinois has begun to shape a curriculum to train future digital-forensics experts. At the university, faculty have been active in and have taught popular classes in computer security for some time. Computer science Professor Roy Campbell, who is overseeing the curriculum development, likened computer security to protecting a home from burglaries by installing alarms and practicing certain behavior, such as not letting the newspapers pile up while you’re on vacation. Digital forensics, he said, is the process followed when conducting an investigation after someone has broken into or robbed a home. You look for clues in digital devices…

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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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