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Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools Paperback – Apr 14 2011
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"This is highly detailed material. Although the introductory chapter adopts an easy pace, with overviews of important technical concepts, most of the other chapters get right down to the practice of forensic analysis. This is not a book you’re going to want to read in bed: you’ll want this right next to a computer – preferably two or three computers running different operating systems – so that you can try the techniques for yourself as you work your way through. The authors admit that this book does not cover everything you need to know. For instance, it focuses entirely on ‘dead drive’ forensics – offline systems. Analysing running systems often requires high-level proprietary tools. But it does give an excellent grounding in the methods of digital forensic analysis and provides a valuable first step in learning the technicalities."--Network Security, May 2012, page 4
"Digital Forensics – MacGyver Style! The practical solutions of this book, Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools, save the day when commercial tools fail. During an incident, the clock ticks. Response teams scramble to pull anything together to solve the immediate challenge. Cory Altheide and Harlan Carvey take you through the tools and tactics that you need – the ones that in a pinch will get the job done. A welcome addition to my library."--Rob Lee, SANS Institute
"Intended for students and new computer professionals, or those new to open source applications, this guide to digital forensics provides practical instructions for many common tasks in data recovery and analysis using open source tools. Beginning with a discussion of setting up an open source examination platform and tool set, the work covers disk and file system analysis, Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X systems and artifacts, Internet artifacts, file analysis and automated analysis. The volume includes numerous code examples and tips and tricks as well as an appendix of software tools."--Reference and Research Book News
"Intended for students and new computer professionals, or those new to open source applications, this guide to digital forensics provides practical instructions for many common tasks in data recovery and analysis using open source tools. Beginning with a discussion of setting up an open source examination platform and tool set, the work covers disk and file system analysis, Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X systems and artifacts, Internet artifacts, file analysis and automated analysis. The volume includes numerous code examples and tips and tricks as well as an appendix of software tools. Chapter examples assume a basic knowledge of the Linux command line interface."--Reference and Research Book News
"The authors intended this book for two types of readers: complete novices in the world of digital forensics, and seasoned practitioners who are interested in learning more about open source tools that could help them in their work. And although it might seem difficult to merge the knowledge in such a way to make for an interesting book for both groups, in my opinion, the writers managed to do it beautifully."--Net-Security.org
From the Back Cover
Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools is the definitive book on investigating and analyzing computer systems and media using open source tools. The book is a technical procedural guide, and explains the use of these tools on Linux and Windows systems as a platform for performing computer forensics. Both well known and novel forensic methods are demonstrated using command-line and graphical open source computer forensic tools for examining a wide range of target systems and artifacts.See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Digital Forensics With Open Source Tools (DFWOST) begins by defining "free" vs. "open" and the digital forensic process, as well as the benefits of using open source tools. DFWOST quickly moves into setting up the examination workstation, that the examiner/analyst will use to perform the digital forensic examination; regardless, of the host operating system of your forensic machine.
While the book is not a textbook on how to perform a digital forensic examination, it does outline basic digital forensic concepts and terminology that the forensic examiner must comprehend to utilize the open source framework that the book mainly focuses upon, The Sleuth Kit.
From here, the book goes into depth with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X operating systems and how to use open source tools to identify, parse, and "forensicate" the various system artifacts.
The book's final chapter focuses on automating forensic analysis and extending capabilities with open source tools Finally, the appendix is full of free, non-open source tools that you should become familiar with and integrate into your digital forensic toolkit. Remember, there are many ways to skin a cat! [Disclaimer: no kitteh's were harmed in compiling this book review :)]
Here's why I am giving this book a five star review:
1) Altheide and Carvey walk the reader through compiling a forensic examination workstation to utilize for a digital forensic investigation. It's full of tips, command line refreshers, and best practices delivered from experienced digital forensic professionals with perfect symmetry (i.e., "It is best to complete Y, to avoid Z").
