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Table of Contents
- Using Volatility
- Displaying Help
- Selecting a Profile
- Alternatives to Command Line Options
- Enabling Debug Messages
- Using the Cache
- Setting the Timezone
- Setting the DTB
- Setting the KDBG Address
- Setting the KPCR Address
- Enabling Write Support
- Specifying Additional Plugin Directories
- Choosing an Output Format
- Plugin Specific Options
- Using Volatility as a Library
The most basic Volatility commands are constructed as shown below. Replace plugin with the name of the plugin to use, image with the file path to your memory image, and profile with the name of the profile (such as Win7SP1x64).
$ python vol.py [plugin] -f [image] --profile=[profile]
Here is an example:
$ python vol.py pslist -f /path/to/memory.img --profile=Win7SP1x64
For everything beyond this example, such as controlling the output format, listing the available plugins and profiles, or supplying plugin-specific options, see the rest of the text below.
There are several command-line options that are global (i.e. they apply to all plugins). This section is for folks who are new to Volatility or anyone who wants to become more familiar with what functionality can be tweaked.
You can display the main help menu by passing
--help on command-line. This shows the global options and lists the plugins available to the currently specified profile. If you do not specify a profile, you'll be working with the default,
WinXPSP2x86, thus you'll only see plugins that are valid for that operating system and architecture (for example, you won't see linux plugins or windows plugins that only work on Vista). To specify a profile other than the default, see Selecting a Profile below.
The remainder of this section will discuss the various options in greater detail.
$ python vol.py -h -h, --help list all available options and their default values. Default values may be set in the configuration file (/etc/volatilityrc) --conf-file=/Users/mhl/.volatilityrc User based configuration file -d, --debug Debug volatility --plugins=PLUGINS Additional plugin directories to use (colon separated) --info Print information about all registered objects --cache-directory=/Users/mhl/.cache/volatility Directory where cache files are stored --cache Use caching --tz=TZ Sets the (Olson) timezone for displaying timestamps using pytz (if installed) or tzset -f FILENAME, --filename=FILENAME Filename to use when opening an image --profile=WinXPSP2x86 Name of the profile to load (use --info to see a list of supported profiles) -l LOCATION, --location=LOCATION A URN location from which to load an address space -w, --write Enable write support --dtb=DTB DTB Address --output=text Output in this format (support is module specific, see the Module Output Options below) --output-file=OUTPUT_FILE Write output in this file -v, --verbose Verbose information --shift=SHIFT Mac KASLR shift address -g KDBG, --kdbg=KDBG Specify a KDBG virtual address (Note: for 64-bit Windows 8 and above this is the address of KdCopyDataBlock) --force Force utilization of suspect profile -k KPCR, --kpcr=KPCR Specify a specific KPCR address --cookie=COOKIE Specify the address of nt!ObHeaderCookie (valid for Windows 10 only)
Selecting a Profile
Volatility needs to know what type of system your memory dump came from, so it knows which data structures, algorithms, and symbols to use. A default profile of
WinXPSP2x86 is set internally, so if you're analyzing a Windows XP SP2 x86 memory dump, you do not need to supply
--profile at all. However, for all others, you must specify the proper profile name.
Note: If you do not know what type of system the memory dump is from, use the [imageinfo](Command Reference23#imageinfo) or [kdbgscan](Command Reference23#kdbgscan) plugins for a suggestion. These plugins are Windows-only.
