Sunday, April 09, 2017

Understanding What The Data Is Telling You

Not long ago, I was doing some analysis of a Windows 2012 system and ran across an interesting entry in the AppCompatCache data:

SYSVOL\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\badfile.exe  Sat Jun  1 11:34:21 2013 Z

Now, we all know that the time stamp associated with entries in the AppCompatCache is the file system last modification time, derived from the $STANDARD_INFORMATION attribute.  So, at this point, all I know about this file is that it existed on the system at some point, and given that it's now 2017 it is more than just a bit odd, albeit not impossible, that that is the correct file system modification date.

Next stop, the MFT...I parsed it and found the following:

71516      FILE Seq: 55847 Links: 1
[FILE],[BASE RECORD]
.\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\badfile.exe
    M: Sat Jun  1 11:34:21 2013 Z
    A: Mon Jan 13 20:12:31 2014 Z
    C: Thu Mar 30 11:40:09 2017 Z
    B: Mon Jan 13 20:12:31 2014 Z
  FN: msiexec.exe  Parent Ref: 860/48177
  Namespace: 3
    M: Thu Mar 30 11:40:09 2017 Z
    A: Thu Mar 30 11:40:09 2017 Z
    C: Thu Mar 30 11:40:09 2017 Z
    B: Thu Mar 30 11:40:09 2017 Z
[$DATA Attribute]
File Size = 1337856 bytes

So, this is what "time stomping" of a file looks like, and this also helps validate that the AppCompatCache time stamp is the file system last modification time, extracted from one of the MFT record attributes.  At this point, there's nothing to specifically indicate when the file was executed but now, we have a much better idea of when the file appeared on the system. The bad guy most likely used the GetFileTime() and SetFileTime() API calls to perform the time stomping, which we can see by going to the timeline:

Mon Jan 13 20:12:31 2014 Z
  FILE                       - .A.B [152] C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\
  FILE                       - .A.B [56] C:\Windows\explorer.exe\$TXF_DATA
  FILE                       - .A.B [1337856] C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\badfile.exe
  FILE                       - .A.B [2391280] C:\Windows\explorer.exe\

Fortunately, the system I was examining was Windows 2012, and as such, had a well-populated AmCache.hve file, from which I extracted the following:

File Reference: da2700001175c
LastWrite     : Thu Mar 30 11:40:09 2017 Z
Path          : C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\badfile.exe
Company Name  : Microsoft Corporation
Product Name  : Windows Installer - Unicode
File Descr    : Windows® installer
Lang Code     : 1033
SHA-1         : 0000b4c5e18f57b87f93ba601e3309ec01e60ccebee5f
Last Mod Time : Sat Jun  1 11:34:21 2013 Z
Last Mod Time2: Sat Jun  1 11:34:21 2013 Z
Create Time   : Mon Jan 13 20:12:31 2014 Z
Compile Time  : Thu Mar 30 09:28:13 2017 Z

From my timeline, as well as from previous experience, the LastWrite time for the key in the AmCache.hve corresponds to the first time that badfile.exe was executed on the system.

What's interesting is that the Compile Time value from the AmCache data is, in fact, the compile time extracted from the header of the PE file.  Yes, this value is easily modified, as it is simply a bunch of bytes in the file that do not affect the execution of the file itself, but it is telling in this case.

So, on the surface, while it may first appear as if the badfile.exe had been on the system for four years, it turns out that by digging a bit deeper into the data, we can see that wasn't the case at all.

The take-aways from this are:
1.  Do not rely on a single data point (AppCompatCache) to support your findings.

2.  Do not rely on the misinterpretation of a single data point as the foundation of your findings.  Doing so is more akin to forcing the data to fit your theory of what happened.

3. The key to analysis is to know the platform you're analyzing, know your data...no only what is available, but it's context.

4.  During analysis, always look to artifact clusters.  There will be times when you do not have access to all of the artifacts in the cluster, so you'll want to validate the reliability and fidelity of the artifacts that you do have.

5 comments:

Teck0 said...

Thanks for this write-up. Do you have analyze the Shellbags to understand how the evil was copied on this server ?

Harlan Carvey said...

Yes, I did. Shellbags played no part in it. Good thought, though.

Teck0 said...

I'm wondering if the muicache give you the same info without the hash.

Harlan Carvey said...

Sorry, I'm not seeing the connections between the shellbags and muicache

Petkovic Vladimir said...

I downloaded and install windows 10 creator update, But I did not like it. After installation Microsoft shows downgrade option early after upgrading to Windows 10 and remove it after one month. I recently upgrade my windows 8.1 Professional operating system to windows 10 Professional being getting a license from ODosta Store
But I did not like its overall structure. I think Its not Windows 10, Its version should be windows 6 as it has many faults.
I tried to downgrade back to my existing win 8.1 os and I saw as Microsoft was giving me option to downgrade. I thought that I'll downgrade after two month But after two month when I tried again, Microsoft removed that option. Now what to do. I searched and found your post, Which is very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing these details here.