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Virtual, US Eastern | Thu, Jul 16 - Sat, Jul 25, 2020

FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis

Mon, July 20 - Sat, July 25, 2020

Associated Certification: GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)

Master Windows Forensics - "You Can't Protect What You Don't Know About."

All organizations must prepare for cyber-crime occurring on their computer systems and within their networks. Demand has never been greater for analysts who can investigate crimes such as fraud, insider threats, industrial espionage, employee misuse, and computer intrusions. Government agencies increasingly require trained media exploitation specialists to recover vital intelligence from Windows systems. To help solve these cases, SANS is training a new cadre of the world's best digital forensic professionals, incident responders, and media exploitation experts capable of piecing together what happened on computer systems second by second.

FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis focuses on building in-depth digital forensics knowledge of Microsoft Windows operating systems. You can't protect what you don't know about, and understanding forensic capabilities and artifacts is a core component of information security. You will learn how to recover, analyze, and authenticate forensic data on Windows systems, track particular user activity on your network, and organize findings for use in incident response, internal investigations, and civil/criminal litigation. You will be able to use your new skills to validate security tools, enhance vulnerability assessments, identify insider threats, track hackers, and improve security policies. Whether you know it or not, Windows is silently recording an unbelievable amount of data about you and your users. FOR500 teaches you how to mine this mountain of data.

Proper analysis requires real data for students to examine. The completely updated FOR500 course trains digital forensic analysts through a series of new hands-on laboratory exercises that incorporate evidence found on the latest Microsoft technologies (Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Office and Office365, Cloud Storage, SharePoint, Exchange, Outlook). Students leave the course armed with the latest tools and techniques and prepared to investigate even the most complicated systems they might encounter. Nothing is left out - attendees learn to analyze everything from legacy Windows 7 systems to just-discovered Windows 10 artifacts.

FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis will teach you to:

  1. Conduct in-depth forensic analysis of Windows operating systems and media exploitation focusing on Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2008/2012/2016
  2. Identify artifact and evidence locations to answer critical questions, including application execution, file access, data theft, external device usage, cloud services, geolocation, file download, anti-forensics, and detailed system usage
  3. Focus your capabilities on analysis instead of on how to use a particular tool
  4. Extract critical answers and build an in-house forensic capability via a variety of free, open-source, and commercial tools provided within the SANS Windows SIFT Workstation

FOR500 is continually updated. The course starts with an intellectual property theft and corporate espionage case that took over six months to create. You work in the real world, so your training should include real-world practice data. Our instructor development team used incidents from their own investigations and experiences to create an incredibly rich and detailed scenario designed to immerse students in an actual investigation. The case demonstrates the latest artifacts and technologies an investigator might encounter while analyzing Windows systems. The detailed workbook shows step-by-step the tools and techniques that each investigator should employ to solve a forensic case.

Windows Forensics Course Topics:

  • Windows Operating Systems Focus (Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Server 2008/2012/2016)
  • Windows File Systems (NTFS, FAT, exFAT)
  • Advanced Evidence Acquisition Tools and Techniques
  • Registry Forensics
  • Shell Item Forensics
    • Shortcut Files (LNK) - Evidence of File Opening
    • Shellbags - Evidence of Folder Opening
    • JumpLists - Evidence of File Opening/Program Exec
  • Windows Artifact Analysis
    • Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Chat, and Webmail Analysis
    • Microsoft Office Document Analysis
    • System Resource Usage Database
    • Windows 10 Timeline Database
    • Windows Recycle Bin Analysis
    • File and Picture Metadata Tracking and Examination
    • Ten Different Application Execution Artifacts Including Several New to Windows 10
  • Cloud Storage File and Metadata Examinations

