Leveraging the DeviceContainers Key

If you’ve ever examined registry artifacts related to a particular USB device, you’ve probably come across a value called “ContainerID”.  For example, a flash drive’s instance ID subkey of the USBSTOR key includes a ContainerID value.  Prior to Windows 8, a device’s Container ID was probably of little interest to an examiner. However, beginning with Windows 8, a device’s Container ID can be used to help profile a specific device and corroborate findings from other locations.  The CurrentControlSetControlDeviceContainers key of the SYSTEM hive on a Windows 8 machine holds a wealth of information, broken down by Container ID, about devices connected to the system.

Before dissecting the DeviceContainers subkey, it’s important to understand what a container ID represents in the first place.  Starting with Windows 7, container IDs were used to identify a physical device on the system.  This Windows Dev Center page describes a container ID as “a system-supplied device identification string that uniquely groups the functional devices associated with a single-function or multifunction device installed in the computer.”  This “system supplied identification string” is a GUID and is referenced in various locations, including the EnumUSBSTOR and EnumUSB subkeys of the SYSTEM hive, as the “ContainerID”.  One thing to keep in mind is that all physical devices should be assigned a ContainerID – not just storage devices.  This means that when digging into the DeviceContainers key, many of the devices listed may be something other than storage devices (e.g. monitors, external speakers, keyboards, etc.).

DeviceContainersContainerID subkey structure

The screenshot on the right is an example of what you might see when browsing a device’s DeviceContainers subkey.  The top node as well as the subkey to the BaseContainers key is named by the ContainerID value (the same one found in the USBSTOR key).  The Properties subkey contains eight different sets of…. well, properties.  The idea of useful information being found in a set of “Properties” subkeys is not new; Harlan blogged about the Properties subkeys within the USBSTOR key here and Yogesh Khatri wrote about it here as well.  This is a different set of properties, however, than what is found in the USBSTOR key.

While there are numerous bits of data available in the Properties subkey, I will only highlight a few of the items that may prove useful in a typical forensic examination. The table below summarizes some of the information about a device that is available from the DeviceContainers key.  As you can see, the device instance ID, “DeviceContainer_ModelName”, and “DeviceContainer_PrimaryCategory” properties are available here in addition to two 64-bit FILETIME properties.  The “DeviceContainer_ModelName”, and “DeviceContainer_PrimaryCategory” properties are defined in the devpkey.h file of the Windows 8.1 SDK.  In addition to the property subkey listed in the table below, the device instance ID is also available in the subkey named by the device’s Container ID within the BaseContainers key.

 

 

 

The device instance ID is a valuable piece of information, as it contains the VID and PID of a device as well as the serial number or unique identifier of the device.  For example, when connecting a flash drive to a Windows 8.1 system, I found “USBVID_090C&PID_10001009070810017910” to be the device instance ID associated with the flash drive.  In this case, you can see that “1009070810017910” is the serial number of the flash drive; this information can be corroborated with the USB and USBSTOR keys as well.

The DeviceContainer_ModelName helps describe the device – similar to the FriendlyName value of the USBSTOR key.  Examples of what I have seen in this property are “My Passport 0730”, “iPhone”, and “USB DISK”.  The DeviceContainer_PrimaryCategory helps describe the purpose of the device.  Some examples of what I have noted in this property are “Storage”, “Audio”, and “Display Monitor”.

There are also two 64-bit FILETIME timestamps that appear to be consistent with the first time the device was connected to the system.  Specifically, the “3464f7a4-2444-40b1-980a-e0903cb6d912\0007” property appears to contain the time the device driver installation started, while the “3464f7a4-2444-40b1-980a-e0903cb6d912\0008” property appears to contain the time the device driver installation completed.  This theory is supported by the setupapi.dev.log file, which includes the start and end time of device driver installations.  Interestingly, these two timestamps are slightly different than the Install and First Install timestamps found in other Properties subkeys in the registry. Unfortunately I have not yet found a precise definition – such as that from a Windows SDK – for what these two timestamps officially represent.

