Magnet User Summit Experience

Thanks to Champlain College, I was able to attend this year’s Magnet User Summit. As a first year, I was concerned as to how well I would understand the topics and concepts. However, I found that I was well prepared. My internship this semester at the LCDI helped most of all, as it provided me with knowledge not just of digital forensics, but of the work environment as well. The conference was fascinating, and I was able to learn more about the ever-changing environment of ITS.

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

The Improvise, Adapt, Overcome: A New Mantra for Digital Forensics Professionals lecture was presented by Cindy Murphy, president of Gillware Digital Forensics. The talk focused on challenging the unwritten rules and truths of cybersecurity and digital forensics and turning to improvise, adapt, and overcome obstacles. Specifically, it challenged the rules and knowledge of imaging, firmware, and hardware. With imaging, Murphy discussed how an image that shows all zeros it is not actually empty. You’re also not getting a full forensic image from a hard drive. Murphy also mentioned the importance of investigating NAND flash memory, which is often overlooked.

With firmware, Murphy discussed how important its role is as the go-between for hardware and operating systems, and how its role is frequently underestimated. Hardware has this similar issue of being neglected in investigations. In fact, removing chips from damaged hardware to identical functioning hardware can be incredibly helpful with investigations. Most importantly, Murphy argued members of the ITS industry need to learn to keep moving forward in this ever-changing environment.

Guest Keynote on the Evolution of the Digital World

The guest keynote was presented by Ovie Carroll, director of DOJ CCIPS Cybercrime Lab, SANS instructor, and author. He reflected on the evolution of the digital world and segued into the newest innovations of the modern day and what’s to come. This included Bluetooth stones and other similar devices, which currently serve as miniature hotspots that relay information to smartphone-clad passerby and clouds. Carroll explained how clouds add value to the pre-search phase of investigations. Cloud storage is becoming more common, lessening the value in seizing hardware and increasing obtaining data before it’s deleted remotely. He also discussed the rising frequency of encrypted computers, and the importance of RAM images, encryption, and hard drive images. We were reminded and provided digital examples of Locard’s evidence transfer principals.

Discussions relating to mental health and self-confidence were brought up as well. We were reminded there’s no such thing as a full forensic investigation and that you will always miss an artifact. As a result, the investigator shouldn’t feel disheartened when their data is passed to a second pair of eyes. In fact, a collaborative approach to forensics analysis was recommended and was echoed by many in the following talks.

Powershell vs Python

The Leveraging Powershell and Python for Incident Response and Live Forensic Applications lecture was presented by Chet Hosmer, author of Python Forensics. The fundamentals, integration, and applications of both Powershell and Python were discussed. Hosmer presented Powershell as a great acquisition engine that provides digital investigators with a set of cmdlets and access to the internals Windows, Linux, and Mac desktops and cloud services. He presented Python as a relatively straight forward, understandable, and object-oriented scripting language. Its environment allows for the rapid development of new tools, deep analysis, automation, and the correlation of evidence. Hosmer then demonstrated two different integrations live. Both of these integrations allow for better solutions for incident response, live forensic investigation, and e-Discovery.

I was able to attend many other lectures as well, such as the Magnet Forensics keynote, the Panel of Corporate Forensics Experts, and the Axiom Essentials Lab. The conference covered a wide range of fascinating topics, yet provided a consistent environment that was friendly and inviting. Other participants were eager to speak with Champlain students and viewed us as  equals, sharing tips and engaging in discussion. It’s a community myself and other students are excited to participate in, and hope to again at the next conference!


Blog written by Champlain College first year Hayley Froio.

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