    • OneDrive, Dropbox, G Drive, G Suite File Stream, Box
  • Email Forensics (Host, Server, Web), Including Office 365 and G Suite
  • Event Log File Analysis
  • Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer Browser Forensics
  • Deleted Registry Key and File Recovery
  • Recovering Missing Data From Registry and ESE Database .Log Files
  • String Searching and File Carving
  • Examination of Cases Involving Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows 10
  • Media Analysis and Exploitation Involving:
    • Tracking User Communications Using a Windows PC (Email, Chat, IM, Webmail)
    • Identifying If and How a Suspect Downloaded a Specific File to the PC
    • Determining the Exact Time and Number of Times a Suspect Executed a Program
    • Showing When Any File Was First and Last Opened by a Suspect
    • Determining If a Suspect Had Knowledge of a Specific File
    • Showing the Exact Physical Location of the System
    • Tracking and Analyzing External and USB Devices
    • Showing How the Suspect Logged on to the Machine via the Console, RDP, or Network
    • Recovering and Examining Browser Artifacts, Even Those Used in a Private Browsing Mode
    • Discovering Utilization of Anti-Forensics, Including File Wiping, Time Manipulation, and Program Removal
  • The Course Is Fully Updated to Include Latest Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and Server 2008/2012/2016 Techniques


Please plan to arrive 30 minutes early on Day 1 for lab preparation and set-up.

Course Syllabus

Ovie Carroll
Mon Jul 20th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


The Windows Forensic Analysis course starts with an examination of digital forensics in today's interconnected environments and discusses challenges associated with mobile devices, tablets, cloud storage, and modern Windows operating systems. Hard drive sizes are increasingly difficult to handle appropriately in digital cases. Being able to acquire data in an efficient and forensically sound manner is crucial to every investigator today. Most fundamental analysts can easily image a hard drive using a write blocker. In this course, we will review the core techniques while introducing new triage-based acquisition and extraction capabilities that will increase the speed and efficiency of the acquisition process. We will demonstrate how to acquire memory, the NTFS MFT, Windows logs, Registry, and critical files that will take minutes to acquire instead of the hours or days currently spent on acquisition.

We will also begin processing our collected evidence using stream-based and file-carving-based extraction capabilities that employ both commercial and open-source tools and techniques. Seasoned investigators will need to know how to target the specific data that they need to begin to answer fundamental questions in their cases.

  • Install the Windows SIFT Workstation and get an orientation about its operations
  • Undertake advanced triage-based acquisition and imaging - rapid acquisition
  • Mount acquired disk images and evidence
  • Carve important files from free space
  • Recover critical user data from the pagefile, hibernation file, memory images, and unallocated space
  • Recover chat sessions, web-based email, social networking, and private browsing

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Windows Operating System Components
    • Key Differences in Windows Versions
    • Windows 7 and Higher
    • Microsoft Server Variations
  • Core Forensic Principles
    • Analysis Focus
    • Key Questions
    • Determining Your Scope
  • Live Response and Triage-Based Acquisition Techniques
    • RAM Acquisition
    • Registry Extraction
    • Triage-Based Forensics - Fast Forensic Acquisition - Key Files
    • Following the Order of Volatility
    • KAPE Triage Collection
  • Windows Image Mounting and Examination
  • NTFS File System Overview
  • Document and File Metadata
  • File Carving
    • Principles of Data Carving
    • Loss of File System Metadata
    • File Carving Tools
    • Custom Carving Signatures
  • Memory, Pagefile, and Unallocated Space Analysis
    • Artifact Recovery and Examination
    • Facebook Live, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, AIM, GoogleTalk Chat
    • IE8-11, Edge, Firefox, Chrome InPrivate/Recovery URLs
    • Yahoo, Hotmail, G-Mail, Webmail, Email

Ovie Carroll
Tue Jul 21st, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Our journey continues with the Windows Registry, where the digital forensic investigator will learn how to discover critical user and system information pertinent to almost any investigation. Each examiner will learn how to navigate and examine the Registry to obtain user profile data and system data. The course teaches forensic investigators how to prove that a specific user performed keyword searches, executed specific programs, opened and saved files, perused folders, and used removable devices.

Data is moving rapidly to the cloud, constituting a significant challenge and risk to the modern enterprise. Cloud storage applications are nearly ubiquitous on both consumer and business systems, causing interesting security and forensic challenges. In a world where some of the most important data is only present on third-party systems, how do we effectively accomplish our investigations? In this section we will dissect OneDrive, Google Drive, G Suite, Dropbox, and Box applications, deriving artifacts present in application logs and left behind on the endpoint. Detailed user activity, history of deleted files and discovery of cloud contents are all possible. Solutions to the very real challenges of forensic acquisition are also discussed. Understanding what can be gained through analysis of these popular applications will make investigations of less common cloud storage solutions easier when encountered.

