New forensics tool can expose all your online activity

Jamie Condliffe

IT IS another escalation in the computer security arms race. Software that can uncover all of a person’s online activity could, in the hands of the police, put more sex offenders behind bars – but it may also be exploited to develop new ways of avoiding being caught.

Researchers from Stanford University in California have managed to bypass the encryption on a PC’s hard drive to find out what websites a user has visited and whether they have any data stored in the cloud.

"Commercial forensic software concentrates on extracting files from a disc, but that’s not super-helpful in understanding online activity," says Elie Bursztein, whose team developed the software. "We’ve built a tool that can reconstruct where the user has been online, and what identity they used." The open-source software, Offline Windows Analysis and Data Extraction (OWADE), was launched at the Black Hat 2011 security conference and works with PCs running on the Windows operating system.

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