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WinHex & X-Ways Forensics Newsletter Archive

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#153: X-Ways Forensics, X-Ways Investigator, WinHex 19.1 released

Jan 19, 2017

This  mailing is to announce the release of another notable update with many important improvements, v19.1.

WinHex evaluation version: http://www.x-ways.net/winhex.zip (also the correct download link for anyone with a personal, professional, or specialist license)

Customers may go to http://www.x-ways.net/winhex/license.html for download links, the latest log-in data, details about their update maintenance, etc. Those customers whose update maintenance or license has expired can receive upgrade/renewal offers from there.

NEW: If when querying your licenses you do not receive any e-mail message at your work address because your organization is blocking the sending server, you now have the option (here) to get the e-mails sent from an alternative server (different domain, different IP address), for a second chance to actually receive something.

Please be reminded that if you are interested in receiving information about service releases when they become available, you can find those in the Announcement section of the forum and (with active update maintenance) can subscribe to them, too, by creating a forum profile.

Please note that if you wish to stick with an older version for a while, you should use the last service release of that version. Errors in older releases of the same version may have been fixed already and should not be reported any more.


Upcoming Training

Jan 27 Miami, FL NTFS/XWFS2
Feb 13-16 London, England X-Ways Forensics
Feb 20-23 London, England X-Ways Forensics
Feb 27-Mar 2 Ottawa, ON X-Ways Forensics
Mar 13-16 London, England X-Ways Forensics
Mar 21-28 Victoria, BC X-Ways Forensics, X-Ways Forensics II
Apr 11-12 London, England X-Ways Forensics II
Apr 19-21 Washington DC area X-Ways Forensics II, XFS
May 9-12 New York City X-Ways Forensics
May 15-19 Boston, MA X-Ways Forensics, NTFS/XWFS2

Please sign up for our training newsletter here if you would like to be kept up to date on classes in the USA, Canada, Europe, and/or Asia/Pacific.


What's new in v19.1?
(please note that most changes apply to X-Ways Forensics only)

File Type Support

  • Support for Google's Chrome sync database, where information can be found that is synchronized across devices, such as bookmarks, form history, typed URLs, synced devices and much more. A preview HTML file is generated, and events are output to the event list.

  • Ability to view upside-down Bitmap pictures with the internal graphics display library and in the gallery. (To see them flipped vertically, you currently have to view them with the viewer component, though.)

  • TAR archive processing revised.

  • Fixed inability to process BZ2 archives.

  • More reliable detection of pictures as screenshots (output as report tables "Screenshot" and "Screenshot?").

  • New report table "Scan" for PDF and JPEG files that contain a scan. The detection is based on generator signatures "PDF/Scan" and "JPEG/Scan".

  • Most JPEG pictures that were transcoded by Facebook and downloaded from Facebook are now identified as such in the Metadata column by their generator signature.

  • PDF metadata extraction improved especially for Acrobat 10 PDF files.

  • Tentative extraction of Exif metadata fields that are damaged in a certain way.

  • Revised metadata extraction for JPEG. ICC profiles are evaluated, including timestamps.

  • New file type signature for .0tx Tobit e-mail defined.

  • Generator signature table further revised.

  • The type status "mismatch detected" now has an effect on the assumed relevance of a file.

  • The relevance of a file now more reliably takes into account whether or not a picture is a screenshot.

  • Improved stability while processing EDB databases. Users of v18.8, v18.9, and v19.0 may replace their copy of the file EDBex.dat with the new version that at first is tentatively included in v19.1 only.

  • Sender and recipients are now also shown for MSG files to which e-mail processing was applied, not only for the extracted .eml file.

File System Support

  • Extended attributes in HFS+ are now optionally included in the volume snapshot as child objects of the files or directories to which they belong (in X-Ways Forensics only) depending on a new 3-state volume snapshot option. If fully checked, extended attributes are presented as child objects even when they have been specially interpreted already by X-Ways Forensics internally. If half checked (default setting in X-Ways Forensics), they are presented as child objects only if they are not specially interpreted by X-Ways Forensics assuming that the user might want to check them out manually.

  • Ability to open files with resident/inline storage in HFS+.

  • Ability to recognize and open compressed files in HFS+.

  • HTML previews are now generated during metadata extraction for the GZ archives that contain Apple FSEvent logs.

  • Event extraction from Apple FSEvent logs.