Throughout the section, investigators will use their skills in a real hands-on case, exploring the evidence and analyzing evidence.

  • Profile a computer system using evidence found in the Registry
  • Conduct a detailed profile of user activity using Registry evidence
  • Examine which programs a user recently executed by examining Registry-based UserAssist, AppCompability, Amcache, RecentApps, BAM/DAM, and others
  • Determine which files a user recently opened via the RecentDocs keys in the Registry
  • Examine recently opened Office 365 files and determine first/last open times
  • Find folders recently accessed by a user via the Open/Save keys in the Registry
  • Perform cloud storage forensics, recovering information in logs, metadata, and files

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Registry Forensics In-Depth

  • Registry Core
    • Hives, Keys, and Values
    • Registry Last Write Time
    • MRU Lists
    • Deleted Registry Key Recovery
    • Identify Dirty Registry Hives and Recover Missing Data
    • Rapidly Search and Timeline Multiple Hives
  • Profile Users and Groups
    • Discover Usernames and the SID Mapped to Them
    • Last Login
    • Last Failed Login
    • Login Count
    • Password Policy
  • Core System Information
    • Identify Current Control Set
    • System Name and Version
    • Timezone
    • Local IP Address Information
    • Wireless/Wired/3G Networks
    • Connected Network Auditing and Device Geolocation
    • Network Shares and Offline Caching
    • Last Shutdown Time
    • Registry-Based Malware Persistence Mechanisms
  • User Forensic Data
    • Evidence of File Downloads
    • Office and Office 365 File History Analysis
    • Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10 Search History
    • Typed Paths and Directories
    • Recent Documents (RecentDocs)
    • Open-> Save/Run Dialog Boxes Evidence
    • Application Execution History via UserAssist, Shimcache, RecentApps, AmCache, and BAM/DAM
  • Cloud Storage Forensics
    • Microsoft OneDrive
    • OneDrive Files on Demand
    • Microsoft OneDrive for Business
    • OneDrive Unified Audit Logs
    • Google Drive
    • G Suite File Stream
    • G Suite Logging
    • Dropbox
    • Dropbox Decryption
    • Dropbox Logging
    • Box Drive
    • Box Backup and Sync
    • Synchronization and Timestamps
    • Forensic Acquisition Challenges
    • User activity enumeration
  • Tools Used
    • Registry Explorer
    • TZWork's CAFAE
    • ShimCacheParser
    • Amcacheparser
    • SQLite Viewer

Ovie Carroll
Wed Jul 22nd, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Being able to show the first and last time a file or folder was opened is a critical analysis skill. Utilizing shortcut (LNK), jump list, and Shellbag databases through the examination of SHELL ITEMS, we can quickly pinpoint which file or folder was opened and when. The knowledge obtained by examining SHELL ITEMS is crucial in tracking user activity in intellectual property theft cases internally or in tracking hackers.

Removable storage device investigations are often an essential part of performing digital forensics. We will show you how to perform in-depth USB device examinations on Windows 7, 8/8.1, and 10. You will learn how to determine when a storage device was first and last plugged in, its vendor/make/model, and even the unique serial number of the device used.

  • Track USB and BYOD devices that were connected to the system via the Registry and file system
  • Determine first and last connected times of USB devices that are plugged into your system
  • Determine last removal time of USB devices that are plugged into your system
  • Use Shortcut (LNK) file analysis to determine first/last times a file was opened
  • Use Shellbag Registry Key Analysis to determine when a folder was accessed
  • Use a jump list examination to determine when files were accessed by specific programs
  • Unlock BitLocker-To-Go encrypted USB devices

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Shell Item Forensics
    • Link/Shortcut Files (.lnk) - Evidence of File Opening
    • Windows7/Windows10 Jump Lists - Evidence of File Opening and Program Execution
    • Shellbag Analysis - Evidence of Folder Access
  • USB and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Forensic Examinations
    • Vendor/Make/Version
    • Unique Serial Number
    • Last Drive Letter
    • MountPoints2 - Last Drive Mapping Per User (Including Mapped Shares)
    • Volume Name and Serial Number
    • Username that Used the USB Device
    • Time of First USB Device Connection
    • Time of Last USB Device Connection
    • Time of Last USB Device Removal
    • Auditing BYOD Devices at Scale
    • Bitlocker-To-Go Encrypted USB Devices

Ovie Carroll
Thu Jul 23rd, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Depending on the type of investigation and authorization, a wealth of evidence can be unearthed through the analysis of email files. Recovered email can bring excellent corroborating information to an investigation, and its informality often provides very incriminating evidence. It is common for users to have an email that exists locally on their workstation, on their company email server, in a private cloud, and in multiple webmail accounts.

