Difference between pages "Forensic Live CD issues" and "Advanced Format"

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== The problem ==
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=The Technology=
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Hard drive manufacturers have moved to a new standard: 4KB (4,096 bytes) sectors, replacing 512B sectors. This is a good thing; it means that the signal-to-noise ratio improves, and less space is needed for error correction. Long-term improvements in speed, density, and overall capacity. Western Digital has started releasing drives with 4KB sectors under the name "Advanced Format" (not to be confused with the [[Advanced Forensics Format]]).
  
[[Tools#Forensics_Live_CDs | Forensic Linux Live CD distributions]] are widely used during computer forensic investigations. Currently, many vendors of such Live CD distributions spread false claims that their distributions "do not touch anything", "write protect everything" and so on. Community-developed distributions are not exception here, unfortunately. Finally, it turns out that many forensic Linux Live CD distributions are not tested properly and there are no suitable test cases developed.
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=The Problem: Death of LBA 63=
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Operating systems written before the transition, particularly XP, have trouble with the new drives. XP makes an assumption about where the format should start (LBA 63), but this doesn't work well with the translation software that maps from logical 512B blocks to physical 4K blocks.
  
== Another side of the problem ==
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The nutshell is that XP should not be used to format these drives, and some assumptions made by tools and users need to be corrected. For analysis purposes, note that you can't assume that an NTFS partition starts at LBA 63. If you are used to using, for example, the Sleuthkit command "fls -o 63 <image>", this may need to change. Hopefully more information about these drives will come forth as time progresses.
  
Another side of the problem of insufficient testing of forensic Live CD distributions is that many users do not know what happens "under the hood" of such distributions and cannot adequately test them.
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=The Solution=
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To format one of these drives properly for Windows XP, use the following utility (this applies only to drives from Western Digital):
  
=== Example ===
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[http://www.wdc.com/en/products/advancedformat/ Western Digital Advanced Forensic Drive Format Utility]
  
For example, [http://forensiccop.blogspot.com/2009/10/forensic-cop-journal-13-2009.html ''Forensic Cop Journal'' (Volume 1(3), Oct 2009)] describes a test case when an Ext3 file system was mounted using "-o ro" mount flag as a way to write protect the data. The article says that all tests were successful (i.e. no data modification was found after unmounting the file system), but it is known that damaged (i.e not properly unmounted) Ext3 file systems cannot be write protected using only "-o ro" mount flags (write access will be enabled during file system recovery).
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=Links=
 
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*[http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3691 A Good Overview at AnandTech]
And the question is: will many users test damaged Ext3 file system (together with testing the clean one) when validating their favourite forensic Live CD distribution? My answer is "no", because many users are unaware of such traits.
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*[http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/WhitePapers/ENG/2579-771430.pdf PDF White Paper]
 
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*[http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/green-terabyte-1tb,2078-2.html A Tom's Hardware Review of the WD Caviar Green Drives]
== Problems ==
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Here is a list of common problems of forensic Linux Live CD distributions that can be used by developers and users for testing purposes. Each problem is followed by an up to date list of distributions affected.
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=== Journaling file systems updates ===
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When mounting (and unmounting) several journaling file system types with only "-o ro" mount flag a different number of data writes may occur. Here is a list of such file systems:
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{| class="wikitable" border="1"
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|-
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!  File system
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!  When happens
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!  Notes
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|-
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|  Ext3
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|  File system requires journal recovery
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|  To disable recovery: use "noload" flag, or use "ro,loop" flags, or use "ext2" file system type
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|-
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|  Ext4
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|  File system requires journal recovery
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|  To disable recovery: use "noload" flag, or use "ro,loop" flags, or use "ext2" file system type
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|-
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|  ReiserFS
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|  Always
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|  "nolog" flag does not work (see ''man mount''). To disable journal updates: use "ro,loop" flags
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|-
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|  XFS
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|  Always
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|  "norecovery" flag does not work. To disable data writes: use "ro,loop" flags. The bug was fixed in recent 2.6 kernels.
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|}
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Incorrect mount flags can be used to mount a file system on evidentiary media during the boot process or during the file system preview process. As described above, this may result in modification of a file system's data. For example, several Ubuntu-based forensic Linux Live CD distributions mount Ext3/4 file systems on fixed media (e.g. hard drives) during execution of ''initrd'' scripts (these scripts mount every supported file system on every supported media type using only "-o ro" flag in order to find a root file system image).
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List of distributions that recover Ext3/4 file systems during the boot:
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{| class="wikitable" border="1"
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|-
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!  Distribution
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!  Version
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|-
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|  Helix3
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|  2009R1
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|-
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|  SMART Linux (Ubuntu)
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|  2010-01-20
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|-
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|  FCCU GNU/Linux Forensic Boot CD
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|  12.1
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|-
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|  SPADA
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|  4
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|}
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=== Root file system spoofing ===
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=== Swap space activation ===
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=== Incorrect automount policy for removable media ===
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=== Incorrect write-blocking approach ===
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=== Software RAID (Linux RAID) activation ===
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Revision as of 19:26, 9 March 2010

The Technology

Hard drive manufacturers have moved to a new standard: 4KB (4,096 bytes) sectors, replacing 512B sectors. This is a good thing; it means that the signal-to-noise ratio improves, and less space is needed for error correction. Long-term improvements in speed, density, and overall capacity. Western Digital has started releasing drives with 4KB sectors under the name "Advanced Format" (not to be confused with the Advanced Forensics Format).

The Problem: Death of LBA 63

Operating systems written before the transition, particularly XP, have trouble with the new drives. XP makes an assumption about where the format should start (LBA 63), but this doesn't work well with the translation software that maps from logical 512B blocks to physical 4K blocks.

The nutshell is that XP should not be used to format these drives, and some assumptions made by tools and users need to be corrected. For analysis purposes, note that you can't assume that an NTFS partition starts at LBA 63. If you are used to using, for example, the Sleuthkit command "fls -o 63 <image>", this may need to change. Hopefully more information about these drives will come forth as time progresses.

The Solution

To format one of these drives properly for Windows XP, use the following utility (this applies only to drives from Western Digital):

Western Digital Advanced Forensic Drive Format Utility

Links