  • Recognition of new file system level compression style in NTFS under Windows 10.

  • In newly taken volume snapshots, alternate data streams now show hard link counts in the same way as their parents, so that the alternate data streams of additional hard links can be optionally omitted from searches etc.

Disk Imaging

  • The descriptive text file that is generated for images now points out the exact sizes in bytes of all segments of raw images files and the exact chunk counts in all segments of .e01 evidence files. If for whatever reason one or more segments get lost or corrupted, this allows to create artificial placeholder segments of the right capacity to fill in any gaps, such that all the data in subsequent segments will have the correct logical distance from the data in preceding segments, to preserve validity of pointers within the data (partition start sectors in the partition table, cluster numbers in file system data structures) as long as the original image file segments that contain source and destination are available.

  • Ability to conveniently create dummy/makeshift segments for .e01 evidence files that can substitute missing/lost/corrupt original segments, with the File | New command. The user specifies the required chunk size and the number of chunks as well as a filename for the desired segment (must be with the correct extension, identifying the segment number, not number 1). The data written into the chunks is a recurring textual pattern ("MISSING IMAGE FILE SEGMENT!" when running X-Ways Forensics in English), so that you know that you are looking at a gap in between available data when browsing the interpreted combined image later. The idea of such an artificial dummy segment is that if correctly created it can serve as a placeholder that ensures that data in subsequent segments has the correct logical distance from the data in preceding segmented. Of course, the hash of the entire image cannot be successfully verified any more if the original data is not present, and of course, this functionality should be used only as a last resort if there is no backup of the missing segment file and if data recovery fails etc., and creation and usage of such a dummy image file segment should be properly documented. (forensic license only)

  • When interpreting an .e01 evidence file that contains dummy segments, you will be notified, and the total number of placeholder chunks are noted in the evidence object properties when the image is added to the case.

  • If you require a placeholder for a single missing segment of which you don't know the chunk size and chunk count because the image was created without the new information in the descriptive text file, this is how to find out: Change the filename extension of the penultimate segment to that of the missing segment so that there is no gap. Then rename the last segment to the now missing penultimate segment. (If the missing segment actually is the penultimate one, the last step is sufficient; if the missing one is the last, no renaming is required at all.) Then add the image (first segment) to a case in X-Ways Forensics as usually. X-Ways Forensics will bring the misnamed segment to your attention in the Messages window, which can be ignored. Check the evidence object properties for the chunk size as well as the expected chunk count and the actually referenced chunk count. Subtract the actually referenced chunk count from the expected chunk count. Now you know how many chunks are missing. Change the filename extension back to what it was before, and then create the missing dummy segment with the correct chunk size, correct chunk count, and correct extension.

    With a variation, this approach also works if multiple consecutive segments are missing, just you rename more available segments to fill the gap in the first step, and you create as many dummy segments as necessary to fill the gap. Which dummy segment exactly contains how many surrogate chunks is not important as long as the total number of surrogate chunks must account exactly for the total number of missing chunks. If multiple discontiguous segments are missing, suitable dummy segments can only be created with the new information from the descriptive text file.

Volume Snapshot Refinement

  • Multi-threading: Option to set the number of worker threads to 1, which means that one extra thread is started for processing, separate from the main thread, so that GUI interaction is possible without time lag. Useful for example on a terminal server with many concurrent users, where you should not start too many threads, but may want to be able to at least use the GUI quickly. If the number of additional threads is set to 0, that means processing is done like in v19.0 with 1 thread or generally in v18.9 and before by the main thread itself, so that GUI interactions may be slow.

  • Ability to pause multi-threaded operations with the Pause key.

  • It is now possible to omit not only known irrelevant files, but also known relevant files from further volume snapshot refinement. Useful for example if in large cases you have or expect really many such files and having proof of their presence is sufficient for you and you don't need to extract their internal metadata, don't need to compute their skin tone percentages or PhotoDNA hashes, and don't need to check them for embedded data etc.

  • If matches are returned from regular hash databases as well as the PhotoDNA hash database at the same time with conflicting categorizations, the "more severe" category prevails: unknown < known good < known, but uncategorized < known bad

  • The option to mark a file as already viewed when it gets categorized as irrelevant is now applied to the combined result of ordinary hash database and PhotoDNA hash database matching.

  • Internal metadata is now extracted into the Metadata column only from files of selected categories.