Additional artifacts such as Windows Prefetch are paramount to proving evidence of execution. The exciting Windows 10 Timeline database shows great promise in recording detailed user activity. Similarly, the System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM), one of our most exciting digital artifacts, can help determine several important user actions, including network usage by cloud storage and backdoors, even after execution of counter-forensic programs.

Finally, Windows event log analysis has solved more cases than possibly any other type of analysis. Understanding the locations and content of these files is crucial to the success of any investigator. Many researchers overlook these records because they do not have adequate knowledge or tools to get the job done efficiently. This section arms each investigator with the core knowledge and capability to maintain this crucial skill for many years to come.

  • Employ best-of-breed forensic tools to search for relevant email and file attachments in large data sets
  • Analyze message headers and gauge email authenticity using SPF and DKIM
  • Understand how Extended MAPI Headers can be used in an investigation
  • Effectively collect evidence from Exchange and Office365
  • Learn the latest on Unified Audit Logs in Office365
  • Search for Webmail and Mobile Email remnants
  • Understand key concepts like email object filtering, de-duplication, and message similarity
  • Use forensic software to recover deleted objects from email archives
  • Gain experience with a commercial email forensics and e-discovery tool
  • Perform data visualization and timeline analysis
  • Analyze document metadata present in email archives
  • Analyze the various versions of the Windows Recycle Bin
  • Analyze Windows Prefetch files to determine thousands of application execution times
  • Use the System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM) to answer questions never before available in Windows forensics
  • Merge event logs and perform advanced filtering
  • Profile account usage and determine logon session length
  • Audit file and folder access
  • Identify evidence of time manipulation on a system
  • Supplement registry analysis with BYOD device auditing, including new Windows 10 events
  • Analyze historical records of wireless network associations and geolocate a device

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Email Forensics
    • Evidence of User Communication
    • How Email Works
    • Email Header Examination
    • Email Authenticity
    • Determining a Sender's Geographic Location
    • Extended MAPI Headers
    • Host-Based Email Forensics
    • Exchange Recoverable Items
    • Exchange Evidence Acquisition and Mail Export
    • Exchange Compliance Search and eDiscovery
    • Unified Audit Logs in Office 365
    • Google G Suite Logging
    • G Suite VaultRecovering Deleted Emails
    • Web and Cloud-Based Email
    • Webmail Acquisition
    • Email Searching and Examination
    • Mobile Email Remnants
    • Business Email Compromise
  • Forensicating Additional Windows OS Artifacts
    • Windows Search Index Forensics
    • Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) Database Recovery and Repair
    • Thumbs.db and Thumbscache Files
    • Windows Prefetch Analysis (XP, Windows 7 - Windows 10)
    • Windows Recycle Bin Analysis (XP, Windows 7 - Windows 10)
    • Windows 10 Timeline Database
    • System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM)
      • Connected Networks, Duration, and Bandwidth Usage
      • Applications Run and Bytes Sent/Received Per Application
      • Application Push Notifications
      • Energy Usage
  • Windows Event Log Analysis
    • Events Logs that Matter to a Digital Forensic Investigator
    • EVTX and EVT Log Files
      • Track Account Usage including RDP, Brute Force Password Attacks, and Rogue Local Account Usage
      • Audit and Analyze File and Folder Access
      • Prove System Time Manipulation
      • Track Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and External Devices
      • Microsoft Office Alert Logging
      • Geo-locate a Device via Event Logs

Ovie Carroll
Fri Jul 24th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


With the increasing use of the web and the shift toward web-based applications and cloud computing, browser forensic analysis is a critical skill. During this section, the investigator will comprehensively explore web browser evidence created during the use of Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome. The hands-on skills taught here, such as SQLite and ESE database parsing, allow investigators to extend these methods to nearly any browser they encounter. The analyst will learn how to examine every significant artifact stored by the browser, including cookies, visit and download history, Internet cache files, browser extensions, and form data. We will show you how to find these records and identify the common mistakes investigators make when interpreting browser artifacts. You will also learn how to analyze some of the more obscure (and powerful) browser artifacts, such as session restore, tracking cookies, zoom levels, predictive site prefetching, and private browsing remnants. Finally, browser synchronization is explored, providing investigative artifacts derived from other devices.

