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File System Forensic Analysis Paperback – Mar 17 2005

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From the Inside Flap


Computer forensics is a relatively new field, and over the years it has been called many things: "computer forensics," "digital forensics," and "media analysis" to name a few. It has only been in the past few years that we have begun to recognize that all of our digital devices leave digital breadcrumbs and that these breadcrumbs are valuable evidence in a wide range of inquiries. While criminal justice professionals were some of the first to take an interest in this digital evidence, the intelligence, information security, and civil law fields have enthusiastically adopted this new source of information.

Digital forensics has joined the mainstream. In 2003, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors–Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD–LAB) recognized digital evidence as a full-fledged forensic discipline. Along with this acceptance came increased interest in training and education in this field. The Computer Forensic Educator's Working Group (now known as the Digital Forensic Working Group) was formed to assist educators in developing programs in this field. There are now over three-dozen colleges and universities that have, or are, developing programs in this field. More join their ranks each month.

I have had the pleasure of working with many law enforcement agencies, training organizations, colleges, and universities to develop digital forensic programs. One of first questions that I am asked is if I can recommend a good textbook for their course or courses. There have been many books written about this field. Most take a targeted approach to a particular investigative approach, such as incident response or criminal investigation. Some tend to be how-to manuals for specific tools. It has been hard to find a book that provides a solid technical and process foundation for the field...That is, until now.

This book is the foundational book for file system analysis. It is thorough, complete, and well organized. Brian Carrier has done what needed to be done for this field. This book provides a solid understanding of both the structures that make up different file systems and how these structures work. Carrier has written this book in such a way that the reader can use what they know about one file system to learn another. This book will be invaluable as a textbook and as a reference and needs to be on the shelf of every digital forensic practitioner and educator. It will also provide accessible reading for those who want to understand subjects such as data recovery.

When I was first approached about writing this Foreword, I was excited! I have know Brian Carrier for a number of years and I have always been impressed with his wonderful balance of incredible technical expertise and his ability to clearly explain not just what he knows but, more importantly, what you need to know. Brian's work on Autopsy and The Sleuth Kit (TSK) has demonstrated his command of this field—his name is a household name in the digital forensic community. I have been privileged to work with Brian in his current role at Purdue University, and he is helping to do for the academic community what he did for the commercial sector: He set a high standard.

So, it is without reservation that I recommend this book to you. It will provide you with a solid foundation in digital media.

Mark M. Pollitt
Former Director of the FBI's Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory Program

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

From the Back Cover

The Definitive Guide to File System Analysis: Key Concepts and Hands-on Techniques

Most digital evidence is stored within the computer's file system, but understanding how file systems work is one of the most technically challenging concepts for a digital investigator because there exists little documentation. Now, security expert Brian Carrier has written the definitive reference for everyone who wants to understand and be able to testify about how file system analysis is performed.

Carrier begins with an overview of investigation and computer foundations and then gives an authoritative, comprehensive, and illustrated overview of contemporary volume and file systems: Crucial information for discovering hidden evidence, recovering deleted data, and validating your tools. Along the way, he describes data structures, analyzes example disk images, provides advanced investigation scenarios, and uses today's most valuable open source file system analysis tools—including tools he personally developed. Coverage includes

  • Preserving the digital crime scene and duplicating hard disks for "dead analysis"

  • Identifying hidden data on a disk's Host Protected Area (HPA)

  • Reading source data: Direct versus BIOS access, dead versus live acquisition, error handling, and more

  • Analyzing DOS, Apple, and GPT partitions; BSD disk labels; and Sun Volume Table of Contents using key concepts, data structures, and specific techniques

  • Analyzing the contents of multiple disk volumes, such as RAID and disk spanning

  • Analyzing FAT, NTFS, Ext2, Ext3, UFS1, and UFS2 file systems using key concepts, data structures, and specific techniques

  • Finding evidence: File metadata, recovery of deleted files, data hiding locations, and more

  • Using The Sleuth Kit (TSK), Autopsy Forensic Browser, and related open source tools

When it comes to file system analysis, no other book offers this much detail or expertise. Whether you're a digital forensics specialist, incident response team member, law enforcement officer, corporate security specialist, or auditor, this book will become an indispensable resource for forensic investigations, no matter what analysis tools you use.