If you want to see a list of supported profile names, do the following:
$ python vol.py --info VistaSP0x64 - A Profile for Windows Vista SP0 x64 VistaSP0x86 - A Profile for Windows Vista SP0 x86 VistaSP1x64 - A Profile for Windows Vista SP1 x64 VistaSP1x86 - A Profile for Windows Vista SP1 x86 VistaSP2x64 - A Profile for Windows Vista SP2 x64 VistaSP2x86 - A Profile for Windows Vista SP2 x86 Win10x64 - A Profile for Windows 10 x64 Win10x86 - A Profile for Windows 10 x86 Win2003SP0x86 - A Profile for Windows 2003 SP0 x86 Win2003SP1x64 - A Profile for Windows 2003 SP1 x64 Win2003SP1x86 - A Profile for Windows 2003 SP1 x86 Win2003SP2x64 - A Profile for Windows 2003 SP2 x64 Win2003SP2x86 - A Profile for Windows 2003 SP2 x86 Win2008R2SP0x64 - A Profile for Windows 2008 R2 SP0 x64 Win2008R2SP1x64 - A Profile for Windows 2008 R2 SP1 x64 Win2008SP1x64 - A Profile for Windows 2008 SP1 x64 Win2008SP1x86 - A Profile for Windows 2008 SP1 x86 Win2008SP2x64 - A Profile for Windows 2008 SP2 x64 Win2008SP2x86 - A Profile for Windows 2008 SP2 x86 Win2012R2x64 - A Profile for Windows Server 2012 R2 x64 Win2012x64 - A Profile for Windows Server 2012 x64 Win7SP0x64 - A Profile for Windows 7 SP0 x64 Win7SP0x86 - A Profile for Windows 7 SP0 x86 Win7SP1x64 - A Profile for Windows 7 SP1 x64 Win7SP1x86 - A Profile for Windows 7 SP1 x86 Win81U1x64 - A Profile for Windows 8.1 Update 1 x64 Win81U1x86 - A Profile for Windows 8.1 Update 1 x86 Win8SP0x64 - A Profile for Windows 8 x64 Win8SP0x86 - A Profile for Windows 8 x86 Win8SP1x64 - A Profile for Windows 8.1 x64 Win8SP1x86 - A Profile for Windows 8.1 x86 WinXPSP1x64 - A Profile for Windows XP SP1 x64 WinXPSP2x64 - A Profile for Windows XP SP2 x64 WinXPSP2x86 - A Profile for Windows XP SP2 x86 WinXPSP3x86 - A Profile for Windows XP SP3 x86
Alternatives to Command Line Options
If you're about to enter a lengthy engagement and don't want to type common plugin flags, there are two alternatives: environment variables and configuration files. If an option is not supplied on command-line, Volatility will try to get it from an environment variable and if that fails - from a configuration file.
Note also that to avoid confusion, the (
-h/--help) option also lists the current value of each parameter so you can easily check what value is being used (from the environment or the config files).
On a Linux or OS X system you can set options by exporting them in your shell, as shown below:
$ export VOLATILITY_PROFILE=Win7SP0x86 $ export VOLATILITY_LOCATION=file:///tmp/myimage.img $ export VOLATILITY_KDBG=0x82944c28 $ python vol.py pslist $ python vol.py files
Configuration files are typically "
volatilityrc" in the current directory or
~/.volatilityrc (user's home directory), or at user specified path (using the
--conf-file option). An example of the file contents is shown below:
[DEFAULT] PROFILE=Win7SP0x86 LOCATION=file:///tmp/myimage.img KDBG=0x82944c28
Configuration files are particularly useful when processing several memory samples in one sitting.
- Other plugin flags may be utilized in this way, for example
PLUGINS. When exporting variables, simply prefix
VOLATILITY_before the flag name (e.g.
VOLATILITY_KPCR). Otherwise, the flag name remains the same when adding it to the configuration file.
- If you have a path with a space or more in the name, spaces should be replaced with
Enabling Debug Messages
If something isn't happening in Volatility the way you'd expect, try running the command with
-d/--debug. This will enable the printing of debug messages to standard error. If you really need to debug Volatility (as in using
pdb debugger), then add
-d -d -d to your commands.
Using the Cache
Note: Caching has been disabled at this time.
The cache allows Volatility to store arbitrary objects and constants for later retrieval. This can include, DTB, KDBG, or KPCR addresses, entire x86 page translation tables, or even hibernation decompression data structures. To enable use of the cache, add
--cache to your commands. This feature pickles (serializes) the data in files on your disk, so if you want to choose the location of cache files, use
--cache-directory. For more information, see the caching system page in the developer guide for your release version.
