What are your forensic tools really good at?

Happy Saturday everyone! Several of my SANS FOR585 students have asked me to document my opinions on what tools I like and how I find them to be helpful. Again, I am not including every single tool out there or highlighting all of their capabilities, so if one is missing that you find useful, please post in the comments. This is simply a quick blog to highlight what has helped me in the past 6+ months.

I am not going to dive too deep into acquisition. There are so many tools and methods available that most people can figure out a way to get the data. I recommend you always get a physical dump and logical or backup to help you parse the data. Pick your poison on obtaining the data (Cellebrite, MSAB, Lantern, Blacklight, ViaExtract, flasher boxes…. it goes on and on). Each tool has their pros and cons and it’s a bad idea to only have one tool in your toolbox. Smartphones are beasts and security is getting stronger. Make sure you test your tools and test them often. Don’t let one hurdle knock you down. Try to trick your tool into working for you if needed.

I think the easiest way to write this blog is to include highlights and then touch on them. What is your tool really good for based upon my experience:

Commercial Solutions (Not in any particular order):

  • IEF Mobile – Great for Internet evidence and parsing 3rd party application data. One of the best iOS app parsers out there.
  • Physical Analyzer – Probably the best analytical platform out there specific to smartphone tools. It doesn’t parse everything, but it gives us a platform for analysis where we can make it find the evidence with some manual carving and hex searches.  Best physical search feature for locating data in raw hex.
  • MSAB XRY/XACT – One of the only tools that provides access to the raw files during a logical acquisition. Guess what, to recover data that the tools don’t parse you need the raw files. This tool give you access to them!
  • Lantern – Great Facebook app support. Seems to parse more data than the others on specific iOS devices.
  • Blacklight – Great tool that can run on a Mac! Great support for iOS devices. Haven’t you heard that you should examine a Mac with a Mac? A wise examiner once told me that and it still resonates with me.
  • Mobilyze – Best triage tool for iOS and Android.
  • MPE+ – The SQLite builder is a great feature when manually examining databases from 3rd party apps.
  • Oxygen – The best tool for BlackBerry. Acquires the event log and provides a secure way to create a BB backup file. Also counts out all those nasty little databases for you. I also like how Oxygen parses 3rd Party Apps.

Open Source and Other Solutions (Not in any particular order):

  • Andriller – This is one of my new favorites. This tool can crack passcodes and provides parsers for iOS, Android and Windows 3rd Party Application files. Free for LE and well worth it for everyone else. The fee is small the results are huge! https://andriller.com/
  • Now Secure CE (used to be ViaExtract CE) – Andrew Hoog was kind to release this awesome tool. It provides acquisition support for free! Parsers are pretty kick-ass too. Check it out. https://www.nowsecure.com/forensics/community/
  • Sanderson Forensics tools – Great SQLite support! The SQLite Forensic Toolkit is so useful in recovering deleted data and for converting those pesky timestamps. http://www.sandersonforensics.com/forum/content.php
  • Parsers developed by the community. Mari DeGrazia (http://az4n6.blogspot.com/)and Adrian Leong (http://cheeky4n6monkey.blogspot.com/) are rockstars and often give back by developing scripts to help us sift through application and smartphone data. Check out their blogs to see what has been helping us sift through the massive amounts of data.
  • Autopsy – The Android Analyzer module supports parsing commonly missed items from Android devices. It also gives you access to the File System directory tree faster than any commercial tool out there. http://sleuthkit.org/autopsy/

I am sure I have forgotten to give credit to some where it’s due, so I am requesting that you help me out. What tools really help you and how? Is there one that is strong with Base64 decoding? What about the double Base64? Don’t know what that means??? Take FOR585 and Cindy Murphy and I will teach you.  If you need more references on how to use the tools and the open source/free solutions, read the following books:

Practical Mobile Forensics

Learning Android Forensics

Learning iOS Forensics

Good luck and keep digging in that Hex! The data is there and it’s your job to find it.

5 thoughts on “What are your forensic tools really good at?”

  1. Hi Heather,

    I think you got us mixed up regarding the rockstar status – Mari is the real rockstar. I am just the combination B-grade support act / sound check dude 🙂

    Anyhoo, just thought I’d stop by and give my 2 cents (which I suspect is worth even less due to the crummy exchange rate 🙂 …

    +1 for Physical Analyzer’s Hex viewer but we also found that XACT ran some searches quicker and it also allowed for easy searching for GSM 7-bit encoded strings. This helped us out a bunch when parsing an unsupported cheapie phone that didn’t return any relevant ASCII / Unicode search hits. The GSM 7-bit string search let us quickly find SMS of potential interest. Like you say above, you really need more than one tool.

    Some other tools I use:
    – X-Ways Forensics can be used to mount extracted .bin files (for Android and Windows Phones) and then carve (RVS) for content / perform keyword searches.

    – DCode (from Digital Detective) is a free timestamp calculator GUI that I find myself using regularly.

    – WinHex is a great free Hex Editor but I also like the pretty visualisation of hex values in Hex Workshop (commercial). This allows you to quickly scroll through irrelevant data like all zeroes or FF’s.

    Keep on Hexin’ on 🙂

  2. Just found out today that Notepad++ will perform Base64 encodings (with padding as required) as many times as you like.

    You select your plaintext in the main window, then go to:
    Plugins … MIME Tools … and then select Base64 Encode
    There’s also a Decode option.



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