Authors: Golden Richard III, Ph.D. (Louisiana State University), Andrew Case (Volexity)



The forensics community is increasingly embracing the use of memory analysis to enhance traditional storage-based forensics techniques because memory analysis yields a wealth of information not available on non-volatile storage. Memory analysis involves the capture of a system’s physical memory so that the live state of a system can be investigated, including executing and terminated processes, application data, network connections, and more. One aspect of memory analysis that remains elusive is the investigation of the system’s swap file, which is a backing store for the operating system’s virtual memory system. Swap files are a potentially interesting source of forensic evidence, but traditionally, most swap file analysis has consisted of string searches and scans for small binary structures, which may in some cases be revelatory, but are also fraught with provenance issues. Unfortunately, more sophisticated swap file analysis is complicated by the difficulty of capturing mutually consistent memory dumps and swap files, the increasing use of swap file encryption, and other issues. Fortunately, compressed RAM facilities, such as those in Mac OS X Mavericks and recent versions of the Linux kernel, attempt to reduce or eliminate swapping to disk through compression. The storage of compressed pages in RAM both increases performance and offers an opportunity to gather digital evidence which in the past would have been swapped out. This paper discusses the difficulty of analyzing swap files in more detail, the compressed RAM facilities in Mac OS X and Linux, and our new tools for analysis of compressed RAM. These tools are integrated into the open-source Volatility framework.