If Apple did computer forensics…

This is too funny…

“The writeblocker, iBlock, would only image at 1 mb/s and would have a non-replacable internal battery with a 12-month lifespan. When everyone who was going to buy one had done so, they’d release an iBlock ’s’ – this writes at a speed approaching the commercial standard but still has the battery problem. Apple dismiss this as a ‘false negativity point by uncreative people’ and sue anyone publicly criticising it.”

You can find the full post here.

CitySec meetup in Los Angeles

For those of you who haven’t already seen CitySec, it’s worth stopping by.  CitySec.org is a site created by Thomas Ptacek (from Matasano Chargen) to facilitate gatherings of information security professionals.  The tone of the meetings appears to be quite relaxed, to quote “What is a CitySect Meetup?“:

The rule of thumb is, no more structure than is absolutely necessary to get people into a room (where “room” usually means “bar”): if structure (like “name tags” or “surveys”) would even possibly prevent one person from attending the meeting, don’t use it.

For those of us in the greater Los Angeles area, there is a CitySec meetup (LASec) scheduled for 8PM on June 7th at the Westwood Brewing Co (near UCLA).  Here’s a link to the address on Google Maps.  Infosec and beer, a great combination 🙂

Digital forensics in a comic

I saw this the other day. Hmmm… sifting through lots of data to find specific pieces of information, I think I see an interesting application for this… 🙂

Regular expression comic

Deductive and Inductive reasoning

One thing that I see on a fairly regular basis is confusion between deductive and inductive reasoning. Both types of reasoning play different roles in investigations/forensics/science/etc. The difference between the two is sometimes hard to define. Here are two common defintions:

1. With deductive reasoning, the conclusions are contained, whether explicit or implicit, in the premises. With inductive reasoning, the conclusions go beyond what is contained in the premises.

2. The conclusions arrived at using (correct) deductive logic are necessarily true, meaning they must be true. The conclusions arrived at using inductive logic, are not necessarily true, although they may be.

An example might clarify things (taken from a philosophy class I took years ago):

  1. If I study, I will get an A on the exam (premise)
  2. I studied (premise)
  3. Therefore I got an A on the exam (conclusion)

In this case, since I studied, I got an A on the exam. The conclusion (I got an A on the exam) is contained implicitly in 1 and 2. For the geeks in us, here is a proof:

  1. If I study, then I will get an A on the exam [ IF A then B ]
  2. I studied [ A ]
  3. Therefore I got an A on the exam [ B ] (modus ponens on 1 and 2)

With inductive reasoning however:

  1. If I study, then I will get an A on the exam (premise)
  2. I got an A on the exam (premise)
  3. Therefore I studied (conclusion)

Just because I got an A on the exam doesn’t imply I studied, I could have cheated. For the geeks in us, here is an (incorrect) proof:

  1. If I study, then I will get an A on the exam [ IF B then C ]
  2. I got an A on the exam [ C ]
  3. Therefore I studied (no logical argument, no B)

The key in these examples in is parts 1 and 2. With deductive reasoning we had B and followed the If chain [(IF B then C) ^ B yields C]. With the inductive reasoning we have no B. In terms of logic this is confusing an “if” statement with an “if and only if”, where the former requires one direction of truth and the latter requires two directions of truth.

So how does this play into investigations/forensics/etc.? The idea is to be careful the the conclusions drawn. For instance, (relating back to the blog post about context) if an examiner finds the string “hacker” on a hard disk, the hit doesn’t necessarily mean that a “hacker” was on the system, nor does it necessarily mean that “hacker” tools were used. The data around the string would (hopefully) provide more context. Although even the presence of “hacker” tools doesn’t mean that the suspect actually used them, nor does it necessarily mean that the suspect even introduced them to the system. These types of questions are often raised with “The Trojan Defense”.

One (common) misunderstanding of deductive and inductive reasoning is with our legal system. Our legal system depends heavily on inductive reasoning (inferences). For instance take the case with Keith Jones testifying at the UBS trial. Keith Jones testified about what was found on UBS systems, various different sources of logs (e.g. WTMP logs, provider logs, etc.) and his analysis of the information. Does this prove with 100% certainty that the suspect (Duronio) actually committed the crime? No it doesn’t. However with a substantial amount of evidence, a jury could reach the conclusion that the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” has been met.

Another example of deductive vs. inductive reasoning is with “courts approving digital forensic tools”. First courts aren’t in the business of approving digital forensics tools. They may allow a person to testify about the use and conclusions drawn using the tools. This is fundamentally different from saying “tool XYZ is approved by this court”. The reasoning for allowing an examiner to testify using the results obtained from a tool typically involves a trusted third party. Essentially one (or more) third parties comes to a conclusion about the correctness of a tool. So the decision about allowing the original examiner to testify about the results found using the tool depends on what a third party thinks. This leads to the question: Just because a third party thinks so, does it mean it’s guaranteed to be true? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. [Note: I’m not commenting about any specific digital forensics tool, this could apply to any situation involving any type of tool or even process. This is one type of review used when considering whether or not to allow a scientific tool/process/technique into court.]

The switch to Levenger

For years I’ve carried around a small notebook, one of the spiral bound that is almost a 3×5 card size. I’ve even got a nice leather cover for them somewhere at my Dad’s house. I normally use the notebook to do things like take case notes, observations, grocery lists, etc. The most recent notebook had been so used and abused it was actually held together by duct tape.

While at the Denver SANS conference, I noticed one of the students was using a Levenger pocket briefcase to take notes. After seeing how well this system worked out for him, I decided to peruse the Levenger website (Levenger.com) and bit the bullet and ordered a black Levenger Flip Pocket Briefcase (http://www.levenger.com/PAGETEMPLATES/PRODUCT/Product.asp?Params=Category=11-76|PageID=2458|Level=2-3#).

All I can say is the device is great. I carry it with me everywhere, keep case notes on it, and pretty much everything. I haven’t abandoned my higher-tech devices such as the Blackberry, but the pocket briefcase is much more efficient for that on-the-spot information gathering.