Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Threat Intelligence

11/27/2017
10:30 AM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Cyber Forensics: The Next Frontier in Cybersecurity

We can now recover evidence from the RAM on a cellphone, even if the account is locked, and use it to prosecute a case.

Every day at Georgia Tech's College of Engineering, my lab helps to solve real crimes through cyber forensics, the application of investigation and analysis techniques to gather and preserve evidence from a computing device that can be presented in a court of law. My research has large-scale crime-solving implications, and my goal is to figure out how we can collect as much evidence as possible from any device involved in the crime to help put away the criminal.

Since I arrived at Georgia Tech, my lab has been hard at work to create forensic techniques that help investigators solve human crimes, in addition to tackling malware and cyber attacks. If someone robs a bank and drops his phone at the scene of the crime, we can mine that digital device for evidence that will help prosecute the case.

One of the primary focuses of my research is memory image forensics, the process of recovering evidence from the RAM (random access memory) of a device. I recently developed a cyber-forensic technique called RetroScope to recover encrypted information on a device, even if the user has locked his or her accounts. RetroScope leverages a copy of the memory (RAM data) from the device and recreates information such as texts or emails. An investigator can see entire sequences of app screens that were previously accessed by the user.

Terrorists are known to use an application called Telegram that is extremely secure and encrypts everything on the phone. With RetroScope, the data on the phone is recreated and made available to law enforcement. An investigator can see exactly what the suspect was communicating before or during the crime. Any data left on the memory of the device can be extracted and used as evidence.

Figure 1. Retroscope at work
Source: Georgia Tech
Source: Georgia Tech

In a recent case, cyber forensics was used at a restaurant where patrons' credit card information was being stolen. A forensic investigator was called in, but he couldn't crack the case. With more customers being hacked, the restaurant was finally sued, and management called in a more-advanced forensic analyst to look over its systems. The forensic analyst realized there was malware on the restaurant's point-of-sale system, exporting credit card information with each swipe. The hacker was leveraging the volatile RAM (e.g., the system's short-term memory) to hide the malware, and the first investigator missed it.

The first investigator was only considering the static files stored on the disk of the computer. At the time, the forensic investigator wasn't considering volatile RAM as a hiding place for malware. From research like mine, investigators now know that a device's RAM is a viable place to harbor malware. You have to look everywhere in these investigations, leaving no stone unturned. My lab and I are continuing to pioneer the investigation of volatile RAM and the power of memory forensics in cases such as this.

At present, investigating crimes that involve digital devices as evidence is done in a very ad hoc manner, with much digital evidence being left behind. We need to design more holistic cyber-forensic techniques that take into account the entire digital system, and not just a single piece of evidence that investigators happen to find. This requires a paradigm shift in the way people think about cyber forensics. It's no longer just a tool to be used in a larger investigation; it's actually the driver of the investigation itself.

Related Content:

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two days of practical cyber defense discussions. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the INsecurity agenda here.

 

Dr. Brendan Saltaformaggio is an Assistant Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, with a courtesy appointment in the School of Computer Science. His research interests lie in computer systems security, cyber forensics, and the vetting ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
pjhinders
100%
0%
pjhinders,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/28/2017 | 9:33:10 AM
RAM analysis
Very good article....RAM analysis is so crucial in forensic investigations....so much malware is memory resident only so if your not looking then you miss it completely. RAM analysis is on of the best ways to triage a potential investigation in my opinioin...
Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-18214
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
The Video_Converter app 0.1.0 for Nextcloud allows denial of service (CPU and memory consumption) via multiple concurrent conversions because many FFmpeg processes may be running at once. (The workload is not queued for serial execution.)
CVE-2019-18202
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
Information Disclosure is possible on WAGO Series PFC100 and PFC200 devices before FW12 due to improper access control. A remote attacker can check for the existence of paths and file names via crafted HTTP requests.
CVE-2019-18209
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
templates/pad.html in Etherpad-Lite 1.7.5 has XSS when the browser does not encode the path of the URL, as demonstrated by Internet Explorer.
CVE-2019-18198
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.
CVE-2019-18197
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In xsltCopyText in transform.c in libxslt 1.1.33, a pointer variable isn't reset under certain circumstances. If the relevant memory area happened to be freed and reused in a certain way, a bounds check could fail and memory outside a buffer could be written to, or uninitialized data could be disclo...