In the last post, we discussed a number of valuable Google account artifacts that are not necessarily captured in a Google Takeout. One of the these, the Google Activity Log, is a unified timeline containing cards for various Google services associated with the account. Chief among these artifacts were Chrome internet history, Android application usage, and audio recordings of the user interacting with Google Assistant or Google Home products. While this information can be queried and filtered online with access to the account, what can we do to collect this information offline to review at a later date? Here’s one solution.
I have been hard at work the last few months developing code and writing chapters for my latest book with Chapin Bryce titled Python Digital Forensics Cookbook. Because of this, I must admit I have no new content to post to the blog this week. Instead, I am taking this as an opportunity to elicit feedback and suggestions. In exchange for that, I will be giving away eBook copies of my first book, Learning Python for Forensics, to two randomly chosen individuals.
The Spotlight series highlights useful Python libraries and their forensic application.
You’re no doubt aware that major technology companies, like our great benefactor Google, retain a great deal of data regarding their users. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering how important users are to a company’s livelihood. Wouldn’t you want to know, if you could, every detail about your customers and who you do business with to better engage them? And as disturbing as that can be (have you seen Google’s location history timeline?), I think we can all agree that we have wished for similar omniscient-like knowledge in our investigations. I hate to disappoint you, but this isn’t a post about that.
One thing that can give us the appearance of omniscience is a history of the user’s whereabouts. It can be hard, for example, to discount a mobile device’s reported location at the scene of the crime at the time the crime occurred when the user’s alibi places them a few towns over during that same time. In this day and age who do you think you are fooling with the “My phone wasn’t with me” gimmick.
Virtual machines are everywhere, no longer just confined to the corporate environment. It is not unheard of for consumers to use virtualization software on their personal devices these days. Examination of these VMs does not differ much from normal host investigations. Tools, like FTK Imager, support common virtualized HDDs and can be used to preserve and review them. But what happens when a VM is encrypted and password-protected? Compound the issue with an uncooperative custodian and it may be time for more creative solutions. Thankfully, VMware, a popular virtualization program, can create an artifact on the host operating system that gives us insight into what applications are installed on the VM.
How often are you tasked with reviewing large data sets in less than ideal (or even terrible) formats? Everyone has likely had to review logs containing many tens of thousands of lines at one point or another. We may not have time or budget (or patience) to review every line in a text editor. What do you do?