A small addition to this post.
Starting from Windows 10 “Redstone 3” (Fall Creators Update), it’s possible to create an NTFS volume using one of the following cluster sizes: 128K, 256K, 512K, 1M, 2M. Previously, the largest supported cluster size was 64K.
Currently, I’m not aware of any third-party tools that support such large clusters: there is no support in the NTFS-3G driver, no support in the Linux kernel (#1, #2), no support in The Sleuth Kit, no support in RawCopy, no support in several proprietary forensic tools.
This update also changed the way how the “sectors per cluster” field (located in an NTFS boot sector) is treated. Previously, this was an unsigned byte and its value was treated literally. Now, this is a signed byte and its value is used as shown in the following pseudocode:
// - SectorsPerCluster: a signed byte (from the offset 13 in an NTFS boot sector).
// Return value:
// - A true number of sectors per cluster.
if ((unsigned)SectorsPerCluster > 0x80)
return 1 << -SectorsPerCluster
This isn’t the same as the algorithm used when dealing with the “file record segment size” and “index record size” fields in an NTFS boot sector, note the edge case when the byte is equal to 0x80 (this corresponds to a negative value, but it’s still used as unsigned for backward compatibility, because 0x80 is used for 64K clusters).
A sample file system image can be found here.
Memory images, page files, hibernation files, crash dumps are standard targets for memory forensics. But there are unusual ones: for example, chunks of disclosed (leaked) uninitialized kernel memory found on a drive.
Continue reading “Forensic analysis of disclosed uninitialized kernel memory”
No operation on a file is allowed to include unallocated (deleted) data into the user-readable area of that file. Otherwise, an unprivileged program could read data from a deleted file even if such access was forbidden when this file was allocated.
But this is not an issue when dealing with files readable by privileged programs only (because such programs can read allocated and unallocated data from a file system directly). However, allocated files containing pieces of unallocated data are very rare (unlike the slack space, such data is a part of file’s data).
Continue reading “NTFS: unallocated data marked as allocated”
In the official NTFS implementation, all metadata changes to a file system are logged to ensure the consistent recovery of critical file system structures after a system crash. This is called write-ahead logging.
The logged metadata is stored in a file called “$LogFile”, which is found in a root directory of an NTFS file system.
Currently, there is no much documentation for this file available. Most sources are either too high-level (describing the logging and recovery processes in general) or just contain the layout of key structures without further description.
Continue reading “How the $LogFile works?”
Things are changing and file systems are not an exception. Even when their version numbers are staying the same.
This post will outline some interesting things found in the current NTFS implementation which are either poorly documented or not documented elsewhere.
Continue reading “NTFS today”
One basic rule when dealing with “hibernated” volumes is to never write anything to them from another operating system. Otherwise, when a hibernated operating system is resumed, there will be a difference between what is on a drive and what the operating system considers to be on that drive.
In Linux, the NTFS-3G driver is issuing the following error message when trying to mount a “hibernated” volume in the read-write mode:
Windows is hibernated, refused to mount.
The disk contains an unclean file system (0, 0).
Metadata kept in Windows cache, refused to mount.
Falling back to read-only mount because the NTFS partition is in an
unsafe state. Please resume and shutdown Windows fully (no hibernation
or fast restarting.)
But this rule isn’t enforced in the Windows world. An NTFS volume is automatically mounted in the read-write mode even if it belongs to a hibernated operating system.
Since the fast startup mode, which uses the hibernation feature to restore the state of the kernel and the loaded drivers, is enabled by default in Windows 8.1 & 10 installations running on most modern computers, such behavior can lead to data corruption in a dual-boot configuration or when a system drive is attached to another computer.
From a forensics perspective, this means that hibernation files may contain some important data.
Continue reading “Hibernation and NTFS”
This is a reply to the Sunday Funday 12/30/18 challenge.
The following results represent an attempt to understand what Windows components write to the Syscache hive in a Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 installation (64-bit; with updates installed as of January 3, 2019).
Continue reading “What writes to the Syscache hive?”