2) In regards to symmetry, Altheide and Carvey do an awesome job of describing The Sleuth Kit Tools, breaking down the common TSK prefixes and each layer of TSK tools, which for new examiners can be task within itself. If you are new to TSK, DFWOST is the perfect companion.
3) Altheide and Carvey eliminate the barrier of just having OS specific forensic tools. Linux and Mac OS X users can now play in their own sandbox, using their own toys (Of course, Linux and Mac users knew this all along).
4) Chapter 8 on File Analysis is the longest chapter (41 pages in length), covering analysis of image files, audio and video files, archive files, and documents. This chapter breaks down a file's content and metadata. DFWOST puts file analysis into a practical and digestible format, that a new examiner should be able to apply immediately to a forensic investigation.
5) The book's length, based on the subject matter is spot on and not too cumbersome (255 pages including Appendix on Free, Non Open Tools). Just as Carvey done with Windows Registry Forensics (WRF), Digital Forensics With Open Source Tools (DFWOST) takes a sniper approach on the subject matter. Depending on what type of reader you are, you may knock it out in a single reading session; or, it may take several reading sessions, which will allow you to follow along, complete the examples, and exercises outlined in the book.
6) Lastly, the DFWOST print version that I purchased is signed by both authors. I was able to catch both authors at the Open Source Digital Forensics Conference last week in NoVa. Thank you gentlemen!
The book's content, length, and practical application make it a necessity for the digital forensic examiner's toolkit! Now, go forth and 'forensicate', DFWOST-style!
The book begins with an excellent section on setting up your forensic workstation, using either Linux or Windows as a host. I was immediately impressed with how succinctly the authors were able to cover this topic. File system analysis is broken into three chapters covering Linux, Windows, and OS X. It is rare to find more than one of these operating systems covered, and references to all three continue throughout the rest of the book. This breadth does come at a cost; a fair amount of system knowledge is assumed. As an example, NTFS is covered in six pages and readers are assumed to have prior knowledge of concepts like NTFS attributes and resident versus non-resident files. Without a doubt, Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools (DFWOST) runs at a blistering pace. This is a boon for more advanced practitioners who do not want to rehash old concepts. However, there were several instances when "newer" artifacts like the Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) were discussed that I found myself wanting more. In other sections I found some of the best topic coverage in print. The discussion of image metadata in Chapter 8 is particularly comprehensive.
Of course the coverage of open source tools is why many will buy this book. In this regard it does not disappoint. I was pleased to find nearly all of my favorite tools covered along with many new ones. I found myself dog-earing pages to return back to when time permits. Harlan Carvey's touch was evident in the coverage of Windows based tools. Tools are covered in conjunction with their related forensic artifacts, reinforcing key concepts and underscoring tool relevance. While coverage is ample, tools are not discussed exhaustively. Readers will need to work with the tools themselves to fully understand their capabilities - an approach which I agree with.
Overall, I found DFWOST to be a tremendous asset in an area with few published resources. If you are looking to push your forensic skills forward, I highly recommend this book.
Unsurprisingly, Cory and Harlan turned out a five star effort. The book does three things for the reader. First, it explains the purpose and use of a variety of open source digital forensic tools (as well as using an appendix to explain some free, but non-open source tools), it provides the reader with some foundational education on file system forensics (Windows, Apple, and Linux), and it explains selected important topics in digital forensics such as web browser forensics, shortcut files, and mail artifacts.
I had a bit of an internal debate regarding whether this book is something that an entry level person would be able to grasp in its entirety. Some of the concepts presented such as the more advanced file system forensic issues can be relatively complicated for a beginner. Ultimately, I think this complexity is a strength of the book in that it makes it a learning barometer of sorts. A good use of this book for a new forensic examiner would be to use it as a guide to determine which portions they already know and which portions are they find confusing. It's the confusing bits that should spur them onto further learning and research until they can come back to the book and understand the concepts that the authors are putting forth. This could have easily been a poorly written book whose explanations were impenetrable to someone new to the field, but it's well written enough that I think it serves as a good initial text for someone who is interested in the field.
