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Perimeter

2/9/2009
03:01 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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Free Helix IR Tool Sells Out To Cash In

All good things must come to an end. That's the sentiment I'm seeing on a few forensic mailing lists in regard to the demise of the free version of the Helix incident response and forensic LiveCD.

All good things must come to an end. That's the sentiment I'm seeing on a few forensic mailing lists in regard to the demise of the free version of the Helix incident response and forensic LiveCD.Well, it's not exactly a demise, but what I'd say is an evolution of a really great free tool into a commercial product complete with three offerings: Helix3 Enterprise, Live Response, and Helix3.

I'm not surprised to see Helix's commercialization, but I am definitely disappointed to that there is no longer a free offering. Looking at the Website shows that e-fense has been very busy putting together a solid-looking product with Helix3 Enterprise. It has features similar to those of AccessData Enterprise, Encase Enterprise, and Mandiant Intelligent Response.

The enterprise features include software agents for endpoints, a centralized console to conduct enterprisewide investigations, and the ability to collect volatile data, including imaging memory, hard drive imaging and detection of anomalous behavior. One of the focuses of the enterprise version that may catch the eye of prospective customers is e-discovery, which has proved to be an expensive and laborious process for large organizations.

The Live Response product is a "live" incident response tool for collecting volatile information from a running Windows system. This is similar to the Microsoft COFEE tool, which raised a stink last year, and the Windows Forensic Toolchest (WFT), which is another free tool that morphed into a commercial offering.

A Helix3 LiveCD is still offered, but it is only available to members of the e-fense Forum, which is currently advertised at $14.95 a month and requires a one-year commitment. In other words, to get the new version of the Helix3 LiveCD due to be released on April 5, it's going to cost you $179.40. As long as you can make as many copies as you want to use within your enterprise on as many hosts as you want, that's a great deal considering the tool's usefulness and power.

I'll reiterate that I'm disappointed to see this change, but I think e-fense deserves a change with its new Helix3 line of products. It has been producing a very popular, well-liked tool for a number of years for free, so I hope that will encourage users to pony up the funds for the commercial version of the LiveCD and even check out the enterprise edition if it sounds like a good fit for their organizations.

I know economic times are tough, but $179.40 is nothing compared to the time that I'm sure many of you out there have saved during incident response while using Helix.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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