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Windows 8 Forensic Guide

Windows 8 Forensic Guide Amanda C. F. Thomson, M.F.S. Candidate Advised by Eva Vincze, PhD The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. TM Consumer Preview Windows 8 Forensic Guide Amanda C. F.
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Windows 8 Forensic Guide Amanda C. F. Thomson, M.F.S. Candidate Advised by Eva Vincze, PhD The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. TM Consumer Preview Windows 8 Forensic Guide Amanda C. F. Thomson The George Washington University Washington, D.C. 2012 Contents Windows 8 User Interface... 3 Windows Artifacts Local Folder Metro Apps IE10 Websites Visited Journal Notes Desktop Tools Metro App Web Cache Metro App Cookies Cache Cookies Microsoft Folder Digital Certificates What s New User s Contacts App Settings Windows Registry NTUSER.DAT SAM SYSTEM USB STORAGE DEVICES SOFTWARE Final Thoughts Index... 73 About This Guide With a new operating system, come new forensic challenges. Microsoft s Windows 8 is connected to everything wherever you sign in, it s connected. is connected to Facebook is connected to contacts is connected to Internet Explorer is connected to you get the point. W indows 8 is an operating system reimagined and reinvented from a solid core of Windows 7 speed and reliability i. While I can neither confirm nor deny this statement, there are certainly many forensically interesting spots we are familiar with from Windows 7 and Vista, which is good for us because it means this operating system is not completely reinvented. With Windows 8, you will still find that Windows is Windows it keeps track of everything. App Data and its Local and Roaming folders are still present. The Registry has the same structure we ve been familiar with for quite some time. And Windows still has the same standard programs. Some things in Windows 8, however, are different. Gone are the days when we could just sit, or read a book, or, dare I suggest it? - talk to the person next to us! while waiting for an appointment or riding the train. Everywhere we go, we see people staring intently into their tablet or cell phone reading the latest celebrity gossip, updating Facebook, calling in sick to work, and shopping online, all while texting and driving. Hopefully not, but you get the point. And so does Microsoft. Windows 8 is an operating system geared toward mobile devices, and that is definitely evident with the new interface. 1 When I registered for an independent research project in my program at The George Washington University, I wanted to do something that would contribute to the computer forensic community. So I decided to take on Windows 8. And by take on, I mean, it consumed my life for nearly four months. No more Facebook. No more Netflix. It was just me and Windows 8 every night after work. Friday nights. Weekends. Thankfully, Windows 8 did not care that I was turning into a pasty basement-dwelling nerd subsisting off of caffeine and over-processed food. While I am very well aware of this and other operating systems existence, I somehow failed to realize, despite my forensic experience and everything I have learned since I entered the industry, that I would be researching an entire operating system. Wait what? That doesn t make sense? Let me explain - I had this lofty goal of creating a user manual with charts and cheat sheets and compiling everything that could ever be possibly useful to a forensic examiner. While I did create a user manual with charts and cheat sheets, this is not a comprehensive guide. In fact, I would not be surprised if I did not scratch the surface of Windows 8, because while much of it is forensically similar to Windows 7, there is so much more that is completely different. For those wondering what my research methodology was, here s what I did: Originally I started this project with Windows 8 Developer Preview, but when Consumer Preview came out at the end of February, I started over. I downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview 32-bit Edition from Microsoft and installed it in a virtual machine using VMWare Workstation 8 ii. I used it for nearly two weeks and every couple of days I made an image using FTK Imager v3.0.1 iii. I then used Guidance Software s EnCase Forensic v6.17 for my examination and analysis and a variety of written resources (which have been given credit) iv. So, I have done my best to find forensically interesting artifacts and information in Windows 8. When I did find something, I pointed it out, attempted to figure out what was going on, and offer an explanation. When I couldn t figure it out, I stated so, because my hope is that this user guide will be a living document. I want to keep it updated and as I discover new things in Windows 8, or revalidate what we already know from 7 and Vista, I will add to this. If you find something new or confirm an existing fact, please let me know and you will be credited accordingly. I have tried to keep the language of this guide easy to read, but if there is something that