This is also a useful book for experienced examiners who want to learn about the variety of open source tools that are available beyond the more expensive, but very popular closed source tools such as EnCase and FTK. While I find those tools to be very useful and beneficial, there has been quite a bit of development and innovation in the open source digital forensics community that can and should be leveraged by both new and experienced examiners.
Price is the potential concern that some might have with this book and that is understandable given the price. I have declined to purchase other interesting looking Syngress titles in the past because I didn't know enough about the authors or the books to justify the risk at the price they were offered. This book is relatively thin and I suspect there will be some concern about the price-to-page ratio. Had this book been written by authors unknown to me, I might very well have declined to purchase it if I hadn't been provided a review copy. However, in the case of this work, it's very much worth the price. This a very well done work that has been created by two respected practitioners and authors in the field and should be on the shelf of every person who is trying to break into the digital forensics field.
The first chapter outlines what constitutes a `free' vs. `open' tool, the various licenses and the benefits of standardizing on a mixed bag of non-commercial tools - hint, portability between jobs is a big bonus. Chapter 2, surprisingly, shows you how to build your own open source examination platform and walks the read through the installation and configuration of software, interpreters and other tools for both a Linux or Windows host. Chapters 3 through 7 provide overviews, tips and tricks on everything from disk and file system analysis techniques to searching for artifacts on Windows, Linux and OS X systems in addition to Internet specific artifacts like those left by browsers and mail clients. Chapter 8 gives a somewhat high-level view of file analysis concepts and provides some file-specifc format information for the investigator-on-the-go (who can really remember the various metadata available in a PDF file anyway?). Chapter 9 discussed the automation of analysis and some of the tools used to help extract common files, create timelines and work with graphical investigative environments like PyFLAG and the Digital Forensics Framework. Finally, the Appendix provides some high-level information on some complimentary, though not open, tools to help with the forensic process.
I can honestly say that I read this book in a matter of hours - not to mention in one sitting. My forensic knowledge and training did allow me to read through the book at a fairly decent pace but I think that even the most green of forensic analysts would walk away with a more detailed knowledge of the forensic process and the open source tools that could be used to undertake a forensic exercise. The book is not going to explain the file system and its intricacies at any great length but really, there are other books already written that do that. Also, the book won't show you how to do everything with the tools it mentions but it certainly will point the reader at some new tools that they may have never known about previously. It's safe to say that DFwOST is certainly no substitute for forensic training or experience but if you already have all of the standard forensics books on your bookshelf (you know the ones), you'd do well to save a slot for DFwOST as a quick reference for some of the newer tools not covered in those older tomes.
While I don't begrudge most of the commercial forensic tool publishers their license fees, I do on occasion wish for the means to run several examination machines concurrently.
Enter Open Source tools. The problem is that I never seem to find time to really learn the Open Source tools available and when I need them most is hardly the time to start learning them. I need a cheat sheet, so to speak, and "Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools" provides exactly that.
The authors, both widely known and very much respected in the digital forensics community, make it clear that the book has two intended audiences: "new forensic practitioners" and "experienced digital forensics practitioners new to open source tools". In that second group, I would put people like myself who have only a passing, not an intimate, familiarity with Open Source tools.
I've been doing computer forensics for a long time and, frankly, I don't have an opinion as to how well this book meets the needs of truly "new practitioners". I think you'd need quite a bit of experience in some aspect(s) of information technology to even begin comprehending this book.
On the other hand, many experienced examiners will find much of the knowledge appears to be material they believe they already know. Be careful! The text is laden with fascinating nuggets that you won't readily find elsewhere.
Initially, while browsing the table of contents, I thought the authors had bitten off more than they could comfortably chew in terms of scope. Wrong. Every topic they list in the nine chapters is treated adequately, though not exhaustively.
Overall, this is a keeper. It will facilitate - if not encourage - my excursions into Open Source tools and expand my capabilities. Can't ask for more than that.
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