One of the nice things about the DeviceContainers key is that it appears to group all physical devices that have been connected to a system into one place.  If an examiner is focusing solely on the USBSTOR key, he or she may miss the fact that an MTP device was connected or that a hard drive was connected using something other than USB.  While the DeviceContainers key may not necessarily provide information that cannot be found elsewhere, it serves as yet another source to help examiners corroborate findings from other locations on the system and may be critical in cases where the ordinary sources of device-related information are not available.

Office 2013: More MRUs

Microsoft Office 2013 continues to yield very interesting artifacts related to user activity. Harlan recently posted about the “PendingChanges” subkeys in relation to PowerPoint, and I have previously posted about MS Word’s “Reading Locations” subkeys as well as the last saved location metadata in Excel 2013 spreadsheets.  The registry, specifically the NTUSER.DAT hive, has been particularly interesting in terms of the Office 2013-related information it stores.

In Harlan’s earlier post, he identified references to the PowerPoint presentation he had opened in PowerPoint 2013 in the “File MRU” and “Place MRU” subkeys of “HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice15.0ExcelUser MRULiveId_xxx”. The “File MRU” and “Place MRU” subkeys appear to track files and directories recently accessed by the application, with the “Item 1” value corresponding to the most recently accessed item, “Item 2” the next most recently accessed, etc..

Office 2013 Sign in Option

When a user is not signed into a Live ID account, references to the files and directories recently accessed by PowerPoint, Word, and Excel are stored in the “HKEY_CURRENT_ USERSoftware MicrosoftOffice15.0[programName]File MRU” and “HKEY_ CURRENT_USERSoftware MicrosoftOffice15.0 [programName]Place MRU” subkeys.  When a user signs into a Live ID account (using the Office 2013 sign in option), the recently accessed files and directories appear to be tracked in “HKEY_ CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice 15.0[programName]User MRU LiveId_xxx” under the respective File and Place MRU subkeys.

Interestingly, it appears that a new LiveId_xxx subkey is created each time a new Live ID account is signed in to through the Office 2013 interface.  Based on my limited testing thus far, the File and Place MRUs of each LiveId_xxx subkey appear to be updated independently from one another (updates depend on which Live ID account is signed in) as well as independent from the File and Place MRUs maintained when a user is not signed into a Live ID account.  This means that you could see multiple sets of File and Place MRUs per application, all within a single NTUSER.DAT hive!

HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice15.0Excel Subkey

As Harlan mentioned in his previous post, each Item # value in the File and Place MRU subkeys should contain data similar to “[F00000000][T01CF2DF40FEB4220][O00000000]*Z:FilesPresentation1.pptx”, with the value in the second set of brackets being a FILETIME structure that corresponds to the last time the file or directory was accessed from the application.  This means that not only do we have an independent File and Place MRU subkey for each Live ID account that signed in to the system (as well as a File and Place MRU for when the user is not signed into a Live ID account), but we are also provided with the last time each item within each MRU list was accessed.

Regardless of whether a Live ID account was signed in or which Live ID account was used to access a file, usage history still appears to be recorded in the familiar RecentDocs subkey as well as the application’s associated jump list.  These artifacts can serve to provide a file access history (regardless of the Live ID account used to access the file) as well as to help correlate and confirm data located in other artifacts.

Based on initial testing, the File and Place MRU list per Live ID account does not appear to be updated properly on Windows 7 running Office 2013.  More research will be necessary to determine the value and reliability of this artifact under Windows 7. The majority of my testing as it relates to the File and Place MRUs has been with Windows 8.1, which appears to be consistent in updating the appropriate MRU list.  I’ve only tested the addition of Live ID-associated File and Place MRUs with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2013, so the differences in MRUs as compared to previous versions of Office likely extend beyond these three applications.

VSC Toolset Update

I’ve made various updates to VSC Toolset since its last public release in September 2012 and wanted to write a quick post about some of the updates for those interested. The most significant additions to the tool have been two new batch scripts: one for comparing the contents of a directory between two VSCs and one for extracting the USB device connection and disconnection events from one or more VSCs (based on the event log and Event IDs detailed here).  There have also been numerous user interface and general usability enhancements made to the tool.  Read on for more details, or you can skip to the VSC Toolset page to download the latest version.