is unclear or I am wrong, let me know that, too. In this guide, you will find a section on Windows Artifacts, a section devoted to the Communications App, and the last section on the Windows Registry. Boiling down this research project to just those three items doesn t sound like much, but I think I packed a lot of information into those three sections. I learned a lot conducting this research and actually did have some fun, but what I really hope to get out of this is that you found this guide useful and it made your job as a forensic examiner a bit easier. If you have any comments or suggestions, please shoot me an at For updates, visit my website at or follow me on 2 Windows 8 User Interface Nearly everything that is new about this OS is geared toward touch screen devices; you can sign-in by swiping your finger on the screen in a pre-set pattern, you can read a document by flipping through the pages, and you can zoom in on an object by expanding the screen with two fingers. W hile it is still possible to access the old interface, we can begin to get ideas for figuring out where data of forensic interest might reside by spending some time with the new one. I wanted to go over the Windows 8 UI because I also think it can help us get an idea of what the user s experience was like. During our forensic examinations, we are usually able to determine what was important to the user, such as their documents, pictures, Internet favorites, etc., because we know where to look. A majority of us have used Windows enough to know common locations we are likely to store our data and generally look there first. We may also be able to visualize what this looked like from the user s perspective (unless you re lucky enough to get an image of their hard drive to operate in a VM). Regardless of your method, it gives us better awareness of where to look for forensic artifacts and other useful data. Figure 1 shows the user s login/lock screen will display their calendar, notifications, and Facebook notifications, if they have enabled this feature. Figure 1 Windows 8 Login Screen 3 There are three options to sign-in to Windows 8 traditional sign-in, picture signin, and PIN sign-in. Picture sign-in allows you to draw a pattern to sign-in to your computer (Figure 2), and PIN sign-in is just that using a PIN to sign-in. Figure 2 Windows 8 Picture Sign-In 4 The new Start Menu, which also appears to be the Desktop, is much different than the traditional Windows Start Menu we are accustomed to, and will probably garner a lot of attention (or complaints). Figure 3 shows that the Start Menu is made up of Tiles, which consists of Metro Apps, which seems to be Microsoft s new term for programs in Windows 8. The default Start Menu includes an app for the Windows Store, Internet Explorer 10, a variety of communications apps, a Map App, and a Weather App. Several apps are available for the user to download from the Windows Store. Figure 3 The Windows 8 Desktop 5 The Windows 8 Desktop has Charms, which basically allow you to quickly access Windows features, such as Search, Share, Devices, and Settings (Figure 4). Charms Figure 4 More of the Windows 8 Desktop. Charms are displayed on the righthand side. From Charms, you can access PC Settings. Many of these settings were inaccessible in Consumer Preview (but should be accessible when Windows 8 is officially released), but there were a couple of noticeable settings that are new to Windows 8. These may not necessarily be new features, but Microsoft has definitely made Windows 8 more user-friendly in terms of being able to understand what you are doing to your computer. 6 Figure 5 PC Settings Figure 5 shows that under General, you have two System Restore-like options Refresh your PC without affecting your files and Reset your PC and start over. Here s what happens when you refresh your PC: Your files and personalization settings won t change Your PC settings will be changed back to their default Apps from Windows Store will be kept Apps you installed from discs or websites will be removed A list of removed apps will be saved on your desktop Resetting your PC does this: All your personal files and apps will be removed Your PC settings will be changed back to their defaults 7 Figure 6, Figure 7, and Figure 8 show a couple of other apps you might see: Figure 6 Windows Store Figure 7 Messaging App. Chat conversations from several clients will appear here 8 Figure 8 The Weather App And Windows wouldn t be Windows without everyone s favorite the Error Screen, or as most of us know it - the Blue Screen of Death (Figure 9). Unfortunately, we are probably all too familiar with this screen and have been frustrated with how quickly the error code zips by before we can even catch a glimpse and before you know it, your PC is restarting. Figure 9 Windows Error Screen 9 But there s hope! The error code is now in plain English. And maybe we won t be as angry with Windows because the new Blue Screen of Death appears to empathize with you (Figure 10): Figure 10 The new Windows Error Screen 10 You can access the familiar Windows