Thursday, March 01, 2007

Book: Windows Forensics and Incident Recovery

Windows Forensics and Incident Recovery
by Harlan Carvey -ISBN 0-321-20098-5

This is a great book because I learned more than I thought I would from it. Coming from a command-line Unix background, I tend to view Windows as excessively GUI-centric (maybe that's why it's called Windows?) and full of opaque Microsoft voodoo. This books showed me that there are plenty of things to be learned from the Windows command line, and there are lots of transparent, open-source tools to expose the inner workings of Windows.

There are really three types of information in this book: how Windows works, tools to collect information about Windows, and the bigger task of forensic information extraction and processing. There is a lot of information about basic operating systems concepts (files, processes, etc.) and how they are implemented in Windows. I especially liked the presentation of user privileges - we typically only hear about those in the context of administrator versus non-administrator, but there is a listing of each of the individual privileges and what they mean. The tools that the author presents are primarily command-line tools, and many of them are written in Perl - very approachable for an old Unix hack. (A second edition of this book would benefit from a treatment on Microsoft's WMIC tool.) With the basic groundwork laid, the author presents a bigger picture of how to use all of the tools in a forensic investigation. He presents a series of dreams, which are a bit corny, but they serve as a sequence of case studies. He also provides a "forensic server" to storing all the little bits of information that get collected - a bit like "real" tools like EnCase.

Like the book File System Forensic Analysis, one of my favorite aspects of this book is that it provides a lot of practical information about applied operating systems - Windows. The author provides links to a lot of tools and web pages, so this book serves as an excellent starting point to learn a lot more about Windows and forensic data recovery. The text includes complete source code for the Perl tools, so a code-oriented reader can really see what the information is and where it comes from.

If I had to criticize something in this book, I'd say that Chapter 9 on scanners and sniffers drifts a bit from the central theme of the book, but then I've found that to be pretty common in security books because so many of the topics are interrelated; you start pulling one thread on the sweater, and the next thing you know, you've unraveled the whole thing.
All in all, this is a great starting point for learning about forensic data acquisition on the Windows platform.


1 comment:

Minh Nguyen said...

Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 is out. I'm tempted to download the software just try to out what have been advertised, especially PowerShell and Server Core. But so far, I have found much time to toy around with millions of attractions. Getting too tech savvy will put me in a lonely dark room :(

Your students (current and former) would be thrilled if you could give an academic insights on these two components.