CompareDirectory Batch Script

It can be helpful to see how the contents of a directory have changed over time.  For example, identifying how an employment contract has been updated, not updated, or even created and deleted over a period of time can be critical in accomplishing the goals of your examination.  VSC Toolset previously supported (and still supports) running a batch script utilizing diff.exe to compare two VSCs, but that may be overkill in many cases.  Being able to specify a particular directory for comparison is much quicker and helps to eliminate the noise found in the output of running diff.exe against the entire VSC.

The “CompareDirectory” batch script addition to VSC Toolset works by first creating a file listing of each directory to be compared using the “dir” command.  It then compares the two directory listings using diff.exe, generating output similar to the screenshot below.

CompareDirectory Batch Script Sample Output

EventLogUSB-Win7 Batch Script

In my last post, I introduced a batch script that can be executed against a Microsoft-Windows-DriverFrameworks-UserMode/Operational event log originating from a Windows 7 system to identify USB device connection and disconnection events.  In order to port over a version of the batch script compatible with VSC Toolset, I made a couple of slight modifications (primarily to the input variables).  Simply select the linked VSCs against which you want to execute the batch script and click “Run Command”; VSC Toolset takes care of the rest (with some help from Log Parser).  A separate CSV file containing the USB connection and disconnection events is created for each VSC the batch script is executed against.  Note that you’ll need the LogParser.exe and LogParser.dll file in the same directory as the VSC Toolset executable for this batch script to work.  Log Parser can be downloaded here.

The real benefit in running the EventLogUSB-Win7 batch script against multiple VSCs is that it allows you to recover USB connection and disconnection events that have since rolled off the current DriverFrameworks-UserMode/Operational event log.  This can be invaluable in cases where the length of time a certain device was connected to the system is important and the time frame of interest is prior to the earliest event in the current DriverFrameworks-UserMode/Operational event log.

Other Updates

In addition to the CompareDirectory and EventLogUSB-Win7 batch scripts, various user interface and general usability enhancements to VSC Toolset were made.  These include tips in the output of some commands (e.g. CompareDirectory) to help make the output easier to understand and a few help buttons added to the interface in some situations (depending on which command is specified in the Command drop-down box) to clarify exactly what a specific parameter is requesting.  The file system view, visible after clicking “Browse Shadow Copy”, has also been improved to allow for sorting by file name or date by clicking the appropriate column header.

To ease the burden of finding all of the supporting tools you’ll need to take full advantage of VSC Toolset, I’ve added the download links and any special requirements for each on the VSC Toolset page.  This information was previously scattered across multiple blog posts.

I’m always open to and appreciate feedback, including suggestions for improvement and bug reports.  You can download the latest version of VSC Toolset here.

**Update 02-19-14**
Corey Harrell’s auto_rip has been integrated into VSC Toolset.  Version 20140216 includes this update.

USB Device Tracking Batch Script

Last month, I wrote about utilizing the Windows 7 Event Log in USB device tracking.  In my previous post, I mentioned automating the process using Microsoft’s Log Parser, but didn’t go into much detail regarding how to do so other than a couple of Log Parser queries.  This post introduces a batch script that can be used to quickly identify USB storage devices that have been connected to and disconnected from a Windows 7 system based on information available from the Windows Event Log, specifically the Microsoft-Windows-DriverFrameworks-UserMode/Operational event log.

The Log Parser query described in my previous post identifies the connection and disconnection events associated with a given device identifier, but is limited in that it requires the user to have knowledge of the USB device identifier and must be executed for each device identifier of interest.  In many cases, an examiner will not have knowledge of the device identifier(s) that should be targeted or may be interested in a listing of connection and disconnection events within a particular time period (regardless of the device connected).  This batch script accepts a Microsoft-Windows-DriverFrameworks-UserMode/Operational event log as input and parses the connection and disconnection events associated with each unique USB device identifier, based on the connection and disconnection Event IDs described in my previous post (i.e. 2003 for connect, 2100 for disconnect).

