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FOR498: Battlefield Forensics & Data Acquisition New

Associated Certification: GIAC Battlefield Forensics and Acquisition (GBFA)

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Course Syllabus  ·  36 CPEs  ·   Lab Requirements
Access Period: 4 months  ·  Price: 7,020 USD  ·  Instructor: Eric Zimmerman


FOR498: Battlefield Forensics & Acquisition Course will help you to:

  • Acquire data effectively from:
    • PCs, Microsoft Surface, and Tablet PCs
    • Apple Devices, and Mac, and Macbooks
    • RAM and Memory
    • Smartphones and portable mobile devices
    • Cloud storage and services
    • Network storage repositories
  • Produce actionable intelligence in 90 minutes or less

The first step in any investigation is the gathering of evidence. Digital forensic investigations are no different. The evidence used in this type of investigation is data, and this data can live in many varied formats and locations. You must be able to first identify the data that you might need, determine where that data resides, and, finally, formulate a plan and procedures for collecting that data.

With digital forensic acquisitions, you will typically have only one chance to collect data properly. If you manage the acquisition incorrectly, you run the risk of not only damaging the investigation, but more importantly, destroying the very data that could have been used as evidence.

With the wide range of storage media in the marketplace today, any kind of standardized methodology for all media is simply untenable. Many mistakes are being made in digital evidence collection, and this can cause the guilty to go free and, more importantly, the innocent to be incarcerated. The disposition of millions and millions of dollars can rest within the bits and bytes that you are tasked with properly collecting and interpreting.

An examiner can no longer rely on "dead box" imaging of a single hard drive. In today's cyber sphere, many people utilize a desktop, laptop, tablet, and cellular phone within the course of a normal day. Compounding this issue is the expanding use of cloud storage and providers, and the proper collection of data from all these domains can become quite overwhelming.

This in-depth digital acquisition and data handling course will provide first responders and investigators alike with the advanced skills necessary to properly respond to, identify, collect, and preserve data from a wide range of storage devices and repositories, ensuring that the integrity of the evidence is beyond reproach. Constantly updated, FOR498 addresses today's need for widespread knowledge and understanding of the challenges and techniques that investigators require when addressing real-world cases.

Numerous hands-on labs throughout the course will give first responders, investigators, and digital forensics teams practical experience needed when performing digital acquisition from hard drives, memory sticks, cellular phones, network storage areas, and everything in between.

During a digital forensics response and investigation, an organization needs the most skilled responders possible, lest the investigation end before it has begun. FOR498: Battlefield Forensics & Acquisition will train you and your team to respond, identify, collect, and preserve data no matter where that data hides or resides.

You Will Be Able To

  • Learn and master the tools, techniques, and procedures necessary to effectively locate, identify, and collect data no matter where it is stored
  • Handle and process a scene properly to maintain evidentiary integrity
  • Perform data acquisition from at-rest storage, including both spinning media and solid-state storage
  • Identify the numerous places that data for an investigation might exist
  • Perform Battlefield Forensics by going from evidence seizure to actionable intelligence in 90 minutes or less
  • Assist in preparing the documentation necessary to communicate with online entities such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.
  • Understand the concepts and usage of large-volume storage technologies, including JBOD, RAID storage, NAS devices, and other large-scale, network addressable storage
  • Identify and collect user data within large corporate environments where it is accessed using SMB
  • Gather volatile data such as a computer system's RAM
  • Recover and properly preserve digital evidence on cellular and other portable devices
  • Address the proper collection and preservation of data on devices such as Microsoft Surface/Surface Pro, where hard-drive removal is not an option
  • Address the proper collection and preservation of data on Apple devices such as MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, where hard-drive removal is not an option
  • Properly collect and effectively target email from Exchange servers, avoiding the old-school method of full acquisition and subsequent onerous data culling
  • Properly collect data from SharePoint repositories
  • Access and acquire online mail stores such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail accounts