Setting the Timezone
Timestamps extracted from memory can either be in system-local time, or in Universal Time Coordinates (UTC). If they're in UTC, Volatility can be instructed to display them in a time zone of the analyst's choosing. To choose a timezone, use one of the standard timezone names (such as Europe/London, US/Eastern or most Olson timezones) with the
--tz=TIMEZONE flag. Volatility attempts to use pytz if installed, otherwise it uses tzset.
Please note that specifying a timezone will not affect how system-local times are displayed. If you identify a time that you know is UTC-based, please file it as an issue in the issue tracker.
By default the
ExitTime timestamps are in UTC. Below is output from Volatility with
$ python vol.py -f win7.vmem --profile=Win7SP1x86 pslist Volatility Foundation Volatility Framework 2.4 Offset(V) Name PID PPID Thds Hnds Sess Wow64 Start Exit ---------- -------------------- ------ ------ ------ -------- ------ ------ ------------------------------ ------------------------------ 0x84133630 System 4 0 93 420 ------ 0 2011-10-20 15:25:11 UTC+0000 0x852add40 smss.exe 276 4 4 29 ------ 0 2011-10-20 15:25:11 UTC+0000 0x851d9530 csrss.exe 364 356 9 560 0 0 2011-10-20 15:25:15 UTC+0000 0x859c8530 wininit.exe 404 356 7 88 0 0 2011-10-20 15:25:16 UTC+0000 0x859cf530 csrss.exe 416 396 10 236 1 0 2011-10-20 15:25:16 UTC+0000 [snip]
Below is output from the same sample using the
--tz=America/Chicago option to get Central Standard Time:
$ python vol.py -f win7.vmem --profile=Win7SP1x86 pslist --tz=America/Chicago Volatility Foundation Volatility Framework 2.4 Offset(V) Name PID PPID Thds Hnds Sess Wow64 Start Exit ---------- -------------------- ------ ------ ------ -------- ------ ------ ------------------------------ ------------------------------ 0x84133630 System 4 0 93 420 ------ 0 2011-10-20 10:25:11 CDT-0500 0x852add40 smss.exe 276 4 4 29 ------ 0 2011-10-20 10:25:11 CDT-0500 0x851d9530 csrss.exe 364 356 9 560 0 0 2011-10-20 10:25:15 CDT-0500 0x859c8530 wininit.exe 404 356 7 88 0 0 2011-10-20 10:25:16 CDT-0500 0x859cf530 csrss.exe 416 396 10 236 1 0 2011-10-20 10:25:16 CDT-0500 [snip]
Below is the same output above, but without the
pytz library installed:
$ python2.6 vol.py -f win7.vmem --profile=Win7SP1x86 pslist --tz=America/Chicago Volatility Foundation Volatility Framework 2.4 Offset(V) Name PID PPID Thds Hnds Sess Wow64 Start Exit ---------- -------------------- ------ ------ ------ -------- ------ ------ ------------------------------ ------------------------------ 0x84133630 System 4 0 93 420 ------ 0 2011-10-20 10:25:11 CDT 0x852add40 smss.exe 276 4 4 29 ------ 0 2011-10-20 10:25:11 CDT 0x851d9530 csrss.exe 364 356 9 560 0 0 2011-10-20 10:25:15 CDT 0x859c8530 wininit.exe 404 356 7 88 0 0 2011-10-20 10:25:16 CDT 0x859cf530 csrss.exe 416 396 10 236 1 0 2011-10-20 10:25:16 CDT [snip]
Setting the DTB
The DTB (Directory Table Base) is what Volatility uses to translate virtual addresses to physical addresses. By default, a kernel DTB is used (from the Idle/System process). If you want to use a different process's DTB when accessing data, supply the address to
Setting the KDBG Address
This is a Windows-only option
Volatility scans for the
_KDDEBUGGER_DATA64 structure using hard-coded signatures "KDBG" and a series of sanity checks. These signatures are not critical for the operating system to function properly, thus malware can overwrite them in attempt to throw off tools that do rely on the signature. Additionally, in some cases there may be more than one
_KDDEBUGGER_DATA64 (for example if you apply a major OS update and don't reboot), which can cause confusion and lead to incorrect process and module listings, among other problems. If you know the address add
_KDDEBUGGER_DATA64, you can specify it with
--kdbg=ADDRESS and this override the automated scans. For more information, see the [kdbgscan](Command Reference#kdbgscan) plugin.
