What makes TACTICAL groundbreaking is not amazing technical advancements in the product itself, but its ease of use. Essentially, it will enable just about anyone to use the product with little effort, yet yielding powerful results. All of the software and licensing is prepackaged in a pair of USB flash drives labeled Examiner and Subject. Unlike the Consultant and Enterprise Editions, there is no need to run a license management server.
To use it, you plug the Subject USB drive into the machine you want to examine and run the TACTICAL Subject software. Next, plug the Examiner USB drive into your analysis machine, run the TACTICAL Examiner software, click Auto Connect, and watch the drives from the subject system show up ready for analysis. There's a great video over at the F-Response site that shows it in action along with a tool called Drive Prophet, so you can see it's as easy as I'm making it sound.
I received an advance review copy of TACTICAL from Matthew Shannon, the author and founder of F-Response, and it was perfect timing because I've been very focused on USB-based incident response tools. TACTICAL includes two USB flash drives on which you can include your evidence collection tools, and they include a write-blocking switch, which is handy when you plug into a malware-infected system that spreads by infecting USB flash drives.
I've spent time testing TACTICAL in a few different scenarios, like analyzing an infected system and one that has been compromised by an individual attacker. This morning, I used Microsoft's free LogParser to create a time line of an infected Windows XP filesystem, Harlan Carvey's RegRipper to parse Registry files, and have started writing a few scripts based on some of the file-slurping meterpreter scripts.
Once TACTICAL is released and in the hands of talented forensic experts, I'm hoping to see a small community spring up to develop creative tools and packages that leverage TACTICAL. That way first responders can get in and out with the data they need, and forensic investigators can run powerful forensic tools, like X-Ways Forensics, for live forensic analysis.
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.