Thursday, October 29, 2015

Results from the 2015 Volatility Plugin Contest are in!

The competition this year was fierce! We received 12 plugins to the contest. Similar to last year, ranking the submissions was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do. Each plugin is unique in its own way and introduces a capability to open source memory forensics that didn’t previously exist. Although a few people will receive prizes for their work, the real winners in this contest are the practitioners and investigators in the community that perform memory forensics. 

Needless to say, we're very proud of everyone who submitted to the contest. 

Here are this year’s rankings:
  1. Fred House, Andrew Davis, and Claudiu Teodorescu for the shimcachemem plugin. 
  2. James Habben for the Evolve web interface to Volatility. 
  3. Philip Huppert for the VM migration address space. 
  4. Ying Li for the linux python strings and SSH agent plugins. 
  5. Adam Bridge for the NDIS packet scanning plugin. 
Here is a detailed summary of the submissions. If you have feedback for the authors, we're sure they'd love to hear your thoughts.

1st: Shimcache Memory Scan 

This plugin by FireEye and Mandiant researchers Fred House, Andrew Davis, and Claudiu Teodorescu parses the Windows Application Compatibility Database (aka, ShimCache) from the module or process memory that contain the database. In the authors' own words:

Shim cache is a highly valuable forensic artifact used to identify evidence of file execution. In addition to recording potential file executions, the cache is ordered, meaning that an analyst can identify other files that may have executed before or after a file of interest.

Most forensic tools that parse the shim cache rely on the cache stored in the Windows registry. The cache in the registry is only updated when a system is shutdown so this approach has the disadvantage of only parsing cache entries since the last shutdown. On systems that are not rebooted regularly (e.g., production servers) an analyst must either use out-of-date shim cache data or request a system reboot.

This plugin parses the shim cache directly from the module or process containing the cache, thereby providing analysts access to the most up-to-date cache. The plugin supports Windows XP SP2 through Windows 2012 R2 on both 32 and 64 bit architectures.

Fred's Twitter: @0xF2EDCA5A
Claudiu's Twitter: @cteo13

2nd: James Habben: Evolve Web Interface

This submission provides a web interface to Volatility built with AJAX, jQuery, and JSON. It allows the user to run several plugins at once and leverage the power of multi-processing. It shows the plugins' status and places the completed plugins near the top for easy access. The output is easily searchable given its sqlite3 backend and there is a "morph" option as well for highlighting interesting artifacts. In fact, users can create their own morphs using a plugin-based template system. Existing morphs include associating country codes with IP addresses and marking filenames that do not match the NSRL list. 

3rd: Philip Huppert: VM Live Migration 

This submission includes an address space plugin for accessing memory samples found in network data captured during a VMotion live migration. In particular, it currently supports analysis of samples collected during VMotion migrations between ESXi hosts. This allows an analyst to access the entire runtime state of a virtual machine as it is being transferred between two physical hosts over the network. This has a number of valuable applications toward virtual machine introspection and forensics investigations of cloud environments. 

Philip's plugin represents interesting implications toward VM's that migrate between different cloud providers or countries. Wireshark has the capability to analyze the traffic protocols but not the payload of the traffic, so this is a new and exciting capability for both forensic researchers and offensive security analysts. 

Philip's Twitter: @oilheap
Philip's GitHub:

4th: Ying Li: Python Strings and SSH Keys 

This submission includes a collection of plugins for analyzing memory samples acquired from 64-bit Linux systems. The plugins were initially presented at PyCon 2015. The first plugin in the submission, linux_python_strings, extracts memory resident Python strings from the heap of Python processes. This is accomplished by scanning the heap for Python string objects. The advantage of this approach is that we are able to leverage context that the interpreter has about the particular string and how it is being used. The author also includes a plugin for extracting strings stored in Python dictionaries. The context provided by this plugin could allow an analyst to determine which strings were associated as key-value pairs. The final plugin, linux_ssh_keys, will extract RSA keys from the heap of ssh-agent processes. These keys could be useful when investigating lateral movement or performing an investigation of a suspected person's machine.  

Ying's plugins continue the trend of moving further up the analysis stack into the application to extract more memory resident context. As for RSA keys, extracting crypto artifacts is always interesting. To date, we haven't seen anyone extract the RSA keys from ssh-agents with Volatility. Additionally, Ying created an automated test harness for generating memory samples, which we thought was particularly useful. 

