The NTFS file system tracks the contents of a directory using a B+ tree data structure. It stores this index in the INDEX_ROOT and INDEX_ALLOCATION attributes on a directory’s MFT record. These are often called “INDX files” or “INDX buffers”, although the same structures are used for other indices elsewhere in NTFS as well. In directory indices, the key is the FILENAME attribute of the child, and the driver uses the filename field to order the keys. Therefore, each directory index entry contains at least the following metadata for the child:

These entries are interesting to forensic investigators for a number of reasons. First, an investigator may use directory index entries as a source of timestamps to develop a timeline of activity. Secondly, the B+ tree nodes have significant slack spaces. With careful parsing, an investigator may recover old or deleted entries from within these data chunks. In other words, the investigator may be able to show a file existed even if it has been deleted.

Directory indices are not usually accessible from within the Windows operating system. Forensic utilties such as the FTK Imager may allow a user to extract the index attributes by accessing the raw hard disk. FTK exposes the directory index as a file named “$I30”. Tools like the Sleuthkit can extract the directory entries from a forensic image. INDXParse.py will not work against a live system.

Previous work & tools

I’d like to first mention John McCash, who mentioned he was unaware of any non-EnCase tools that parse directory indices in a SANS blog post. That got my mental gears turning.

The second resource I used, and used extensively, was Forensic computing by A. J. Sammes, Tony Sammes, and Brian Jenkinson. I found the relevent section was available for free via Google books. This was an excellent document, and I now plan on buying the full book.

42 LLC provides the INDX Extractor Enpack as a compiled EnScript for EnCase. This was not useful to me, because I was unable to get to the logic of the script.

The Sleuthkit has directory index structures defined in the tsk_ntfs.h header files. I didn’t do much digging in the code to see if TSK does any parsing of the directory indices (I suspect it does), but I did use it to verify the file structure.

I worked with Jeff Hamm at Mandiant to describe directory indices on the company’s blog. The result was four blog posts, which you can review here:


INDXParse is available on GitHub here.

INDXParse.py accepts a number of command line parameters and switches that determine what data is parsed and output format. INDXParse.py currently supports both CSV (default) and Bodyfile (v3) output formats. The CSV schema is as follows:

INDXParse.py will parse B+ tree node slack space if provided the ‘-d’ flag. Entries identified in the slack space will be tagged with a string of the form “(slack at ###)” where ### is the hex offset to the slack entry. Note that slack entries will have separate timestamps from the live entries, and could be used to show the state of the system at a point in time.

If the program encounters an error while parsing the filename, the filename field will contain a best guess, and the comment “(error decoding filename)”. If the program encounters an error while parsing timestamps, a timestamp corresponding to the UNIX epoch will be printed instead.

The full command line help is included here:

    INDX $ python INDXParse.py -h
    usage: INDXParse.py [-h] [-c | -b] [-d] filename
    Parse NTFS INDX files.
    positional arguments:
      filename Input INDX file path
    optional arguments:
      -h, --help show this help message and exit
      -c Output CSV
      -b Output Bodyfile
      -d Find entries in slack space

INDXTemplate.bt is a template file for the useful 010 Editor. Use it as you would any other template by applying it to INDX files.

Sample Output

In the following example, I run INDXParse.py against an INDX attribute file acquired from my User directory on my Windows 7 virtual machine. I specified the ‘-b’ option to have the output formatted according to the Bodyfile specification. I used the ‘-d’ option to recover entries from the index structure slack spaces. This listing shows only a portion of the 91 total entries identified by INDXParse.py.

    INDX $ python INDXParse.py \$I30.copy1 -d -b
    0|Application Data|0|0|0|0|0|1279495028|1279495028|1279495028|1279495028
    0|FAVORI~1 (slack at 0x860)|0|0|0|0|0|1280959868|1279496941|1280959868|1279495028
    0|GITCON~1 (slack at 0x8c8)|0|0|0|0|415|1281940079|1281643804|1281940094|1281643804
    0|GITK~1 (slack at 0x930)|0|0|0|0|920|1290066582|1290066582|1290066582|1290066582
    0|IDLERC~1 (slack at 0x990)|0|0|0|0|0|1279911488|1279911488|1279911488|1279911486
    0|InstallAnywhere (slack at 0x9f8)|0|0|0|0|0|1289338594|1289338594|1289338595|1289338594
    0|INSTAL~1 (slack at 0xa68)|0|0|0|0|0|1289338594|1289338594|1289338595|1289338594
    0|JavaSnoop.properties (slack at 0xad0)|0|0|0|0|98|1280436493|1280436492|1280436493|1280436492

When I run the output through Mactime, I can use the resulting timeline to identify periods of suspicious activity. This listing shows only a portion of the 164 total timeline entries identified by Mactime.

    INDX $ python INDXParse.py \$I30.copy1 -d -b | mactime -m
     Sun 07 18 2010 19:17:08 0 macb 0 0 0 0 APPLIC~1
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 Downloads
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 FAVORI~1
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 FAVORI~1 (slack at 0x860)
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 LOCALS~1
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 LOCALS~1 (slack at 0xcf8)
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 Links
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 Links (slack at 0xc28)
                                    0 m.cb 0 0 0 0 Local Settings
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 Local Settings (slack at 0xc88)
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 MYDOCU~1
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 MYDOCU~1 (slack at 0xe30)
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 Music
                                    0 ...b 0 0 0 0 Music (slack at 0xd60)
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 My Documents
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 My Documents (slack at 0xdc0)
                              9175040 ...b 0 0 0 0 NTUSER.DAT
     Tue 11 09 2010 16:36:35 0 ..c. 0 0 0 0 INSTAL~1
                                    0 ..c. 0 0 0 0 INSTAL~1 (slack at 0xa68)
                                    0 ..c. 0 0 0 0 InstallAnywhere
                                    0 ..c. 0 0 0 0 InstallAnywhere (slack at 0x9f8)
     Tue 11 09 2010 16:39:58 0 macb 0 0 0 0 WORKSP~1
                                    0 m.cb 0 0 0 0 workspace
     Tue 11 09 2010 17:11:03 0 macb 0 0 0 0 net
                                    0 macb 0 0 0 0 net (slack at 0xe98)
     Tue 11 09 2010 17:46:30 0 mac. 0 0 0 0 Programs
     Tue 11 16 2010 04:14:12 8126464 m... 0 0 0 0 NTUSER.DAT (slack at 0xf50)
     Thu 11 18 2010 02:49:42 920 ...b 0 0 0 0 .gitk
                                  920 ...b 0 0 0 0 GITK~1
                                  920 macb 0 0 0 0 GITK~1 (slack at 0x930)
     Fri 11 19 2010 15:08:39 8126464 .ac. 0 0 0 0 NTUSER.DAT (slack at 0xf50)


INDXParse is released under the Apache 2.0 license.