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Perimeter

11/24/2008
03:17 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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LiveView: Seeing Is Believing

Investigating security incidents is a necessary fact of life for IT shops everywhere. What varies is how each group handles the incident. I read an interesting article over the weekend from Enterprise IT Planet called "Five Essential Forensics Tools." While I wouldn't consider them all "essential," a couple of them are very important, like Wireshark and Helix, and others are just examples of the ki

Investigating security incidents is a necessary fact of life for IT shops everywhere. What varies is how each group handles the incident. I read an interesting article over the weekend from Enterprise IT Planet called "Five Essential Forensics Tools." While I wouldn't consider them all "essential," a couple of them are very important, like Wireshark and Helix, and others are just examples of the kind of volatile data you should be collecting during an incident. What struck me as interesting, however, was the author's mention of LiveView.The use of LiveView in incident response (IR) situations is novel. It's an awesome tool that really hasn't received much attention in the IR community because it tends to target the law enforcement side of the forensic community. What makes LiveView so interesting is that it enables investigators to take the forensic image of a suspect's computer and boot that image using a VMware, essentially allowing the investigator to see what the suspect would see -- which can have a tremendous impact on a jury.

The author suggests using LiveView to boot the image of a compromised system after it has been forensically imaged. This would then allow you to monitor network activity, see what loaded up when the system started, what programs are listening on what ports, etc. Using LiveView to perform those actions is a really cool use case, though all of those things (with the exception of the network traffic monitoring) can be identified by imaging (or dumping) physical memory from the host before pulling the power and reviewing the memory image with the Volatility Framework or Mandiant Memoryze, and analyzing the registry from the forensic image of the hard drive.

The other issue with the author's approach is it doesn't take into consideration memory-resident malware, virtual machine detection by malware, and memory-resident attack payloads like the meterpreter from the Metasploit Framework. The malware or memory resident attack tool causing the sysadmins to think a host may be compromised might only live in memory and be lost when the system is powered down. In that situation, booting it up in LiveView might show some signs of compromise, but the full extent of what was going on would be near impossible to ascertain without the whole picture.

I don't mean to downplay LiveView because it is a very useful tool for forensics and could prove to be a valuable addition to your IR arsenal, but I wouldn't consider it "essential" since the information obtained through the author's use case can be easily acquired through other methods that would have a higher accuracy. Either way, it's another tool that is worth checking out as you may find it indispensable in an IR scenario down the road.

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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