FOR498: Battlefield Forensics & Acquisition Course Topics

  • Advanced use of a wide range of best-of-breed, open-source tools in the SANS Windows 10 environment, as well as other external tools to perform proper data acquisition and evidence handling
  • Rapid incident response collection of artifacts to quickly further the investigation without waiting for completion of a forensic image
  • Remote and enterprise digital evidence collection
  • Windows live artifact collection
  • Memory collection
  • Volume shadow copy acquisition
  • Understanding advanced storage containers such as RAID, EMC, and JBOD
  • Examination of file systems and how they hold data
  • Advanced understanding of proper evidence collection and scene management
  • Identifying data storage devices and locations
  • Properly identifying a vast array of interface styles and adapter usage
  • Gaining access to storage media using non-destructive methods
  • Accessing and collecting cloud-based storage containers, including online email such as Gmail and
  • Instruction specific to the acquisition of Apple devices
  • Methodologies for accessing and acquiring data from portable and cellular devices, as well as nontraditional devices such as GPS units and Internet of Things devices

What You Will Receive

SANS Windows SIFT Workstation

  • This course uses the SANS Windows DFIR Workstation extensively to teach first responders and forensic analysts how to respond to, acquire, and investigate even the most time-sensitive cases.
  • DFIR Workstation that contains hundreds of free and open-source tools, easily matching any modern forensic commercial suite
  • A virtual machine is used with many of the hands-on class exercises
  • Windows 10
  • VMWare Appliance ready to tackle forensics

F-Response Consultant Covert

  • Enables practitioner to access remote systems and physical memory of a remote computer via the network
  • Gives any forensics tool the capability to be used remotely
  • Perfect for network and cloud data acquisition and visibility
  • Deployable agent to remote systems
  • SIFT Workstation compatible
  • Vendor neutral - works with just about any tool
  • The six-month license allows it to continue to be used and benchmarked in your environment at work/home

Fully working licenses for 90 days:

Digital Download Package

  • Downoad package with case images, memory captures, DFIR Workstation, tools, and documentation

SANS DFIR Electronic Exercise Workbook

  • Electronic Exercise book with detailed step-by-step instructions and examples to help you master Battlefield Forensics

UltraDock Hardware Write Blocking Device

  • SATA to USB 3 adapter for 2.5" bare hard drives
  • Note: this comes with a US plug. International students taking the course OnDemand, please obtain an adapter.

SANS DFIR Cheatsheets to Help Use the Tools in the Field


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

Course Syllabus


Any baker knows that if you bake with the wrong ingredients, the result will fail. The same holds true for digital evidence collection.

Investigators will often be responding in high-stress environments where many different entities are critically scrutinizing the collection process. Personnel need to be properly trained and equipped to work in less than optimal surroundings, and be confident that they have managed the scene, identified all necessary data, collected the data in a properly defensible manner, and maintained its integrity.

One of the most common scenarios that can cause headaches is receiving an evidence file (usually an E01), and being expected to provide answers immediately. The common approach is to mount the image and then start running carving and other tools against it. These automated tasks can take many hours (and sometimes days) just by themselves!

Portable devices bring their own set of challenges to the table. These devices are more ubiquitous than computers. Seldom is the case today that does not include a cellular device. Unfortunately, there is no standard for the cellular operating systems. Even within brands, there can be vastly different data storage. Today will introduce the student to several devices and the tools that will acquire them.

  • DFIR Workstation Installation
  • Converting an E01 into a bootable VM
  • Smartphone Acquisition
  • Smartphone Analysis

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


SIFT Introduction

  • Introduction to the Windows SIFT workstation
  • Installation of the Windows SIFT workstation

Introduction to Digital Forensic Acquisition

  • Need for strong understanding of intake/collection
  • Understanding how a lack of this knowledge can damage your case
    • Not acquiring memory
    • Skipping BIOS info
    • Determining if encryption is present

  • ISO 27037:2012 --Guidelines for identification, collection, acquisition, and preservation of digital evidence
  • How to go from where you are to lethal forensicator --the basics
    • To specialize or generalize? You can't be good at everything
    • Options for diving deeper into specializations

Understanding the Data

  • Where is data common to today's acquisition requirements found?
    • Phones
    • Network
    • Traditional
    • IoT
    • Removable devices
    • Unorthodox storage

  • What types of critical data are needed for triage and quick-hit investigations?
    • Evidence of Communication

  • Chat, email, phone calls, SMS
    • Evidence of browser history

  • Where the individual was researching, reading, or accessing via Web apps
    • Evidence of geo-location

  • Where has the device been located recently?
  • GPS, geo-tagging Info
  • Pictures - GPS coordinates in EXIF, etc.
  • Maps
  • Other GEO-tagging artifacts
  • Physical devices
    • Spinning media
    • Flash storage

  • Going from physical disks to data storage
  • File system overview
    • Purpose: Organize and retrieve data

  • How do different file systems achieve this?

