Skip to content
/ LO-PHI Public

Low-Observable Physical Host Instrumentation: A suite of tools supporting introspection and semantic gap reconstruction for both physical and virtual machines.


Notifications You must be signed in to change notification settings


Repository files navigation


                   Low-Observable Physical Host Instrumentation


LO-PHI is a distributed hardware and software platform that aims to instrument both physical and virtual machines through the use of novel sensors and accompanying data analysis tools. The current suite of capabilities includes: memory introspection, disk activity monitoring, keyboard and mouse actuation, and power management. Future versions will also include CPU introspection. For virtual hosts, these capabilities are provided in a popular open-source hypervisor, QEMU-KVM, by custom hooks inserted into the source code. Similarly, for physical hosts, there is custom hardware to provide the same sensor capabilities. For asynchronous memory introspection we have both a PCI and PCI-Express card which are both capable of direct memory access (DMA), and for disk access monitoring we developed a Serial ATA (SATA) interposer which enables us to monitor any SATA-capable disk drives. These are implemented on various development field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Finally, all of the sensors have accompanying application programming interfaces (APIs), written in Python, to facilitate end-user interaction as well as a suite of deployment and analytics tools for rapid deployment and prototyping using our sensors. The analytics tools are built on popular and powerful open-source forensics tools, i.e. Volatility and Sleuthkit, which enable a wide range of capabilities right out of the box, e.g. enumerate running processes and file system operations for popular operating systems. Because of the numerous foreseeable applications of LO-PHI technologies, we developed the architecture in a modular way such that any set of our sensors and analytics tools can be used in isolation or in unison, thus providing the end-user with the flexibility to fit a solution their problem without any unnecessary hurdles.



  • is a script to update PYTHONPATH appropriately for development also create symbolic links


  • is a script to distribute the debian packages to a apt repostitory
  • will build all of the debian packages and place them in dist

Python modules

  • python-lophi-1.0 is the main python module for actually instrumenting machines
  • python-lophi-process-under-test-1.0 is a beta module for working with processes under test.
  • python-lophi-semanticgap-1.0 is a python module for bridging the semantic gap from the raw data obtained by python-lophi to human readable forms (e.g., process lists, file system activity)


  • lophi-automation-1.0 is a framework for automated analysis with instrumented machines
  • lophi-net-services-1.0 contains numerous network services that faciitate lophi-automation
  • lophi-analysis-1.0 contains numerous analysis scripts used to analyze the data collected by lophi-automation


  • experiments contains numerous experiments and scripts for plotting the resulting data to test numerous aspects of LO-PHI
  • demo_code contains source code and compiled binaries for programs that are used for demonstrating LO-PHI's capabilities
  • dist contains distributable binaries for the included packages
  • tools contains numerous useful tools for working with various aspects of LO-PHI (e.g. manipulating disk images, pinging the sensors)
  • deployments contains code for any deployments of LO-PHI that have been specially developed and deployed
  • sut_software contains binaries that are useful to have on a system under test
  • docs useful documentation


We briefly outline the steps for installing LO-PHI and it's dependencies below.


For those wishing to modify or further develop LO-PHI, we do not recommend installing the packages, but instead provide a script to setup your environmental variables for easy in-place development:




All of the packages can be installed by either installing the Debian package

dpk -i [package name].deb

if you have an apt repository configured:

sudo apt-get install [package name]

or by using the typical Python install

sudo python install

We recommend using the debian package as this will place everything under the /lophi root directory and hand some important post-install routines.


LO-PHI has numerous packages associated with it, currently located in a separate repository (lophi-packages), which include QEMU-KVM, Volatility, Sleuthkit, PyTSK, and a disk introspection server. The easiest way to install these is by using the script provided in the repository. (Again, installing using the Debian package is preferred due to important post-install procedures)


Once the packages are installed you can interact with the Virtual and Physical machines using the scripts provided in python-lophi-1.0/examples/.

Virtual Machines

As a quick sanity test, we recommend starting a VM and trying the following commands:

  • lophi_disk_introspection_status - Will list the virtual disks that are available for introspection.
  • ./ -T 2 -t [vm name] - Will dump a small section of memory from the VM
  • ./ -T 2 -t [vm name] - Will start capturing disk activity from the VM.
  • ./ -T 2 -t [vm name] -s hello_world_windows.act - Will actuate the keyboard and open a command prompt.
  • ./ -T 2 -t [vm name] -m 100,100 - Will Actuate the mouse and click the top-left corner of the screen.

Confirm that their is output from all of these.

Physical Machines

Similarly, the same scripts apply with different type (-T) and target (-t) parameters. The default IPs that we assigned our sensors are:

  • Memory Sensor (PCIe):
  • Memory Sensor (PCI):
  • LO-PHI Disk Sensor:
  • LO-PHI Control Sensor:

and the network card interacting with the sensors should have the IP:

Automation Framework and Semantic-Gap Reconstruction

Please see the respective projects README files for more in-depth explanation of their installation and usage.


Disk introspection

  • First, make sure that the disk introspection server is running:
$ lophi-disk-introspection-status 

Status of connected guest VMs...

ID : Status : HDD Filename
--   ------   ----------------------------------------
069 :   open : /var/lib/libvirt/images/example.img

Status of waiting clients...

SOCK :  HDD Filename
----   ----------------------------------------
  • If you don't see a disk listening, ensure that you are running the properly patched version of QEMU:
$ tail -f /var/log/syslog | grep -i lophi
  • If you dont see any output, follow the install steps to re-install our patched qemu-kvm instance.
  • If you see permission denied errors, try running the scripts/ script, as this is likely a problem with apparmor.
  • To test the server, you can netcat into the disk introspection server (type h for help):
$ nc localhost 31337
LO-PHI Disk Introspection Server
  l - list running VM's
  i <vm id> - subscribe to VM with specified ID
  n <vm filename> - subscribe to VM with specified filename

Memory Introspection

  • If you are getting strange errors with Volatility/libvmi like:

    error: no connection driver available for No connection for URI xen:/// error: failed to connect to the hypervisor

It's likely because your VIRSH_DEFAULT_CONNECT_URI environment variable is set incorrectly. Unset this a try again.

  • Remember that libvmi must be run as root!

    PyVmiAddressSpace - EXCEPTION: Init failed

    is a likely error if you're not root.


Setup PXE Boot Server



Open Source Software:

Volatility, Sleuthkit, pybootd, pyproxydhcp, Clonezilla, analyzeMFT


Xilinx, Arduino


Josh Hodosh, Ryan Whelan, Charles Wright, Jenny Mankin, Antonio Godfrey, Brendon Chetwynd, Kevin Leach


This work was sponsored by the Assistance Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering under Air Force Contract #FA8721-05-C-0002. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the United States Government.
© 2015-2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Low-Observable Physical Host Instrumentation: A suite of tools supporting introspection and semantic gap reconstruction for both physical and virtual machines.







No releases published


No packages published