  • Options | Security | "Collect information for crash report" is now a 3-state check box. If fully checked, should volume snapshot refinement crash the program, restarting the program will also point out which suboperation exactly was applied to the problematic file(s) when the program crashed. It has not been tested whether this enhanced granularity of logging might cause any noticeable slowdown. There may be multiple candidates for the problematic file that triggered the instability if multiple worker threads were active at the time of a crash. Unlike in v19.0, all of them are now logged, and they are now presented with the help of the Int. ID filter upon restart.

Report Tables

  • When checking for duplicate files based on hash values, identical files can now optionally be grouped in dedicated report tables so that you can conveniently list each group of duplicates in the directory browser with the report table filter, for example to find out which copy of the file was created first, which was was touched last, which one might be of most evidentiary value based on metadata such as path etc. Unlike marking duplicates as so-called related items, report table grouping works even across evidence object boundaries, so you are not limited to comparing duplicates within the same evidence object.

  • Report tables that represent groups of duplicate files are highlighted in turquoise. In total there are now 5 different kinds of report tables: 1) user-created report tables, for example for report purposes, 2) report tables created by X-Ways Forensics to make the user aware of special properties of files, 3) report tables representing search terms that are contained in a file, 4) report tables representing hash sets in which a file was found, 5) report tables representing groups of duplicate files.

  • The maximum number of report tables in a case was increased from 256 to 1000.

  • To avoid a bloated list of report tables available for selection during report creation, report tables are now offered in that dialog window only if they are actually intended for report purposes. That is assumed by default for all user-created report tables. And you can toggle the report purpose of each report table in the report table association dialog window, by assigning or removing the "star" symbol.

  • When taking a new volume snapshot, all report table associations in that evidence object are discarded. If that completely empties a report table that is not marked as intended for report purposes, such a report table will now be automatically deleted from the case at that occasion.

Usability & User Interface

  • Options | Viewer Programs now offers grayscale thumbnails for true-color pictures in the gallery. This option is meant for law enforcement users whose job is to review child pornography photos, to reduce the mental impact and stress level.

  • A new 3-state check box in General Options prevents Windows screensavers from starting and potentially requiring to re-enter the current user's password, either only during operations that show a progress indicator window (if half checked) or generally while the program is running (if fully checked). This option has an effect no matter whether the main window is visible or whether the program is running in the background. Useful for example when acquiring a live system of which you don't want to lose control during imaging, or if you wish to keep an eye on the progress indicator on your own machine from another corner in your office.

  • More user-friendly behavior when trying to change the edit mode in data windows where that is not allowed because of not running X-Ways Forensics as WinHex or because of the strict drive letter protection.

  • Convenient option to automatically open the output directories of Recover/Copy after completion.

  • In Edit | Define Block it is now optionally possible to enter the size of the block instead of its end offset. And it is now possible to enter the start and end of a block in terms of sector numbers instead of offsets directly.

  • The option to use the viewer component also for pictures is now presented as an easy-to-reach button in Preview mode, named "VC", so it is now much quicker to switch between the internal graphics viewing library and the separate viewer component. Previously, users had to go to the Options | Viewer Programs dialog window for that, for example to get a second opinion in case of corrupt pictures. Also, some users probably had this option always enabled simply because they thought it was a "must" to view pictures with the viewer component, to get pictures displayed at all, not knowing that pictures are by default displayed by the internal graphics viewing library in X-Ways Forensics.

  • Directory icons for evidence objects that are directories, in the Case Data window, so that they can be distinguished from volumes.

  • Under Windows Vista and later, attachments are now conveniently linked from the alternative e-mail representation in Preview mode.

  • Tidied up Case Data context menus.

  • French translation of the user interface updated. (Not guaranteed to be error-free.)

  • Check boxes with long text labels in Romance languages that get truncated because of the limited space available now automatically come with tooltips that reveal the complete text when hovering the mouse cursor over the control.

  • The Navigation | Go To menu commands are now available in File mode.

  • "Display SHA-1 & TTH192 in Base32" is now a Notation option.

  • Some dialog windows are now slightly more clearly structured.

X-Tensions API

  • The XWF_CreateFile function now supports a new flag, which allows to create files in the volume snapshot with data as provided in a buffer.
  • Documentation updated.

Miscellaneous

  • The Full path column now comes with a filter.

