A flexible framework for mobile device forensics based on cold boot attacks

Research paper by Manuel Huber, Benjamin Taubmann, Sascha Wessel, Hans P. Reiser, Georg Sigl

Indexed on: 11 Aug '16Published on: 11 Aug '16Published in: EURASIP Journal on Information Security


Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are common place in everyday life. Thus, the degree of security these devices can provide against digital forensics is of particular interest. A common method to access arbitrary data in main memory is the cold boot attack. The cold boot attack exploits the remanence effect that causes data in DRAM modules not to lose the content immediately in case of a power cut-off. This makes it possible to restart a device and extract the data in main memory.In this paper, we present a novel framework for cold boot-based data acquisition with a minimal bare metal application on a mobile device. In contrast to other cold boot approaches, our forensics tool overwrites only a minimal amount of data in main memory. This tool requires no more than three kilobytes of constant data in the kernel code section. We hence sustain all of the data relevant for the analysis of the previously running system. This makes it possible to analyze the memory with data acquisition tools. For this purpose, we extend the memory forensics tool Volatility in order to request parts of the main memory dynamically from our bare metal application. We show the feasibility of our approach on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5 mobile devices along with an extensive evaluation. First, we compare our framework to a traditional memory dump-based analysis. In the next step, we show the potential of our framework by acquiring sensitive user data.