Desktop from the Desktop Tile in the new Metro UI. Figure 11 shows what the default looks like. One of the first things I noticed that was different from Developer Preview was that in Consumer Preview, the Start Menu button was missing. Since Consumer Preview is still a testing platform, it is unknown at this time if the Start Menu button will make a re-appearance when the final version hits store shelves later this year. Start Menu button? Figure 11 The familiar Desktop this is the default desktop background 11 Even though the Start Menu button is missing, it is still possible to access Start Menu items (Figure 12). Hovering the mouse in the bottom left-hand corner will allow you to access the Metro UI and hovering over the left side of the screen will display a list of apps that you ve used and are currently still running. The app at the top-left was the last one used. MRU App Running Apps Metro Start Figure 12 Accessing Metro Apps and the Metro Desktop from the traditional Desktop 12 Windows Explorer also has a new look and feel. Figure 13 shows that Windows Explorer has a tabbed interface, similar to newer versions of Microsoft Office. Figure 13 The new tabbed interface 13 14 Windows Artifacts Just like other versions of Windows, Windows 8 contains valuable information known as artifacts. The user is oftentimes unaware that the operating system is leaving traces of their activity behind that is specific to their usage. Knowing where these artifacts are stored can assist us in re-creating that user account s experience. W ith the advent of Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced the Application Data folder structure, which made it much easier for forensic examiners to determine which data belonged to the operating system and which data belonged to the user. ICON KEY Windows 8 More info Local Folder The AppData\Local folder contains data that does not roam with the user. The data that is stored here is usually too large to roam with the user. This was previously known as Documents and Settings\%UserName%\Local Settings\Application Data in Windows XP. Forensically interesting items that can be found here include temporary Internet files, Internet history, and several items that are new to Windows 8. The following chart contains locations that are of forensic interest in the Local folder. A majority of these locations will also work with Windows Vista and Windows 7 (unless noted with the Windows 8 icon, which is found above in the Icon Key). 15 %Root%\Users\%User%\AppData\Local\ Application Location Purpose Metro Apps IE 10 Websites Visited Microsoft\Windows\Application Shortcuts Microsoft\InternetExplorer\ Recovery\Immersive\Active AND Apps that are displayed on the Metro interface Websites user visited while browsing with IE10. Microsoft\InternetExplorer\ Recovery\Immersive\Last Active Taskbar Apps Microsoft\Windows\Caches Apps pinned to the Desktop Journal Microsoft\Journal\Cache\msnb.dat Contains a history of Notes journal notes created by user and their location. User-Added IE 10 Favorites Internet History Temporary Internet Files Protected Mode Temporary Internet Files Microsoft\Windows\RoamingTiles Microsoft\Windows\History\ History.IE5\MSHist01YYYYMMDD YYYYMMDD Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Low\Content.IE5 Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Virtualized\%Local Disk%\Users\%User%\AppData Websites the user has pinned to their favorites. User s Internet history. More research is needed as this contained empty container.dat files Stores temporary Internet files Storage location of temporary Internet files when IE runs in Protected Mode (not to be confused with InPrivate Browsing) Desktop Microsoft\Windows\WinX Contains link files for applications such as Device Manager, Command Prompt, and Run. 16 Application Location Purpose Windows Sidebar Weather App Metro App Web Cache Metro App Cookies Metro App Web History Metro Settings Microsoft\Windows\Windows Side- bar\cache\168522d df2-b2f6-9185c31f9472 Packages\%MetroAppName%\AC\ INetCache Packages\%MetroAppName%\AC\ INetCookies Packages\%MetroAppName%\AC\ INetHistory Packages\%MetroAppName%\AC\ LocalState Contains a XML file with location name and zip code as file name. This file can contain location coordinates, date, and time. This class ID is the same for Vista/7/8. Contains web cache specific to Metro App. Contains cookie files specific to Metro App. Data is contained in a text file. Contains Internet history files specific to Metro App and the format of the data is consistent with previous versions. Contains settings specific to Metro App and can be viewed in plain text. 17 Metro Apps Figure 14 demonstrates Metro Apps that are displayed on the Metro Desktop will have a link file associated with them that will display who created the app and the app s location. This data will be available in plain text. In this example, the Microsoft Bing Map App was used. The link file tells us that Microsoft is the creator of this app and it is stored under Program Files. App Creator App Location Figure 14 Plain text output