Studying memory with the Volatility memory dump analyzer

Volatile Traces

© Lead Image © spleen87,

© Lead Image © spleen87,

Article from Issue 157/2013
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The Volatility forensic tool helps admins analyze what went wrong on a system. When you need to draw conclusions about malware, or even compromised services, peer into memory with Volatility.

The fact that information remains in the memory of a computer for some time, even after disconnecting the power supply, is an open secret [1]. This is especially true if you press the reset button, because that does not even interrupt the power supply. If you then reboot from a minimal operating system – using a USB stick, for example – you can dump large parts of the memory without any changes, almost as if you had full access to the previously running system.

You could dig a few things out of this memory dump with on-board Linux tools like strings and grep, but a full-blown memory dump analyzer such as Volatility [2] gives you much more  – and the open source project is still expanding.

When we first looked at the Volatility memory analyzer in 2008, the framework could only analyze RAM images from Windows machines [3]. Now, version 2.2 or later is also available for Linux, and the upcoming 2.3 will handle Mac OS computers and Android devices. Linux admins can look forward to a large number of new tools and programs that can extract much information from a supposedly dead machine.


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    In computer forensics, memory analysis is becoming increasingly important as a means for investigating security incidents. In this article, we provide an overview of the various memory dumping options on Linux and introduce the support in Linux for the Volatility Analysis Framework.

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