  • Specialty file systems
    • ZFS
    • EMC

  • File system metadata
    • Timestamps
    • Where data lives
    • Security information

  • Evidence file formats
    • Common formats found in digital forensics
      • .E01
      • DD/RAW
      • SMART
      • .AD1/L01
    • Determining the approach when someone else created the evidence file

Smartphone Acquisition

  • Proper device handling techniques
    • Airplane mode
    • Network isolation

  • Acquisition tools
    • Cellebrite
    • IEF/Axiom

  • SIM card acquisition
    • How to capture the data and why
    • Regional concerns

Smartphone Analysis

  • Apple iOS
  • Apple iOS fundamentals and "quick win" data
  • iOS Backups
    • Local and cloud


  • Android fundamentals and "quick win" data
  • Android backups
  • Common analysis techniques

  • Applications (Apps)
    • Messaging services
      • iMessage
      • SMS/MMS
      • Viber
      • Snapchat
      • WhatsAPP
    • Email
      • iOS vs. other devices


There is no second chance when seizing or acquiring data. Make sure you get it right the first time.

Investigators and first responders should be armed with the latest tools, digital container access techniques, and enterprise methodologies to identify, access, and preserve evidence across a vast range of devices and repositories. Personnel must also be able to scale their identification and collection across thousands of systems in their enterprise. Enterprise and cloud storage collection techniques are now a requirement to track activity that has been intentionally and unintentionally spread across many devices. Responding to these many systems cannot be accomplished using the standard "pull the hard drive" forensic examination methodology. Such an approach will cause frustration and result in lost opportunities due to the time it takes to forensically image entire hard drives. Furthermore, investigators need actionable intelligence as quickly and responsibly as possible. This section lays the foundation for evidence collection, from initial arrival on a scene to the fundamentals of understanding data at rest and properly identifying devices, interfaces, and tools that will be necessary to affect a successful collection.

This course section will explore the myriad of acquisition hardware and software, not to mention adapters and identification, so we can make the best decisions about the data.

  • Acquisition Practices
  • Preparing the Analyst Machine

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Scene Management and Evidence Acquisition

  • The go bag
    • Scene safety
    • Minimum recommendations vs. LE response

  • Documenting the scene
    • Sketch
    • Photos
    • Video
    • Scene documentation

  • Identifying and collecting evidence
  • Evidence seizure
    • Chain of custody
    • Inventory

  • Documenting storage devices prior to imaging
    • Physical storage devices inside a computer
    • The difference between an enclosure vs. actual storage device inside it

  • Storage and maintenance of evidence
    • Evidence lockups
    • Long-term storage considerations

Device and Interface Identification

  • Storage device interface recognition
    • IDE, SATA, SAS, fiber channel, SCSI, USB, Firewire

  • Using adapters to convert interfaces
  • Accessing BIOS/UEFI

Acquisition Hardware and Software

  • Live response
    • FTK imager/X-Ways
    • KAPE
    • F-Response

  • Dead box: write blocking with software imagers
    • Software-based write blocking
      • Registry key/value entries
      • Safeblock
      • Hardware-based write blocking
    • Physical imaging device (Ditto, Talon, etc.)
      • UltraDock, Tableau, etc.