Throughout the section, investigators will use their skills in real hands-on cases, exploring evidence created by Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer, and Tor correlated with other Windows operating system artifacts.

  • Track a suspect's activity in browser history and cache files and identify local file access
  • Analyze artifacts found within the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) database format
  • Examine which files a suspect downloaded
  • Determine URLs that suspects typed, clicked on, bookmarked, or merely popped up while they were browsing
  • Parse automatic crash recovery files to reconstruct previous browser sessions
  • Leverage Google Analytics cookies to profile user behaviors
  • Learn to manually parse SQLite databases from Firefox and Chrome
  • Identify anti-forensics activity and re-construct private browsing sessions
  • Investigate browser auto-complete data

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Browser Forensics
    • History
    • Cache
    • Searches
    • Downloads
    • Understanding Browser Timestamps
    • Internet Explorer
      • IE Forensic File Locations
      • History files: Index.dat and WebCache.dat
      • Cache Recovery and Timestamps
      • Microsoft Universal Application Artifact
      • Download History
      • Credentials Stored in the Windows Vault
      • Internet Explorer Tab Recovery Analysis
      • Cross-Device Synchronization, Including Tabs, History, Favorites, and Passwords
    • Edge
      • History, Cache, Cookies, Download History, and Session Recovery
      • Spartan.edb
      • Reading List, WebNotes, Top Sites, and SweptTabs
    • Firefox
      • Firefox Artifact Locations
      • Mork Format and SQLite FilesFirefox Quantum Updates
      • Download History
      • Firefox Cache2 Examinations
      • Detailed Visit Type Data
      • Form History
      • Session Recovery
      • Firefox Extensions
      • Firefox Cross-Device Synchronization
    • Chrome
      • Chrome File Locations
      • Correlating URLs and Visits Tables for Historical Context
      • History and Page Transition Types
      • Chrome Preferences File
      • Web Data, Shortcuts, and Network Action Predictor Databases
      • Chrome Timestamps
      • Cache Examinations
      • Download History
      • Chrome Session Recovery
      • Chrome Profiles Feature
      • Identifying Cross-Device Chrome Synchronization
    • Private Browsing and Browser Artifact Recovery
      • IE and Edge InPrivate Browsing
      • Chrome and Firefox Private Browsing
      • Investigating the Tor Browser
      • Identifying Selective Database Deletion
    • SQLite and ESE Database CarvingExamination of Browser Artifacts
      • DOM and Web Storage Objects
      • Google Analytics and Universal Cookies
      • Rebuilding Cached Web Pages
      • Browser Ancestry
    • Tools Used
      • Nirsoft Tools
      • SQLite Parsers
      • ESE DatabaseView
      • Hindsight

Ovie Carroll
Sat Jul 25th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Nothing will prepare you more as an investigator than a full hands-on challenge that requires you to use the skills and knowledge presented throughout the week. In the morning, you will have the option to work in teams on a real forensic case. Students will be provided new evidence to analyze, and the exercise will step you through the entire case flow, including proper acquisition, analysis, and reporting in preparation for a possible trial. Teams will work on the case with the objective of profiling computer usage and discovering the most critical pieces of evidence to present.

This complex case will involve an investigation into one of the most recent versions of the Windows Operating System. The evidence is real and provides the most realistic training opportunity currently available. Solving the case will require that students use all of the skills gained from each of the previous sections.

The section will conclude with a mock trial involving presentations of the evidence collected. The team with the best in-class presentation and short write-up wins the challenge...and the case!

  • Windows 10 Forensic Challenge
  • Two Additional Full-Length Take Home Exercises to Hone Your Skills!

