Volume Shadow Copy Timeline

Sunday, March 25, 2012 Posted by Corey Harrell
Windows 7 has various artifacts available to help provide context about files on a system. In previous posts I illustrated how the information contained in jump lists, link files, and Word documents helped explain how a specific document was created. The first post was Microsoft Word Jump List Tidbit where I touched on how Microsoft Word jump lists contain more information than the documents accessed because there were references to templates and images. I expanded on the information available in Word jump lists in my presentation Ripping VSCs – Tracking User Activity. In addition to jump list information I included data parsed from link files, documents’ metadata, and the documents’ content. The end result was that these three artifacts were able to show –at a high level - how a Word document inside a Volume Shadow Copy (VSC) was created. System timelines are a great technique to see how something came about on a system but I didn’t create one for my fake fraud case study. That is until now.

Timelines are a valuable technique to help better understand the data we see on a system. The ways in how timelines are used is limitless but the one commonality is providing context around an artifact or file. In my fake fraud case I outlined the information I extracted from VSC 12 to show how a document was created. Here’s a quick summary of the user’s actions: document was created with bluebckground_finance_charge.dotx template, Microsoft Word accessed a Staples icon, and document was saved. Despite the wealth of information extracted about the document, there were still some unanswered questions. Where did the Staples image come from? What else was the user doing when the document was being created? These are just two questions a timeline can help answer.

The Document of Interest

Creating VSC Timelines

Ripping VSCs is a useful technique to examine VSCs copies but I don’t foresee using it for timeline creation. Timelines can contain a wealth of information from one image or VSC so extracting data across all VSCs to incorporate into a timeline would be way too much information. The approach I take with timelines is to initially include the artifacts that will help me accomplish my goals. If I see anything when working my timeline I can always add other artifacts but starting out I prefer to limit the amount of stuff I need to look at. (For more about how I approach timelines check out the post Building Timelines – Thought Process Behind It). I wanted to know more about the fraudulent document I located in VSC 12 so I narrowed my timeline data to just that VSC. I created the timeline using the following five steps:

        1. Access VSCs
        2. Setup Custom Log2timeline Plug-in Files
        3. Create Timeline with Artifacts Information
        4. Create Bodyfile with Filesystem Metadata
        5. Add Filesystem Metadata to Timeline

Access VSCs

In previous posts I went into detail about how to access VSCs and I even provided references about how others access VSCs (one post was Ripping Volume Shadow Copies – Introduction). I won’t rehash the same information but I didn’t want to omit this step. I identified my VSC of interest was still numbered 12 and then I created a symbolic link named C:\vsc12 pointing to the VSC.

Setup Custom Log2timeline Plug-in Files

Log2timeline has the ability to use plug-in files so numerous plug-ins can run at the same time. I usually create custom plug-in files since I can specify the exact artifacts I want in my timeline. I setup one plug-in file to parse the artifacts located inside a specific user profile while a second plug-in file parses artifacts located throughout the system. I discussed in more depth how to create custom plug-in files in the post Building Timelines – Tools Usage. However, a quick way to create a custom file is to just copy and edit one of the built-in plug-in files. For my timeline I did the following on my Windows system to setup my two custom plug-in files.

        - Browsed to the folder C:\Perl\lib\Log2t\input. This is the folder where log2timeline stores the input modules including plug-in files.

        - Made two copies of the win7.lst plug-in file. I renamed one file to win7_user.lst and the other to win7_system.lst (the files can be named anything you want).

        - Modified the win7_user.lst to only contain iehistory and win_link to parse Internet Explorer browser history and Windows link files respectfully.

        - Modified the win7_system.lst to only contain the following: oxml, prefetch, and recycler. These plug-ins parse Microsoft Office 2007 metadata, prefetch files, and the recycle bin.

Create Timeline with Artifacts Information

The main reason why I use custom plug-in files is to limit the amount of log2timeline commands I need to run. I could have skipped the previous step which would have caused me to run five commands instead of the following two:

        - log2timeline.pl -f win7_user -r -v -w timeline.csv -Z UTC C:/vsc12/Users/harrell

        - log2timeline.pl -f win7_system -r -v -w timeline.csv -Z UTC C:/vsc12

The first command ran the custom plug-in file win7_user (-f switch) to recursively (-r switch) parse the IE browser history and link files inside the harrell user profile. The Users folder inside VSC 12 had three different user profiles so pointing log2timeline at the one let me avoid adding unnecessary data from the other user profiles. The second command ran the win7_system plug–in file to recursively parse 2007 Office metadata, prefetch files, and recycle bins inside VSC 12. Both log2timeline commands stored the output in the file timeline.csv in UTC format.

Create Bodyfile with Filesystem Metadata

At this point my timeline was created and it contained timeline information from select artifacts inside VSC 12. The last item to add to the timeline is data from the filesystem. Rob Lee discussed in his post Shadow Timelines And Other VolumeShadowCopy Digital Forensics Techniques with the Sleuthkit on Windows how to use the sleuthkit (fls.exe) to create a bodyfiles from VSCs. I used the method discussed in his post to execute fls.exe directly against VSC 12 as shown below.

        - fls -r -m C: \\.\HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy12 >> bodyfile

The command made fls.exe recursively (-r switch) search VSC 12 for filesystem information and the output was redirected to a text file named bodyfile in mactime (-m switch) format.

Add Filesystem Metadata to Timeline

The timeline generated by Log2timeline is in csv format while the sleuthkit bodyfile is in mactime format. These two file formats are not compatible so I opted to convert the mactime bodyfile into the Log2timeline csv format. I did the conversion with the following command:

        - log2timeline.pl -f mactime -w timeline.csv -Z UTC bodyfile

Reviewing the Timeline

The timeline I created included the following information: filesystem metadata, Office documents’ metadata, IE browser history, prefetch files, link files, and recycle bin information. I manually included the information inside Microsoft Word’s jump list since I didn’t have the time to put together a script to automate it. The timeline provided more context about the fraudulent document I located as can be seen in the summary below.

1. Microsoft Word was opened to create the Invoice-#233-staples-Office_Supplies.docx (Office metadata)

2. BlueBackground_Finance_Charge.dotx Word template was created on the system (filesystem)

3. User account accessed the template (link files)

4. Microsoft Word accessed the template (jump lists)

5. User performed a Google search for staple (web history)

6. User visited Staples.com (web history)

7. User accessed the staples.png located in C:/Drivers/video/images/ (link files)

8. The staples.png image was created in the images folder (filesystem)

9. Microsoft Word accessed the staples.png image (jump lists)

10. User continued accessing numerous web pages on Staples.com

11. Microsoft Word document Invoice-#233-staples-Office_Supplies.docx was created on the system (office metadata and filesystem)

12. User accessed the Invoice-#233-staples-Office_Supplies.docx document (link files and jump lists)

Here are the screenshots showing the activity I summarized above.

  1. Great post, Corey! Thanks for putting this together, and sharing it...

  2. Thierry13

    Great post,

    It's really interesting to see how you work with VSC, timeline...
    and all the details you can gather.

    Thanks !


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