  • Preparing destination media
    • Formatting destination media
    • Wiping destination media

Acquisition Methodology

  • Is the computer off, or just suspended?
  • Hibernation vs. sleep mode
  • Accessing a device: laptop vs. desktop, etc.
  • Recognizing signs of tampering
  • Be aware of how the data are stored
    • JBOD vs. RAID vs. network
  • Acquisition verification
    • Hashing source vs. destination
    • Special case: SSD

Discovering and Interacting with Data

  • Windows and CLI basic navigation and usage
  • PowerShell vs. cmd vs bash
  • Data review techniques
    • Timeline Explorer
  • Fundamental artifacts
    • Evidence of user communications (email, social media, Skype/Chat)
    • Evidence of geo-location
    • Web browsing history


Quick Win Forensics prioritizes locating, extracting, and processing the 1% of digital evidence you need to move a case forward.

Given that 99% of the necessary evidence typically will exist in 1-2% of the data acquired, it is easy to see how a great deal of time can be wasted following the normal procedures in today's digital forensics world. Instead, let's focus on this 1-2% and perform a very rapid triage collection that can be used to start our investigation sooner!

Far too often, computers are seized in an "on" state, and immediately powered down because, "that is how we've always done it." With today's computers this means you are throwing away (essentially destroying) many gigabytes of data. The RAM in a computer holds an incredibly important treasure trove of data, from keystrokes to network connections, running services, and, quite importantly, passwords and decryption keys.With the vastly increasing spread of file-less malware, in many cases the only place that evidence will exist is in memory. Another often-overlooked factor is full disk encryption. In cases like this, "live" acquisition will be your only hope.

  • Mounting Evidence
  • Triage Acquisition
  • RAM Acquisition & Encrypted Media
  • Host Based Live Acquisition

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Beginning the Collection Process

  • Live response (the system is running)
  • Document state of computer (photograph screen and open apps)
  • Dump memory
  • Triage collection, depending on case
  • Check for encryption

  • Dead box
  • Accessing storage medium
    • Write block
    • Acquire data
      • Battlefield triage overview
      • Creating a forensic image overview

Mounting Evidence

  • Mounting images
    • Arsenal Recon Image mounter
    • FTK imager

Triage Acquisition

  • Triage introduction
  • Triage acquisition using FTK imager
  • Triage acquisition from original media vs. from forensic image

Memory Acquisition and Encryption Checking

  • Introducing tools to the environment
    • Where to store acquisition tools
    • Where to save images
    • External SSD vs. USB stick for maximal IO/write speed
    • Documenting your device

  • Command line tools
    • Dumpit/Belkasoft RAM capture

  • GUI tools
    • FTK Imager

  • Dealing with encrypted devices
  • Bitlocker introduction

Host-based Live Acquisition

  • Why live acquisition -- is it okay?
  • Determining what to collect
  • Logical vs. physical imaging
  • Important considerations
    • Ensuring the computer doesn't go to sleep
    • Do you have the power cord for the laptop?
    • 4 W's: Who, what, where, when
    • Security devices (yubikey, unlock dongles, etc.)
    • Document the known good (date/time, etc.)
    • Network connections
    • User remote access/connections


Cloud computing and storage is becoming more and more common. Do you know how to collect this critical data?

When we think about acquisition, it usually involves opening the side of the computer, removing the hard drive, connecting to a write blocker or imaging equipment, and completing the task. While this is not an inaccurate assessment, it does not address a great deal of the access and acquisition questions surrounding so much data today. If full disk imaging is necessary, then it is certainly easier and quicker to do it directly from the storage itself. But what happens with devices such as iPads, Surface Books, and other such equipment, where it is glue and not screws that hold them together?

Volume Shadow Copies also contain a wealth of historic data that is of great use to investigators. Knowing how to access and collect data from these shadow copies is critical in cases involving the Windows operating system.

Battlefield forensics is considered the bleeding edge of digital forensics. It requires in-depth knowledge of where the most valuable data resides on the computer and how to get at it as fast as possible. An effective battlefield forensicator needs to be extracting actionable intelligence in 90 minutes or less, butthe clock does not start when the forensic imaging is done. Rather. it starts from the moment you lay your hands on the device.