  • New options when importing or creating hash sets in the ordinary hash databases and the block hash database. Duplicate hash values that are already contained in the hash database can either be removed from the newly created or newly imported hash set or from all existing hash sets, to keep the hash database more compact/less redundant.

  • A new command in the Case Data window's context menu allows to mark an evidence object with a light bulb icon as a visual aid to locate it if important.

  • Another new command in the Case Data context menu allows to conveniently make a backup of the selected evidence object's volume snapshot. Backups can be restored at any later time with the same command, and they can also be deleted with the same command (right-click an item in the list of backups to get the Delete command). Such a backup is like a snapshot of the volume snapshot. Useful if you think you might want to revert to a certain processing stage later (i.e. undo changes to the volume snapshot), for example after having carefully tagged thousands files that you don't want to lose, before running a file header signature search with experimental settings that might produce a lot of garbage files, before attaching external files with options that you had never tried before, before running an X-Tension made by a 3rd party, before totally removing excluded items from the volume snapshot etc.

    Report table associations, events, and search hits are also included in the backup. Search hits can be restored from a backup only if the search term list of the case did not change in the meantime. Indexes are not included in the backup, but can be manually backed up, of course.

  • The same command applied at the case level (right-click the case title in bold for that) allows to make a backup of the entire case, covering all evidence objects' volume snapshots, all report tables, events, search terms, search hits, indexes, image file paths, etc. etc. Such backups can be restored from the same dialog window. Such backups can also be opened directly with the Open Case command if necessary, as they are complete copies of a case. (Backup .xfc file are created with the "hidden" attribute, though, as they are meant to be dealt with within X-Ways Forensics only.)

  • Duplicate files can now also be recognized by the secondary hash value.

  • Duplicate files can now also be recognized by identical start sectors (within the same evidence object).

  • It now possible to optionally ignore additional hard links when checking for duplicate files.

  • Option to print selected fields on the cover page in bold letters and in a different color, to point the attention of the reader to a certain aspect.

  • New upper/lower case conversion option for textual data in UTF-16 (Edit menu).

  • Separate notation options for the case report just like for exported lists.

  • FYI, two users confirmed independently that the anti-virus software Webroot SecureAnywhere causes random crashes (program terminations) in X-Ways Forensics. So it is not recommended to use the two on the same computer at the same time.

  • Many minor improvements.

  • Some minor fixes.

  • User manual and program help updated for v19.0.


Changes of service releases of v19.0

  • SR-1: Fixed inability of v19.0 to recognize a few file types (those with the "x" flag), including SQLite 3.

  • SR-1: Fixed an instability problem in the registry viewer.

  • SR-1: Fixed crashes that could occur since v18.9 when extracting metadata from certain Linux PNG thumbnails.

  • SR-1b: Fixed an error in File mode in X-Ways Investigator.

  • SR-2: Fixed inability of v19.0 to read a few sectors on very large hard disks.

  • SR-2: Fixed error in file type verification and uncovering embedded data when run with multiple threads.

  • SR-2: Fixed an error where attachments were not extracted from certain .eml files.

  • SR-2: Fixed new option to link attachments from HTML previews of e-mails in the case report.

  • SR-2: Fixed potentially wrong time zone translation of timestamps in transcoded Nikon photos.

  • SR-3: Fixed a volume snapshot data corruption problem in multi-threaded picture analysis and processing.

  • SR-3: More complete extraction of Chrome web history in some cases.

  • SR-4: Fixed an exception error that could occur when providing the alternative e-mail representation for certain e-mail messages.

  • SR-4: Fixed a potential exception error that could occur when running a file header signature search on physical, partitioned media.

  • SR-4: Fixed inability of X-Ways Forensics 19.0 to view contained files in separate windows from within representations of the viewer component.

  • SR-5: Fixed an I/O error that could occur when the case auto-save interval elapsed while refining the volume snapshot with multiple threads.

  • SR-5: Report table descriptions were not handled correctly when deleting a report table. That was fixed.

  • SR-5: Fixed a crash that could occur with certain SQLite databases.

  • SR-5: Fixed a rare exception error that could occur during multi-threaded relevance computation.

  • SR-5: Fixed an exception error that could occur when exporting search hits with context in TSV format.

  • SR-5: Extraction of certain embedded pictures in .eml files.