Brian Carrier has authored several leading computer forensic tools, including The Sleuth Kit (formerly The @stake Sleuth Kit) and the Autopsy Forensic Browser. He has authored several peer-reviewed conference and journal papers and has created publicly available testing images for forensic tools. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Digital Forensics at Purdue University, he is also a research assistant at the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) there. He formerly served as a research scientist at @stake and as the lead for the @stake Response Team and Digital Forensic Labs. Carrier has taught forensics, incident response, and file systems at SANS, FIRST, the @stake Academy, and SEARCH.

Brian Carrier's contains book updates and up-to-date URLs from the book's references.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I am going to assume that anyone interested in this book does not need motivation with respect to why someone would want to investigate a computer or other digital device, so I will skip the customary numbers and statistics. Read the first page
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
excellent coverage of the area, high quality writing Aug. 30 2005
By jose_monkey_org - Published on
Format: Paperback
It's easy to think that computer filesystems are relatively simple things. After all, if 'dir' or 'ls' don't show what you're looking for, maybe an undelete program will work. Or will it? To be a decent, trustworthy expert in forensics (a requirement if you plan to participate in any criminal investigations), you'll have to learn how filesystems really operate, how tools like undelete and lazarus work, and how they can be defeated.

Carrier's book isn't a legal book at all, and it doesn't pretend to offer much insight into the law surrounding forensics. Instead it focuses on technical matters, and is sure to be the gold standard in its field. This is important, because it comes at you expecting you to have some knowledge, even if only informal, of what a filesystem contains. With a basic understanding of data structures, you'll get a wealth of information out of this book, and it will be a good reference long after you've first studied it.

File System Forensic Analysis is divided into three sections. These are arranged in the order that you'll want to study them to maximize the benefit you can hope to achieve, namely an understanding of how to examine filesystems for hidden or previously stored data. The first three chapters cover a fundamental series of topics: Digital Investigation Foundations, Computer Foundations, and an introduction to Hard Disk Data Acquisition. While they start at a basic level (e.g. what hexadecimal is), they quickly progress to more developed topics, such as the types of interfaces (SATA, SCSI, IDE), the relationship of the disk to the computer system as a whole, and how data is stored in a file and filesystem at a basic level. A lot of examples given use Linux, due to the raw, accessible nature of UNIX and UNIX-like systems, and the availability of tools like 'dd' to gather data.

Part 2 covers "Volume Analysis," or the organization of files into a storage system. This introduces the basics of things like partition tables (including how to read one). The next few chapters cover PC-based partitions (DOS and Apple), server-based partitions (BSD, Solaris and GPT partitions), and then multiple disk volumes like RAID and logical volumes. With this introduction, the final chapter of the section covers how to use these filesystem descriptions in practice to look for data during analysis. Filesystem layouts, organization, and things like journals and consistency checks are covered with a clarity and exactness that's refreshing for such a detailed topic.

Having covered the basics of filesystems, Part 3 covers the bulk of the book and material. Several chapters follow that specifically show you how to analyze particular filesystems by using their data structures to direct your reads. A range of filesystems are covered, including FAT, NTFS, EXT2 and EXT3, and the BSD types UFS1 and UFS2. Each filesystem has two chapters, one devoted to concepts and analysis, another entirely about data structures. Dividing each filesystem type like this lets Carrier focus first on the theory of each filesystem and its design, and then the practical use of its design to actually understand how to pull data off of it.

The real strength of File System Forensic Analysis lies in Carrier's direct and clear descriptions of the concepts, the completeness of his coverage, and the detail he provides. For example, a number of clear, well-ordered and simple diagrams are peppered throughout the book, explaining everything from allocation algorithms to NTFS alternative data streams. This use of simple diagrams makes the topics more easily understood, so the book's full value can be appreciated. This is the kind of thing that sets a book apart from its peers and makes it a valuable resource for a long time.

Finally, Carrier brings it all together and shows us how many aspects of filesystems can be examined using his "sleuth kit" tools, freely available and easy to use. Without appearing to hawk this tool at the expense of other valuable resources, you get to see how simple and direct filesystem manipulations can be done using a direct approach. This kind of presentation is what makes File System Forensic Analysis a great foundation.

Overall I'm pleased with File System Forensic Analysis, I think that Carrier has achieved what few technical authors do, namely a clear explanation of highly technical topics which retains a level of detail that makes it valuable for the long term. For anyone looking seriously at electronic forensics, this is a must have. I suspect people who are working on filesystem implementations will also want to study it for its practical information about NTFS. Overall, a great technical resource.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Must Have Resource for Digital Forensics May 5 2005
By D. Baker - Published on
Format: Paperback
Brian Carrier has written a solid book that should be on the reference shelf of anyone in the Digital Forensics field that conducts analysis of file systems. The book is well organized into three parts, each with multiple chapters.

