<offtopic>You may find this article interesting: Measured Boot and Malware Signatures: exploring two vulnerabilities found in the Windows loader. It’s about two registry-related vulnerabilities found in the Windows loader.</offtopic>
Many examiners use tools like Arsenal Image Mounter to access shadow copies on disk images. I don’t recommend this method, because you won’t see offline shadow copies, but many of us still rely on it.
And it seems there will be more caveats…
The issue was initially observed in some Insider Preview versions of Windows 10. Now, the same issue is also present in the leaked build of Windows 11.
Let’s take a look at two screenshots:
So, if you mount a disk image read-only, no shadow copies are found. But if you mount the same image read-write, its shadow copies become visible!
My initial thought was about a possible on-disk structure upgrade. The volsnap driver tries to update some structures, but since the volume isn’t writable, the whole process fails. This was proven to be false.
After mounting the disk image read-only, the following error is observed in the System event log:
What’s going on?
The correct answer is in the “VspOpenControlBlockFile” function (in the volsnap driver). Here are two versions of this function, the first one taken from the driver version not affected by the issue (the “old” driver), the second one taken from the affected driver (the “new” driver).
As you can see, the older version ignores the return value from the “VspCreateStartBlock” function. The newer version bails out if any error is returned by that function. The “VspCreateStartBlock” function tries to write to the underlying volume (it does so in any case, there was no format update as I originally thought) and fails.
Thus, the “VspOpenControlBlockFile” function returns the same error too. This breaks the discovery of shadow copies, making them invisible to the operating system.
So, an NTFS volume mounted as read-only will have its shadow copies hidden behind that write error. This also affects drives attached using a write blocker (unless that write blocker exposes a drive as writable with write errors being suppressed).
Currently, only some Insider Preview versions of Windows 10 share this behavior (even Windows 10 “21H1” isn’t affected). But Windows 11 is coming…
6 thoughts on “Shadow copies become less visible”
Just curious, have you check on this with a recent ISO of Windows 11? I tried to replicate what you discussed but didn’t seem to have issues seeing the volume shadow copies when mounting an E01 with Arsenal Image Mounter.
I reproduced this several days ago on a laptop with an up-to-date Windows 11 installation.
Just reproduced this again, with all updates installed.
And the same for the Dev Channel.
Can you share the build numbers for the operating system and the volsnap driver? Also, the MD5 hash for the volsnap.sys file would be helpful.