  • SR-6: The hash filter did not correctly target the 2nd and 4th hash value if the hash type was 2 or 4 bytes in size (e.g. CRC32). That was fixed.

  • SR-6: Fixed an I/O error that could occur in v18.9 and v19.0 when applying File Recovery by Type to an uninterpreted image file.

  • SR-6: The internal graphics viewing library now represents Windows Bitmaps with 32 bits per pixel in correct colors. Fixed skin tone computation for certain Bitmaps with 8 bits per pixel.

  • SR-6: Fixed a potential infinite loop that could occur during a file header signature search for Zip archives when data of JNX files was found.

  • SR-6: Upward searches did not run correctly in v19.0. That was fixed.

  • SR-7: Support for previously unsupported SQLite database files.

  • SR-7: Multi-threaded operations generally more reliable now.

  • SR-7: When matching the files in a volume snapshot against hash databases more than once, previous matches according to the "Hash set" column are now automatically discarded. The hash category remains. This is for performance reasons. Keeping previous and new matches consistent and free of duplications potentially took a lot of time and was not optimized. Users of v18.7 through v18.9 have the option to discard hash set matches and categorizations for selected files with Ctrl+Shift+Del first to accelerate re-matching.

  • SR-7: Fixed problems when loading certain GIF files that contain extension blocks.

  • SR-7b: Fixed error in hash database matching with multiple threads.

  • SR-8: Fixed a crash that could occur when exploring certain keys in registry hives.

  • SR-8: Fixed an exception error that could occur when uncovering embedded data in certain executable files.

  • SR-8: Fixed a rare exception error that could occur when verifying the type of zip archives.

  • SR-8: Sorting by filename extension is now case-insensitive.

  • SR-8: Fixed a crash that could occur in v19.0 when extracting e-mails/attachments from MBOX e-mail archives and original .eml files.

  • SR-8: Prevented unnecessary inclusion of traces of existing files from volume shadow copies in the volume snapshot in certain situations.

  • SR-8: Fixed a cause for multi-threading instability.

  • SR-8: Improved stability with special GIF and TIFF pictures.

  • SR-9: For some few JPEG/TIFF files the extracted "Content created" date was wrong or incorrectly marked as local time. That was fixed.

  • SR-9: There was a problem with the multi-threading option on VMDK images and in Ext* file systems. That was fixed.

  • SR-9: Prevented potential instability with carved .lnk shortcut files.

  • SR-9: Warns the user of GUID conflicts among Windows dynamic disks if open at the same time, to prevent wrong volume-disk connections.

  • SR-10: Fixed inability of v19.0 SR-8 and SR-9 to make certain changes to PhotoDNA databases.

  • SR-10: The category of PhotoDNA hash database matches no longer supersedes that of regular hash database matches during the same snapshot refinement run.

  • SR-10: Fixed a potential crash that could occur when extracting metadata from $UsnJrnl:$J.

  • SR-10: Fixed an exception error that could occur when uncovering embedded data from PE executable files.

  • SR-11: Newly identified 3GP files were erroneously assigned to the category "Other/unknown type" by the file type verification in v19.0 SR-1 and later. That does no longer happen now.

  • SR-11: X-Tension API: Two new kinds of evidence object IDs can now be retrieved with the XWF_GetEvObjProp function (nPropType 3 and 4).

  • SR-11: Fixed inability of v19.0 to copy certain files along with the case report under certain circumstances if the type status was "newly identified".

  • SR-12: Fixed an I/O error that could occur when extracting e-mails from e-mail archives while multiple threads were active.

  • SR-12: Full filename matches in the Type filter did not count if the type status was "newly identified" or "confirmed". That was fixed. In v18.8 and later, full filename matches should have been ignored only if the type status was "mismatch detected".

  • SR-12: Fixed an exception error or crash that could occur under certain circumstances when opening partitions in X-Ways Investigator without opening the parent disk first.

  • SR-12: LVM2 container partitions are now interpreted properly even if the designated partition type in the MBR or GPT is wrong.


Thank you for your attention! We hope to see you soon somewhere on http://www.x-ways.net or on our Facebook page. You may also follow us on Twitter! Please forward this newsletter to anyone who you think will be interested. If you wish to subscribe with another e-mail address, please do so here.

Kind regards

Stefan Fleischmann

X-Ways Software Technology AG
Carl-Diem-Str. 32
32257 Bünde
Germany

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