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Digital Forensic Case
    • Analysis
      • Begin with a New Set of Evidence
      • Following Evidence Analysis Methods Discussed Throughout the Week and Find Critical Evidence
      • Examine Memory, Registry, Chat, Browser, Recovered Files, and More
    • Reporting
      • Focus and Submit the Top Three Pieces of Evidence Discovered and Discuss What They Prove Factually
      • Document One of the Submitted Pieces of Evidence for Potential Examination During the Mock Trial
  • Presentation
    • Each Team Will Be Asked to Prepare the following:
      • Executive Summary
      • Short Presentation
      • Conclusion
    • The Team Voted to Have the Best Argument and Presentation Proving Its Case is Awarded the Forensic Challenge Coin

Additional Information


A properly configured system is required for each student participating in this course. Before coming to class, carefully read and follow these instructions exactly.

You can use any 64-bit version of Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux as your core operating system that also can install and run VMware virtualization products. You also must have a minimum of 8 GB of RAM or higher for the VM to function properly in the class.

It is critical that your CPU and operating system support 64-bit so that our 64-bit guest virtual machine will run on your laptop. VMware provides a free tool for Windows and Linux that will detect whether or not your host supports 64-bit guest virtual machines. For further troubleshooting, this article also provides good instructions for Windows users to determine more about the CPU and OS capabilities. For Macs, please use this support page from Apple to determine 64-bit capability.

Please download and install VMware Workstation 12, VMware Fusion 8, or VMware Player 12 or higher versions on your system prior to class beginning. If you do not own a licensed copy of VMware Workstation or Fusion, you can download a free 30-day trial copy from VMware. VMware will send you a time-limited serial number if you register for the trial at their website.


  • CPU: 64-bit Intel i5/i7 (4th generation+) - x64 bit 2.0+ GHz processor or more recent processor is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: a 64-bit system processor is mandatory)
  • 8 GB (Gigabytes) of RAM or higher is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: 8 GB of RAM or higher of RAM is mandatory and minimum. For best experience 16GB of RAM is recommended.)
  • Wireless 802.11 Capability
  • USB 3.0
  • 250+ Gigabyte Host System Hard Drive minimum
  • 200 Gigabytes of Free Space on your System Hard Drive - Free Space on Hard Drive is critical to host the VMs we distribute
  • Students must have the capability to have Local Administrator Access within their host operating system and BIOS settings


Host Operating System: Fully patched & updated Windows (7+), Mac OSX (10.10+), or a recent version of Linux operating system (released 2016 or later) that also can install and run VMware virtualization products (VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, or VMware Player). Please note: It is necessary to fully update your host operating system prior to the class to ensure you have the right drivers and patches installed to utilize the latest USB 3.0 devices. Those who use a Linux host must also be able to access ExFAT partitions using the appropriate kernel or FUSE modules.


  1. Microsoft Office (any version) w/Excel or OpenOffice w/Calc installed on your host - Note you can download Office Trial Software online (free for 30 days)
  2. Install VMware Workstation 12, VMware Fusion 8, or VMware Player 12 (more recent versions are also ok)
  3. Download and install 7Zip on your host


  1. Bring the proper system hardware (64bit/8GB Ram) and operating system configuration
  2. Install VMware (Workstation, Player, or Fusion), MS Office, and 7zip and make sure it works before class.

If you have additional questions about the laptop specifications, please contact

  • Information security professionals who want to learn the in-depth concepts of Windows digital forensics investigations
  • Incident response team members who need to use deep-dive digital forensics to help solve their Windows data breach and intrusion cases and perform damage assessments
  • Law enforcement officers, federal agents, and detectives who want to become deep subject-matter experts on digital forensics for Windows-based operating systems
  • Media exploitation analysts who need to master tactical exploitation and Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX)
  • Anyone interested in a deep understanding of Windows forensics who has a background in information systems, information security, and computers

Use this sample training request letter, or elements of it, to justify the time and budget required to complete SANS training to your manager. Simply copy and paste text into an email to your manager, then make any necessary adjustments to personalize the information.

FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis focuses on in-depth analysis of the Microsoft Windows Operating System and artifacts. There are no prerequisite courses required to take this course. The artifacts and tool-agnostic techniques you will learn will lead to the successful analysis of any cyber incident and crime involving a Windows Operating System. Please note that this is an analysis-focused course; FOR500 does not cover the basics of evidentiary handling, the "chain of custody," or introductory drive acquisition. Our authors update FOR500 aggressively to stay current with the latest artifacts and techniques discovered. This course is perfect for you if you are interested in in-depth and current Microsoft Windows Operating System forensics and analysis for any incident that occurs. If you have not updated your Windows forensic analysis skills in the past three years or more, this course is essential.