The batch script performs three main steps:

  1. Scans the event log and generates a list of device identifiers
  2. Removes duplicate device identifiers from the list compiled in Step 1
  3. Queries the event log for connection and disconnection events associated with each unique device identifier

It may seem odd at first to remove duplicate device identifiers in Step 2, but this important step eliminates the duplicate entries that would otherwise be found in the script output and allows for quicker execution of the script (as each device identifier will be queried only once within the event log).

Example usage of evtx-usb.bat

The script output is in CSV format and may look something similar to the screenshot below.  The output includes the type of event (connect or disconnect), the device identifier, the time of the event, and the LifetimeID associated with the USB device connection session.

Sample output of evtx-usb batch script

As you can see, the screenshot above details three separate connection sessions for two different USB devices.  We know there are two separate devices because of the different device identifiers and we know there are three separate connection sessions by comparing the LifetimeID values.  For a refresher on the LifetimeID value, see my previous post.

The output of the batch script allows an examiner to easily pair connection and disconnection events using the LifetimeID value as well as quickly determine which devices may have been connected to the system at the same time by identifying different devices with the same LifetimeID.  Since the script output is in CSV format, filtering and sorting is easily accomplished using a spreadsheet editor.

Since the batch script relies on Microsoft Log Parser, you will need to download Log Parser here and ensure LogParser.exe and LogParser.dll are both in the same directory as the batch file.

The script is available for download here.

MS Word 2013 Reading Locations

Microsoft Office 2013 introduced a new feature that allows a user to continue reading or editing a document starting at the last point he or she was working.  This feature, referred to by some as “pick up where you left off”, is a convenient way to jump to the location within a document that Word believes was being read or edited most recently before a file was closed.  After opening a document and being greeted with the prompt pictured above, I was curious as to where this information is being tracked.  After a bit of investigation, I located a set of registry subkeys specific to Office 2013 where this information is stored.

When a document in Word 2013 is closed, a registry subkey is created or updated in the “SoftwareMicrosoftOffice15.0WordReading Locations” subkey of the current user’s NTUSER.DAT.  The subkey created should be named something similar to “Document 0”, “Document 1”, “Document 2”, etc., as the number appended to the name of each subkey is incremented by one when a new document is closed.  Each “Document #” subkey should contain 3 values that may be of interest to an examiner: “Datetime”, “File Path”, and “Position”.  All three values are stored as null-terminated Unicode strings.

Screenshot of Reading Locations Subkey











Datetime Value
The Datetime value corresponds to the local date and time the file was last closed. This value data is displayed in the format YYYY-MM-DD, followed by a “T”, then HH:MM.

File Path Value
The File Path value is the fully qualified file name.

Position Value
The Position value appears to store the positioning data used to place the cursor at the point in the document “where you left off”.  It appears that the second number in this value data is used to denote the location within the document.  For example, if a file is opened for the first time and then closed again without scrolling down through the document, the Position value data should be “0 0”.  If a file is opened and the user scrolls down a bit through the document before closing it, the Position value data may be something like “0 1500”.  The second number in this value data appears to increase as the user scrolls through (i.e. reads/edits) the document.  Note that positioning of the cursor does not seem to have an impact on this value.  That is, the second field in this value data increases even if the cursor is never moved from the beginning of the document.

Forensic Implications

Fifty unique files (based on fully qualified file name) can be tracked in the Reading Locations subkeys.  Each time a document in Word 2013 is closed, regardless of the version of Word that created the file, a Reading Locations subkey should be added or updated.  It should be noted, however, that files accessed from a user’s SkyDrive do not appear to be tracked in the Reading Locations subkey.  If the file referenced by the “File Path” value data of any subkey is opened and closed again, the corresponding value data is updated, however, the organization of the “Document #” subkeys remains unchanged (i.e. “Document 0” is not shifted to “Document 1”, etc.).  Interestingly, it appears that when the 51st document is opened, the “Document 49” subkey is overwritten, leaving data from the other subkeys untouched.  This LIFO rotation may have some interesting effects on examination, as it lends itself to preserving more historical data while recent activity is more likely to be overwritten.