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Enhanced event time-lining for digital forensic systems

Symon, Colin


Colin Symon


In a digital forensics investigation, log files can be used as a form of evidence by reconstructing timelines of the computer system events recorded in log files. Log files can come from a variety of sources, each of which may make use of proprietary log file formats (Pasquinucci, 2007). In addition, the large volume of information to be filtered through can make the job of forensic examination a difficult and time consuming task.

The aim of this thesis is to explore methods of logging and displaying event information which is gathered from computer systems, specifically in relation to the collection, correlation and presentation of log information. By means of a literature review, it has been found that by correlating and storing log information in a central log database it should be possible to construct a system which can access this information and present it in the form of a timeline to the investigator. The important contribution that visualisation techniques can bring to log analysis applications has been made by Marty (2008, p.5) by stating that “a picture is worth a thousand log records”.

A prototype system has been produced which makes use of the latest technologies to enhance current methods of displaying log data, such as those employed by the Microsoft Windows Event Viewer. The prototype system, developed using a rapid prototyping methodology, separates the log management process into collection, correlation and storage, and presentation. Through use of a standard XML log format and central storage of log information in a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database, the prototype aims to overcome the issue of proprietary log formats and the difficulty in correlating data obtained from different sources. A log and timeline viewer application has been developed using C#, Windows Presentation Foundation and .NET Framework technologies, enabling the digital forensics investigator to filter event records and visualise timelines of events by means of bar, line and scatter charts.

Through the means of user evaluation it has been found that the prototype system improves upon the Microsoft Windows Event Viewer from overview and filtering perspectives. By means of technical experimentation, it has been found that there are scalability issues with the way in which the prototype system imports log information contained within XML files, into the database component. The time taken to import log records, of various sizes, into the database was measured. It was found that for files larger than 2MB, the time taken was longer than two users, of the seven who gave feedback on of the system, would be prepared to wait. Further development into the visualisation of timelines has been suggested as the prototype system is somewhat limited in its ability to provide details of the links between digital.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 12, 2011
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Digital forensics; log files; timelines; log management; user evaluation; Microsoft Windows Event Viewer; scalability;
Public URL
Contract Date Jan 12, 2011
Award Date 2009-11


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