Recovering a FAT filesystem directory entry in five phases

This is the last in a series of posts about five phases that digital forensics tools go through to recover data structures (digital evidence) from a stream of bytes. The first post covered fundamental concepts of data structures, as well as a high level overview of the phases. The second post examined each phase in more depth. This post applies the five phases to recovering a directory entry from a FAT file system.

The directory entry we’ll be recovering is from the Honeynet Scan of the Month #24. You can download the file by visiting the SOTM24 page. The entry we’ll recover is the 3rd directory entry in the root directory (the short name entry for _IMMYJ~1.DOC, istat number 5.)

Location

The first step is to locate the entry. It’s at byte offset 0×2640 (9792 decimal). How do we know this? Well assuming we know we want the third entry in the root directory, we can calculate the offset using values from the boot sector, as well as the fact that each directory entry is 0×20 (32 decimal) bytes long (this piece of information came from the FAT file system specification.) There is an implicit step that we skipped, recovering the boot sector (so we could use the values). To keep this post to a (semi) reasonable length, we’ll skip this step. It is fairly straightforward though. The calculation to locate the third entry in the root directory of the image file is:

3rd entry in root directory = (bytes per sector) * [(length of reserved area) + [(number of FATs) * (size of one FAT)]] + (offset of 3rd directory entry)

bytes per sector = 0×200 (512 decimal)

length of reserved area = 1 sector

number of FATs = 2

size of one FAT = 9 sectors

size of one directory entry = 0×20 (32 decimal) bytes

offset of 3rd directory entry = size of one directory entry *2 (start at 0 since it’s an offset)

3rd entry in root directory = 0×200 * (1 + (2 * 9))+ (0×20 * 2) = 0×2640 (9792 decimal)

Using xxd, we can see the hex dump for the 3rd directory entry:

$ xxd -g 1 -u -l 0x20 -s 0x2640 image
0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..

Extraction

Continuing to the extraction phase, we need to extract each field. For a short name directory entry, there are roughly 12 fields (depending on whether you consider the first character of the file name as it’s own field.) The multibyte fields are stored in little endian, so we’ll need to reverse the bytes that we see in the output from xxd.

To start, the first field we’ll consider is the name of the file. This starts at offset 0 (relative to the start of the data structure) and is 11 bytes long. It’s the ASCII representation of the name.

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
File name = _IMMYJ~1.DOC (_ represents the byte 0xE5)

The next field is the attributes field, which is at offset 12 and 1 byte long. It’s an integer and a bit field, so we’ll examine it further in the decoding phase.

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Attributes = 0×20

Continuing in this manner, we can extract the rest of the fields:

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Reserved = 0×00

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Creation time (hundredths of a second) = 0×68

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Creation time = 0×4638

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Creation date = 0x2D2B

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Access date = 0x2D2B

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
High word of first cluster = 0×0000

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Modification time = 0x754F

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Modification date = 0x2C8F

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Low word of first cluster = 0×0002

0002640: E5 49 4D 4D 59 4A 7E 31 44 4F 43 20 00 68 38 46 .IMMYJ~1DOC .h8F
0002650: 2B 2D 2B 2D 00 00 4F 75 8F 2C 02 00 00 50 00 00 +-+-..Ou.,...P..
Size of file = 0×00005000 (bytes)

Decoding

With the various fields extracted, we can decode the various bit-fields. Specifically the attributes, dates, and times fields. The attributes field is a single byte, with the following bits used to represent the various attributes:

  • Bit 0: Read only
  • Bit 1: Hidden
  • Bit 2: System
  • Bit 3: Volume label
  • Bit 4: Directory
  • Bit 5: Archive
  • Bits 6 and 7: Unused
  • Bits 0, 1, 2, 3: Long name

When decoding the fields in a FAT file system, the right most bit is considered bit 0. To specify a long name entry, bits 0, 1, 2, and 3 would be set. The value we extracted from the example was 0×20 or 0010 0000 in binary. The bit at offset 5 (starting from the right) is set, and represents the “Archive” attribute.

Date fields for a FAT directory entry are encoded in two byte values, and groups of bits are used to represent the various sub-fields. The layout for all date fields (modification, access, and creation) is:

  • Bits 0-4: Day
  • Bits 5-8: Month
  • Bits 9-15: Year

Using this knowledge, we can decode the creation date. The value we extracted was 0x2D2B which is 0010 1101 0010 1011 in binary. The day, month, and year fields are thus decoded as:

0010 1101 0010 1011
Creation day: 01011 binary = 0xB = 11 decimal

0010 1101 0010 1011
Creation month: 1001 binary = 0×9 = 9 decimal

0010 1101 0010 1011
Creation year: 0010110 binary = 0×16 = 22 decimal

A similar process can be applied to the access and modification dates. The value we extracted for the access date was also 0x2D2B, and consequently the access day, month, and year values are identical to the respective fields for the creation date. The value we extracted for the modification date was 0x2C8F (0010 1100 1000 1111 in binary). The decoded day, month, and year fields are:

0010 1100 1000 1111
Modification day: 01111 binary = 0xF = 15 decimal

0010 1100 1000 1111
Modification month: 0100 binary = 0×4 = 4 decimal

0010 1100 1000 1111
Modification year: 0010110 binary = 0×16 = 22 decimal

You might have noticed the year values seem somewhat small (i.e. 22). This is because the value for the year field is an offset starting from the year 1980. This means that in order to properly interpret the year field, the value 1980 (0x7BC) needs to be added to the value of the year field. This is done during the next phase (interpretation).