of link file associated with Microsoft Bing Maps app and its location 18 IE10 Websites Visited Figure 15 shows a Website I visited while browsing with IE10. These are found in compound DAT files with the file name similar to a Class ID. It is not know at this time if the file name is a Class ID as more research needs to be conducted. Once the file is unpacked, look for entries that are named TL#. These are possibly known as Travel Logs and they contain the websites the user visited in plain text (some of the entry is in hex). The TL with the highest number is likely the oldest website visited. Figure 15 Plain text output of a website visited using IE10 Website 19 Journal Notes Journal Notes is a program that came with Windows 7, but we will probably see greater use with Windows 8. This application maintains a DAT file that gives the stored location of Journal Notes (Figure 16). This information is in plain text. It is unknown at this time if other types of information are contained in this DAT file. Figure 16 Microsoft Journal Note s location 20 IE10 Pinned Favorites This section shows favorite websites I pinned to my Metro Desktop (Figure 17). For each Favorite, there is a corresponding link file. The file name of this link file is made up of several digits and it is unknown at this time as to how this file name is derived. The link file contains plain text output of the website the Favorite Tile belongs to. Pinned Website Figure 17 Plain text output of a Favorite Tile I pinned to my Metro Desktop 21 Desktop Tools Desktop Tools is similar to the old Start Menu s Accessories and System Tools folders and is accessible by right-clicking on the task bar (Figure 18). They are broken down into three groups and each application in a group has their own link file that contains which executable runs that application. It is probable that a user could change the tool for a different application. Group 1 contains the Desktop. Group 2 consists of the Run command, Search, Windows Explorer, Control Panel, and Task Manager. Group 3 is made up of Run as Administrator Command Prompt, Command Prompt, Computer Management, Disk Management, Device Manager, System, Event Viewer, Power Options, Network Connections, and Programs and Features. Desktop Tools Figure 18 Executable that runs the Control Panel 22 Metro App Web Cache Everything is connected to the Internet with a Windows Live Account and each app is considered to be what Windows calls an immersive environment. This means that from within each app, you can access other apps, so essentially, that app becomes the operating system. As a result of this immersive concept, each app will have its own Internet artifacts. Figure 19 shows web cache for the Microsoft Bing Weather App. Figure 19 Microsoft Bing Weather App web cache contents may vary depending on the application 23 Metro App Cookies Cookies can also be found for each Metro App. Figure 20 shows the cookies are text files and the content of a cookie found here is similar to any other cookie content you might come across. Figure 20 Metro App Cookie for the Chat application 24 Roaming Folder The AppData\Roaming folder is independent of the computer and holds data that is specific to the application and roams with the user s profile. In Windows XP, this data was contained in Documents and Settings\%UserName%\Application Data. Artifacts that are of use to us that are found here include applications pinned to the Task Bar, cookies, and Internet Explorer downloads history. %Root%\Users\%User%\AppData\Roaming\ Application Location Purpose Credentials Credentials Can contain data used by EFS v. RSA-based Certificates Crypto\RSA Contains private keys for Microsoft RSAbased CSPs. Also see Master Key vi. Pinned to Task Bar Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar Applications the user pinned to their task bar. Data is contained in a link file. Master Key Protect\%SID% Used to encrypt the user s private key. Contains the user s Master Key, which contains the Password Key and the backup/restore form for the Master Key. Data is encrypted twice. User s Credentials Vault Credentials that are used to automatically logon the user to Websites, servers, and programs vii. Cookies Windows\Cookies\Low Internet cookies with data contained in text files. 25 Application Location Purpose IE Compatibility Mode Cache IE Compatibility UA Cache IE Download History IE Top Level Domain Cache Windows\IECompatCache\Low Windows\IECompatUACache\Low Windows\IEDownloadHistory Windows\IETldCache Contains cache data when IE uses Compatibility Mode. Unknown at this time. Contains a history of files the user downloaded. Contains TLDs user could add TLDs that may not necessarily be recognized as TLDs. File format data is stored in is unknown at this time. Libraries Windows\Libraries Contains info on Documents, Music, Pictures, etc. and whether library is pinned, the owner s SID, and the class ID of the folder. Data is contained in XML format. Logon Windows\Logon Unknown at this time Network Shortcuts Windows\N
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