The first part discusses the foundations necessary to understand digital evidence, computer functions and acquiring data for analysis. This part is intentionally at a higher level, yet still provides the necessary foundations for the subsequent parts. A good explanation of host protected area (HPA) and device configuration overlays (DCO) is included, as well as methods by which one can test for such areas on volumes.

The second part discusses volume analysis. Brian takes this topic and divides it into four chapters addressing basic volumes, personal computer volumes, server volumes and finally multiple disk volumes. He provides detailed information on a variety of common partition types, even including both SPARC and i386 partition information for Sun Solaris.

Finally the third part discusses file system analysis, and the last 10 chapters are dedicated to covering general information, and then detailed descriptions of concepts, analysis and data structures for FAT, NTFS, Ext2, Ext3, UFS1 and UFS2 file systems. The detailed information provided well-documented explanations and included analysis scenarios. For instance, in his discussion of NTFS analysis, an image of a damaged disk is evaluated, and he provides meaningful explanations of reconstructing the damaged tables to allow analysis of the data. He provides many such examples throughout.

An additional positive attribute to this work is the thorough bibliography placed after each chapter, which quickly provides the reader with other data sources, should they be needed.

Overall, this is an excellent reference for anyone that must conduct analysis of file systems for investigative purposes. He provides clear information that is valuable, regardless of what tools an examiner may use to conduct analysis. This is definitely worth having on your bookshelf.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
At Last, A Real Digital Forensics Reference Book Aug. 1 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Brian Carrier has stepped up to the plate and filled a void in host based digital forensics that has been missing for years. "File System Forensic Analysis" covers nearly every low level aspect of file systems, the heart of every computer forensics investigation. In an age where most digital forensic investigations are oversimplified with GUI analysis suites, Mr. Carrier brings us back to the basis of investigative techniques in a very easy to understand manner.

I especially respect how Mr. Carrier took the extra time to develop a framework used to discuss and compare the file systems. His generalized framework should make it easy for the reader to address the differences discovered between file systems.

In addition to the expected file system discussions, there were a few extra surprises in the book that are worth mentioning. Mr. Carrier included information regarding methods different Operating Systems (and versions of those Operating Systems) interface with their file systems. For example, the infamous creation time/date stamp after the last written time/date stamp phenomenon is clearly explained for Microsoft Windows file systems.

I keep very few printed books as reference guides, but this book will be close to my computer during every investigation.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Super-deep filesystem coverage April 21 2005
By Dr Anton Chuvakin - Published on
Format: Paperback
More and more good forensics books show up at my doorstep (some bad ones have surfaced as well...). However, Brian's "File System Forensics Analysis" is exceptional in its depth of coverage of modern computer file systems. No other book published so far (and, I suspect, ever) offers that level of details on the internals of file systems such as ext2, ext3, NTFS, FAT and also UFS1 and 2. This is not a general purpose forensics practitioner guide, nor is it a guide to acquiring evidence (however, the book does contain a brief intro to the forensic process). The book just looks at the file systems! There was definitely a need for a source of low-level information on filesystem internals as they apply to forensics. What are the NTFS-specific acquisition issues? Ext3 vs ext2? Etc, etc - many other technical forensics questions are answered in this book.

Ok, so you are the type who run EnCase once and think you are ready to go to court to testify? Have you looked at Windows swap file? Alternative data streams? Host-protected area? No? Then get the book. The book will help law enforcement computer crime folks (those already skilled in forensics), forensics consultants and internal investigators to learn what is really going on when bits get copied, removed, acquired, etc.

Anton Chuvakin, Ph.D., GCIA, GCIH, GCFA is a Security Strategist with a major security company. He is an author of the book "Security Warrior" and a contributor to "Know Your Enemy II". In his spare time, he maintains his security portal
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Very deep May 24 2006
By Rob DePena, CCSE - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm pretty technical, so I enjoyed this book. The author has more on file systems than just about anywhere, and I found it helpful in non security work also just to understand how the different systems work.

I was able to use the book Windows Forensics, Corporate Computer Investigations by Chad Steel more in daily use, but this book would have been a better as a starting point in learning about disk based analysis and does a much better job of diving deep into file system specifics.

Some of the programming level content was tough to follow, but if you are ever going to court and really need to know your stuff this is buy far the book you need. I recommend it throughly.