For Windows 8 and above, the
--kdbg parameter should be the address of
KdCopyDataBlock instead. For more information, see Windows 8 Memory Forensics.
Setting the KPCR Address
This is a Windows-only option
There is one KPCR (Kernel Processor Control Region) for each CPU on a system. Some Volatility plugins display per-processor information. Thus if you want to display data for a specific CPU, for example CPU 3 instead of CPU 1, you can pass the address of that CPU's KPCR with
--kpcr=ADDRESS. To locate the KPCRs for all CPUs, see the [kpcrscan](Command Reference#kpcrscan) plugin. Also note that starting in Volatility 2.2, many of the plugins such as [idt](Command Reference#idt) and [gdt](Command Reference#gdt) automatically iterate through the list of KPCRs.
Enabling Write Support
Write support in Volatility should be used with caution. Therefore, to actually enable it, you must not only type
--write on command-line but you must type a "password" in response to a question that you'll be prompted with. In most cases you will not want to use write support since it can lead to corruption or modification of data in your memory dump. However, special cases exist that make this feature really interesting. For example, you could cleanse a live system of certain malware by writing to RAM over firewire, or you could break into a locked workstation by patching bytes in the winlogon DLLs.
Specifying Additional Plugin Directories
Volatility's plugin architecture can load plugin files and profiles from multiple directories at once. In the Volatility source code, most plugins are located in
volatility/plugins. However, there is another directory (
volatility/contrib) which is reserved for contributions from third party developers, or weakly supported plugins that simply aren't enabled by default. To access these plugins you just type
--plugins=contrib/plugins on command-line. It also enables you to create a separate directory of your own plugins that you can manage without having to add/remove/modify files in the core volatility directories.
- Subdirectories will also be traversed as long as there is an
__init__.pyfile (which can be empty) within them.
- The parameter to
--pluginscan also be a zip file containing the plugins such as
- If the specified directory contains profiles, these will also be loaded. This is convenient for using generated Linux/Android/Mac profiles with the standalone executable of Volatility.
Due to the way plugins are loaded, the external plugins directory or zip file must be specified before any plugin-specific arguments (including the name of the plugin). Example:
$ python vol.py --plugins=contrib/plugins -f XPSP3x86.vmem example
Choosing an Output Format
By default, plugins use text renderers to standard output. If you want to redirect to a file, you can of course use the console's redirection (i.e.
> out.txt) or you could use
--output-file=out.txt. The reason you can also choose
--output=FORMAT is for allowing plugins to also render output as HTML, JSON, SQL, or whatever you choose. However, there are no plugins with those alternate output formats pre-configured for use, so you'll need to add a function named
render_sql, respectively to each plugin before using
Plugin Specific Options
Many plugins accept arguments of their own, which are independent of the global options. To see the list of available options, type both the plugin name and
-h/--help on command-line.
$ python vol.py dlllist -h
Using Volatility as a Library
Although its possible to use Volatility as a library, we hope to support it better in the future. Currently, if you need to import volatility from one of your other python scripts, you can use the following example code:
$ python >>> import volatility.conf as conf >>> import volatility.registry as registry >>> registry.PluginImporter() <volatility.registry.PluginImporter object at 0x7f9608f3ac10> >>> config = conf.ConfObject() >>> import volatility.commands as commands >>> import volatility.addrspace as addrspace >>> registry.register_global_options(config, commands.Command) >>> registry.register_global_options(config, addrspace.BaseAddressSpace) >>> config.parse_options() >>> config.PROFILE="WinXPSP2x86" >>> config.LOCATION = "file:///media/memory/private/image.dmp" >>> import volatility.plugins.taskmods as taskmods >>> p = taskmods.PSList(config) >>> for process in p.calculate(): ... print process ...