  • Windows 10 Enterprise version of the SIFT Workstation Virtual Machine with over 200 commercial, open-source, and freeware Digital Forensics and Incident Response tools prebuilt into the environment
  • Full version licenses for 120 days:
  • Electronic Download package containing real-world cases to examine during and after class
  • FOR500 detailed electronic exercise workbook with nearly 500 pages in length with detailed step-by-step instructions
  • MP3 audio files of the complete course lecture
  • Complete course lecture
  • Perform proper Windows forensic analysis by applying key techniques focusing on Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows10
  • Use full-scale forensic tools and analysis methods to detail nearly every action a suspect accomplished on a Windows system, including who placed an artifact on the system and how, program execution, file/folder opening, geo-location, browser history, profile USB device usage, and more
  • Uncover the exact time that a specific user last executed a program through Registry and Windows artifact analysis, and understand how this information can be used to prove intent in cases such as intellectual property theft, hacker-breached systems, and traditional crimes
  • Determine the number of times files have been opened by a suspect through browser forensics, shortcut file analysis (LNK), email analysis, and Windows Registry parsing
  • Audit cloud storage usage, including detailed user activity, identifying deleted files, and even documenting files available only in the cloud
  • Identify keywords searched by a specific user on a Windows system to pinpoint the data and information that the suspect was interested in finding and accomplish detailed damage assessments
  • Use Windows Shellbag analysis tools to articulate every folder and directory that a user or attacker opened up while browsing local, removable, and network drives
  • Determine each time a unique and specific USB device was attached to the Windows system, the files and folders that were accessed on it, and who plugged it in by parsing Windows artifacts such as the Registry and Event Log files
  • Learn Event Log analysis techniques and use them to determine when and how users logged into a Windows system, whether via a remote session, at the keyboard, or simply by unlocking a screensaver
  • Determine where a crime was committed using Registry data to pinpoint the geo-location of a system by examining connected networks and wireless access points
  • Use browser forensic tools to perform detailed web browser analysis, parse raw SQLite and ESE databases, and leverage session recovery artifacts database carving to identify the web activity of suspects, even if privacy cleaners and in-private browsing are used
  • Specifically determine how individuals used a system, who they communicated with, and files that were downloaded, modified, and deleted

Course Review: SANS FOR500 Windows Forensic Analysis

Course and GIAC Cert Review

"The SANS Institute is currently the leader in the commercial IR and computer forensic training market. They have a large number of quality courses." - From Incident Response & Computer Forensics, Third Edition (July 2014), by Jason Luttgens, Matthew Pepe, Matthew, and Kevin Mandia

"This is a very high-intensity course with extremely current course material that is not available anywhere else in my experience." - Alexander Applegate, Auburn University

"Best forensics class I have had yet (and pretty much the only one that gives you some sort of framework on HOW to attack an exam)." - Det. Juan C. Marquez, Prince William County, Virginia Police Department

"Hands down the BEST forensics class EVER!! Blew my mind at least once a day for 6 days!" - Jason J., Federal Government, Military

"I took SANS FOR500 Windows Forensics and the learning opportunity was second to none. Anyone looking for a first-rate forensics class that they can immediately take back to the real world and apply to their job needs to take at least one class from SANS in their lifetime. Whatever the cost may be to you, if forensics is a career priority for you, then you need to take at least one forensics class from SANS." - Chris Nowell, Information Security Architect, Airlines Reporting Corporation

"As a member of the IR team, this course will aid in investing compromised hosts." - Mike Piclher, URS Corp.