Ying's Twitter: @cyli
Ying's GitHub:
Ying's PyCon 2015 Talk:

5th: Adam Bridge: NDIS Packet Scan 

This submission carves packets and ethernet frames from NDIS shared memory sections (regions of RAM shared between the OS and DMA NIC). Although tools exist to scan an arbitrary binary file for packets, the extra context that Adam's plugin provides is extremely valuable. For example, the methodology is far less likely to produce false positives or report fake/decoy packets. In addition to outputting text and pcap formatted results, the plugin also decodes NetBIOS names found in DNS traffic and extracts slack space between packet payloads that other tools may miss. This research represents the beginning of a very exciting realm of future plugins that focus on NDIS private data structures including data waiting in sent/received buffers. 

Adam's Twitter: @bridgeythegeek
Adam's GitHub:

The following submissions appear in the order they were received. As previously mentioned, everyone succeeded in solving a specific problem that they (and undoubtedly others) faced. For this, they deserve huge props. We look forward to seeing future work by these authors!

Joe Greenwood: Hacking Team RCS Attribution  

This plugin searches a memory dump for evidence of the Hacking Team Galileo Remote Control System (RCS), and attempts to attribute the infection to particular Hacking Team client. One of our favorite aspects of this plugin is that it detects RCS based on its predictable named shared memory sections, a creative alternative to scanning for the typical byte signatures and mutexes. Its also a really nice touch to provide the extra attribution context via the watermark lookups. 

Alexander Tarasenko: Pykd/Windbg Address Space

This submission lets you integrate Volatility into Windbg through Pykd. You're then able to query for addresses of critical data structures, functions, and other variables using the debugging APIs. Additionally, you can connect Volatility to a running Windows system in debugging mode and run Volatility plugins against the live system, which particularly comes in handy for malware/rootkit analysis (not necessarily IR/forensics). 

The author of this address space also mentioned a new project named Karmadbg (see the link below) which is a GUI intended for development of new debugging and memory analysis scripts. Check it out! Unfortunately, documentation in English is not yet available. 

Pykd's Twitter: @pykd and @pykd_dev
Pykd's Website:
Karmadbg's Website:

Loïc Jaquemet: Haystack 

These plugins are an interface between the Volatility framework and the haystack framework. While Volatility establishes a forensic framework to analyse a system's RAM, the haystack framework is intended to analyse a process's RAM, allowing an analyst to search for defined structures in a process's memory. You can build structure definitions from known/public C header files or with Python's ctypes library (based on undocumented or reverse engineered data structures) and then plug them into this framework to scan across process heaps, all process memory allocations, etc. The author provided examples of constraints that can find openssl cipher contexts, session keys, and passphrases, but its surely not limited to those types of data. Give it a shot and see what you can find! 

Loïc's Twitter: @trolldbois
Loïc's GitHub:
The python-haystack module:

May Medhat (et. al.): GVol Tool

This tool by EG-CERT researchers May Medhat and Mohamad Shawkey provides a (thick) GUI front end for Volatility written in Java. It lets you run preconfigured batch scripts against a memory dump with just a couple mouse clicks or you can customize your own batch scripts. You can choose from categories such as Rootkits, Kernel Artifacts, Networking, etc. and they link up with Volatility plugins in the backend. We imagine this tool will be very handy for analysts who are not comfortable on the command line or with Volatility usage in general. Additionally, for those who are seasoned Volatility users, this tool can reduce the amount of time you spend typing commands before you actually dive into the details of your case. 

Monnappa Ka: Linux Memory Diff 

This plugin uses the Volatility advanced memory forensics framework to run various plugins against a clean and infected Linux memory image and reports the changes. Many times while doing memory analysis (or malware analysis) an analyst is presented with an abundance of data and the analyst has to manually find the malicious artifacts from that data which takes time and effort. This tool helps in solving that problem by comparing the results between the clean and infected memory images. This tool helps speed up analysis, reduce manual effort and allows you to focus on the relevant data.

Monnappa's Twitter: @monnappa22
Monnappa's GitHub:
Monnappa's Blog:

Bart Inglot: Scheduled Task and Job Scanners 

This plugin scans for job files and prints out their information. It's useful from a DFIR perspective, since job files are often used by attackers in order to run programs with SYSTEM privileges, run at scheduled moments, or to move laterally within a network. Aside from the job plugin for Volatility, adapted from Jamie Levy's ( Bart also has written standalone carvers for jobs and scheduled tasks that work against memory samples, disk images, and other binary files.