The time fields in a directory entry, similar to the date fields, are encoded in two byte values, with groups of bits used to represent the various sub-fields. The layout to decode a time field is:

  • Bits 0-4: Seconds
  • Bits 5-10: Minutes
  • Bits 11-15: Hours

Recall that we extracted the value 0×4638 (0100 0110 0011 1000 in binary) for the creation time. Thus the decoded seconds, minutes, and hours fields are:

0100 0110 0011 1000
Creation seconds = 11000 binary = 0×18 = 24 decimal

0100 0110 0011 1000
Creation minutes = 110001 binary = 0×31 = 49 decimal

0100 0110 0011 1000
Creation hours = 01000 binary = 0×8 = 8 decimal

The last value we need to decode is the modification time. The bit-field layout is the same for the creation time. The value we extracted for the modification time was 0x754F (0111 0101 0100 1111 in binary). The decoded seconds, minutes, and hours fields for the modification time are:

0111 0101 0100 1111
Modification seconds = 01111 binary = 0xF = 15 decimal

0111 0101 0100 1111
Modification minutes = 101010 binary = 0x2A = 42 decimal

0111 0101 0100 1111
Modification hours = 01110 binary = 0xE = 14 decimal

Interpretation

Now that we’ve finished extracting and decoding the various fields, we can move into the interpretation phase. The values for the years and seconds fields need to be interpreted. The value of the years field is the offset from 1980 (0x7BC) and the seconds field is the number of seconds divided by two. Consequently, we’ll need to add 0x7BC to each year field and multiply each second field by two. The newly calculated years and seconds fields are:

  • Creation year = 22 + 1980 = 2002
  • Access year = 22 + 1980 = 2002
  • Modification year = 22 + 1980 = 2002
  • Creation seconds = 24 * 2 = 48
  • Modification seconds = 15 * 2 = 30

We also need to calculate the first cluster of the file, which simply requires concatenating the high and the low words. Since the high word is 0×0000, the value for the first cluster of the file is the value of the low word (0×0002).

In the next phase (reconstruction) we’ll use Python, so there are a few additional values that are useful to calculate. The first order of business is to account for the hundredths of a second associated with the seconds field for creation time. The value we extracted for the hundredths of a second for creation time was 0×68 (104 decimal). Since this value is greater than 100 we can add 1 to the seconds field of creation time. Our new creation seconds field is:

  • Creation seconds = 48 + 1 = 49

This still leaves four hundredths of a second left over. Since we’ll be reconstructing this in Python, we’ll use the Python time class which accepts values for hours, minutes, seconds, and microseconds. To convert the remaining four hundredths of a second to microseconds multiply by 10000. The value for creation microseconds is:

  • Creation microseconds = 4 * 10000 = 40000

The other calculation is to convert the attributes field into a string. This is purely arbitrary, and is being done for display purposes. So our new attributes value is:

  • Attributes = “Archive”

Reconstruction

This is the final phase of recovering our directory entry. To keep things simple, we’ll reconstruct the data structure as a Python dictionary. Most applications would likely use a Python object, and doing so is a fairly straight forward translation. Here is a snippet of Python code to create a dictionary with the extracted, decoded, and interpreted values (don’t type the >>> or …):

$ python
>>> from datetime import date, time
>>> dirEntry = dict()
>>> dirEntry["File Name"] = "xE5IMMYJ~1DOC"
>>> dirEntry["Attributes"] = "Archive"
>>> dirEntry["Reserved Byte"] = 0x00
>>> dirEntry["Creation Time"] = time(8, 49, 49, 40000)
>>> dirEntry["Creation Date"] = date(2002, 9, 11)
>>> dirEntry["Access Date"] = date(2002, 9, 11)
>>> dirEntry["First Cluster"] = 2
>>> dirEntry["Modification Time"] = time(14, 42, 30)
>>> dirEntry["Modification Date"] = date(2002, 4, 15)
>>> dirEntry["size"] = 0x5000
>>>

If you wanted to print out the values in a (semi) formatted fashion you could use the following Python code:

>>> for key in dirEntry.keys():
... print "%s == %s" % (key, str(dirEntry[key]))
...

And you would get the following output

Modification Date == 2002-04-15
Creation Date == 2002-09-11
First Cluster == 2
File Name == ?IMMYJ~1DOC
Creation Time == 08:49:49.040000
Access Date == 2002-09-11
Reserved Byte == 0
Modification Time == 14:42:30
Attributes == Archive
size == 20480
>>>

At this point, there are a few additional fields that could have been calculated. For instance, the file name could have been broken into the respective 8.3 (base and extension) components. It might also be useful to calculate the allocation status of the associated file (in this case it would be unallocated). These are left as exercises for the reader ;).

This concludes the 3-post series on recovering data structures from a stream of bytes. Hopefully the example helped clarify the roles and activities of each of the five phases. Realize that the five phases aren’t specific to recovering file system data structures, they apply to network traffic, code, file formats, etc.

Comments

  1. Christian Dreyer says:

    The five phases of recovering a FAT filesystem directory is an interesting topic. You have posted in a great amount of detail all the phases you go through, and how you do the phases, do you need to go through all five phases? or is there a simpler alternative to recovering an FAT filesystem directory?. This blog entry is very useful keep up with the good work and the regular updates.

    Regards Christian Dreyer

  2. Christian Dreyer says:

    The five phases of recovering a FAT file system directory is an interesting topic. You have posted in a great amount of detail all the phases you go through, and how you do the phases, do you need to go through all the five phases? or is there a simpler alternative to recovering a FAT file system directory?. This blog entry is very useful keep up with the good work and regular updates.

    Regards Christian Dreyer

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