"FOR500 is based on real scenarios that are likely to occur again. The most up-to-date training I have received." - Martin Heyde, UK Ministry of Defence

"Best forensics course I have taken to date. Vast amounts of information." - Ellen C., Federal Government, Agency

"Call me a geek, but this is FUN!" - Frank Dixon, Babcock & Wilcox Company

"Overall the course continues to be chock full of megalicious forensicness. Thanks a bunch for the key knowledge." - Vincent Bryant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee

"If you were not interested in forensics before, you will be after this class. For those who already love it, it is reassurance that you are doing the right thing with your life." - Cleora Madison, Walt Disney Theme Parks and Resorts

"The Registry labs are invaluable. I learned more in this class about registry than in 10 years at work. Thanks!" - Michael Mimo, JP Morgan

"I was really looking forward to Windows in-depth and that is exactly what we are getting!" - Joshua Hoover, Charles Schwab

"I have been using forensics tools for years. I never professed to know it all; however, I did not expect to learn as much as I did." - Jody Hawkins, Cook Children's Health Care System

"I really appreciate the prebuilt and configured SIFT workstation. The FOR500 class materials and instruction were outstanding." - Clint Modesitt, LSUHSC

"FOR500 is absolutely necessary for any computer forensic type career. Excellent information!" - Rebecca P., Federal Government, Agency

"This course was by far the most informative and well taught class I have attended." - Brian Periera, Farfield Police Department

"Love the amount of detail/info in books, love the VM." - Jeff Datzman, Vacaville Police Department

"Best course I have taken in 20 years." - Gary Sanders, Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation

"The hands-on labs are excellent - best I have had in 15 years of forensics classes. The best books as well." - Shawn Bostick, Arkansas Attorney General's Office

"This is by far the best training I have ever had. My forensic knowledge increased more in the last five days than in the last year." - Vito Rocco, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

"Are you kidding me? I, personally, see this course (FOR500) as pretty much perfected." - Mike Bowden, Boeing

"There's not a lot of courses that cover depth as well as the width of material. I think FOR500 strikes the right balance between the two." - Wayne Dawson, Vancity Savings Credit Union

Author Statement

"After 30 years in law enforcement, three capabilities immediately rise to the top of my list when I think of what makes a great digital forensic analyst: superior technical skill, sound investigative methodology, and the ability to overcome obstacles. SANS FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis was designed to impart these critical skills to students. Unlike many other training courses that focus on teaching a single tool, FOR500 provides training on many tools. While there are some exceptional tools available, we feel that all forensic analysts need a variety of tools in their arsenal to be able to pick and choose the best tool for each task. However, we also understand that forensic analysts are not great because of the tools they use, but because they artfully apply the right investigative methodology to each analysis. A carpenter can be a master with all his tools and still not know how to build a house. FOR500 teaches students to apply digital forensic methodologies to a variety of case types and situations, enabling them to apply the right methodology to achieve the best outcome in the real world. Finally, the course teaches and demonstrates the problem-solving skills necessary to be a truly successful forensic analyst. Almost immediately after starting your forensic career, you will learn that each forensic analysis presents its own unique challenges. A technique that worked flawlessly for previous examinations may not work for the next one. A good forensic analyst must be able to overcome obstacles through advanced troubleshooting and problem-solving. FOR500 gives students the foundation to solve future problems, overcome obstacles, and become great forensic analysts. No matter if you are new to the forensic community or have been doing forensics for years, FOR500 is a must-have course." - Ovie Carroll

"Former students have contacted me regularly about how they were able to use their digital forensic skills in very real situations that were part of the nightly news cycle. The skills you learn in this class are used directly to stop evil. Graduates of SANS FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis are the front-line troops deployed when you need accurate digital forensic, incident response, and media exploitation analysis. From analyzing terrorist laptops, data breaches, to investigating insider intellectual property theft and fraud, SANS digital forensic graduates are battling and winning the war on crime and terror. Graduates have directly contributed to solving some of the toughest cases out there because they learn how to conduct analysis and run investigations properly. It brings me great comfort knowing that this course places the correct methodology and knowledge in the hands of responders who thwart the plans of criminals or foreign attacks. Graduates are doing just that on a daily basis. I am proud that the SANS FOR500 course helped prepare them to fight and solve crime." - Rob Lee

"Digital forensics has never been more in demand than it is today. Zettabytes of data are created yearly, and forensic examiners will increasingly be called in to separate the wheat from the chaff. For better or worse, digital artifacts are recorded for almost every action, and the bar has been raised for investigators working to repel computer intrusions, stop intellectual property theft, and put bad actors in jail. We wrote this course as the forensics training we wish would have been available early in our careers. Keeping up with the cutting edge of forensics is daunting, but with frequent updates I am confident this course provides the most up-to-date training available, whether you are just starting out or are looking to add new skills to your forensic arsenal." - Chad Tilbury