Announcing: Forensic Mania 2019

I’ve long been wanting to publish comparisons between some of the big commercial Digital Forensic tools. After recently playing around with triage ideas with the MUS2018 CTF image compiled by Dave and Matt, I thought now is as good a time as any.


Meet Jack

As we dig in, allow me to introduce you to hypothetical Jack. (Don’t worry, Jack is not a real person, but a photo generated by some funky algorithms on https://thispersondoesnotexist.com)

Jack would like to start his own Digital Forensic and Incident Response company in sunny South Africa. We’ll refer to this hypothetical company as DFIRJack Inc. DFIRJack Inc will focus on Windows Forensics for now. Following some Googling, Jack has come to a shortlist of commercial Digital Forensic tools that he wants to put through some tests. This is to aid him in making a final decision on where he should spend his hard earned cash.


The Tools

  • Access Data FTK v7.0.0 (Date Released: Nov 2018)
  • BlackBag BlackLight v2018 R4 (Date Released: Dec 2018)
  • Magnet Forensics Axiom v2.9 (Date Released: Jan 2019)
  • Opentext EnCase v8.08 (Date Released: Nov 2018)

Side note 1_ Jack always thought that Blacklight was predominantly a Mac forensics tool, but after seeing posts on Twitter by one of their new training guys punting it’s Windows Forensic capabilities, he thought it can’t hurt to give it a shot.

Side note 2_ In the midst of writing this, Magnet released Axiom v2.10. By the time that I hit publish on this post, v2.11 will most likely be uploading for release. I’ll stick with version v2.9 for now. If you work for Magnet and want to persuade me with some swag to use v2.10 in this series going forward (or whatever version you’re going to be on next week Tuesday), send me a DM to negotiate.


The Cost

Jack’s research has brought him to the conclusion that a single user license (the standard license for computer analysis, no cloud or mobile extras) will cost more or less the same for either FTK, Axiom or EnCase. Interestingly enough, he can buy two BlackLight licenses for the price of one of the other three.

After making some South African market related comparisons, Jack realized that he can either buy one of the aforementioned licenses (two in the case of BlackLight), or a secondhand 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser GX with 350,000km on the clock.

This is the GX:

Jack has long dreamt of buying a GX and taking the fam to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana on an overland expedition. But that’ll have to wait, as it looks like he’ll be spending that money on a license dongle. What will it be? A GX or pure forensic joy? (Jack did find it odd that the only place where he can buy the licenses for these tools were from the same companies that he’ll be competing against with DFIRJack Inc. Kind of like the Bulls only being allowed to buy their Rugby kit from the Stormers.)


The Plan

In order for Jack to decide which license dongle will take the place of his GX, he opted to put these tools through some head-to-head tests.


We’ll call it Forensic Mania



Forensic Mania will run for an undefined number of rounds or blog posts. (Undefined, yes, but most likely until I loose interest and move on to a new blog idea…)


Series 1

For the first series, we’ll use the MUS2018 CTF image of Max Powers to run the tests. Why this image?

  1. The forensic image is publicly available (here)
  2. There are write ups available online of the answers, so you can run and verify your answers (here and here)
  3. It’s small enough (50GB) to throw the kitchen sink at it, and all the tools should be able to swim.
  4. It’s a Windows 10 image. Windows 10 was released in July 2015 and brought lots of new forensic artifacts with it. Almost four years later, I’d expect that the big forensic tools should be able to exploit this.
  5. It’s my blog, so I make the rules. Get off my lawn.

Bias alert: The forensic image was created for a CTF set to run specifically at MUS2018. Did Matt & Dave design the CTF image to benefit Axiom? Maybe. But we’ll try and be as objective as possible.

Following this series, I’m planning to run similar style tests against more real world images to see how the tools hold up.


Whats next?

Episode 1 – Processing is coming soon…


What can you do?

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Check back soon…



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