Learn how to identify and access data in non-traditional storage areas. In today's world so much data lives off site, and there are very few methods in place to access and properly acquire it. In this section, we will identify these locations, including SharePoint, Exchange, webmail, network locations, cloud storage, and social media, not to mention Dropbox, Google Drive, and the Internet of Things. This also includes RAID storage and how to best collect these devices regardless of configuration

  • Dead Box Acquisition
  • Volume Shadow Copy Acquisition
  • Using the KAPE Tool for Battlefield Forensics
  • Network Acquisition

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Dead Box Acquisition

  • Media device removal and handling
  • Hardware based device acquisition
  • Software-based device acquisition
  • Special cases like Surface Pro, etc.

File Systems Revisited

  • FAT
  • Ext
  • NTFS
  • Timestamp metadata
  • Alternate data streams
  • Volume shadow copies
  • Acquiring volume shadow copies

Battlefield Forensics with KAPE

  • Introduction to the KAPE tool
  • Using KAPE to rapidly collect critical artifacts
  • Processing data using KAPE
  • Analyzing KAPE output

Multi-Drive Storage

  • Challenges in imaging multi-drive arrays
  • RAID
  • JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks)
    • RAID acquisition concerns
    • Logical vs. physical

EMC/non-traditional formats

  • Accessing RAID volumes, and choosing methods to image
    • Physical access
      • Image directly to external storage
      • Using a network connection when only USB 2.0 is available

Remote Acquisition

  • Using F-Response
    • Acquiring storage through the network
    • Acquiring RAM through the network
      • Cloud storage acquisition
      • Email (IMAP)
      • Cloud storage
      • Dropbox
      • OneDrive
      • S3

  • Google takeout


Apple must be approached entirely differently from traditional devices.

There are very few tools and techniques available when it comes to acquisition of Apple products, as compared to Windows. The tools that exist can be quite expensive, and free tools are simply few and far between. In this section, we will explore the fundamentals of acquiring data from Apple devices. We will acquire memory and identify systems that are running CoreStorage technology and full disk encryption. We will also visit the challenges posed by APFS. Many of the Apple systems are closed systems, in that you simply cannot remove the hard drive, as it is soldered directly to the motherboard. The uniqueness of the data storage demands alternative methods of acquisition.

In this course section, you'll learn how to access and forensically image iPads, MacBooks, and other HFS+ devices, working at the command line.

You have traced an artifact back to an IP, email, or web address. Now what? We will learn the best methods for determining attribution, from proper collection to legal documentation.

Not to be left out, the Internet of Things is pervasive. It is controlling our fridges, thermostats, security cameras, and door locks. It is listening passively and waiting patiently for an instruction to perform. Today you will learn how these devices communicate, and more importantly, who is controlling them.

  • Online Attribution
  • PCAP Analysis for Important Artifacts

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Identifying Online Asset Ownership

  • How to go from a hostname or IP to someone that can receive legal process
    • Domaintools

  • Considerations of Passive DNS
  • Insuring against subsequent loss of data
    • Preservation letter
    • Data retention policies

  • Possible pitfalls to consider
    • Source of legal process: Does the company recognize the authority of the requestor?
    • Domestication of legal process
    • State-to-state or country-to-country
    • Civil vs. criminal

Apple MacOS Device Overview and Acquisition

  • Apple encryption
    • File vault

  • Core storage
  • APFS imaging
  • Fusion drives
  • Acquiring RAM
  • Collecting drive metadata
    • Live or single user mode

  • Accessing storage on Apple MacOS devices
  • "Must know" Apple keyboard combinations
    • Single user mode
    • Repair mode
    • Target disk mode
    • Options mode
  • Target disk mode
  • Command line imaging
  • Using Macquisition to collect a forensically sound image

Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Determining devices on the network
    • Internal devices on a LAN
  • Methods for collecting network traffic
    • Network tap
    • Port mirror
    • Pen register
    • Need to coordinate with network admins
      • Logistic/procedural/legal considerations for network data collections

  • Potential communication destinations
    • Which external resources are being accessed in the cloud?
    • What company holds this data?

  • Determining IoT communication with portable devices
    • Tying IoT activity to the devices controlling them
    • Mobile device accessing cameras, doors, and other Internet-connected things
  • Understanding the PCAP to find co-conspirators
  • Collection of network traffic
  • IoT collection considerations

Tools fail, techniques become outdated, but do not let that hold you back.

The usefulness of file and stream carving cannot be overstated. Some data simply does not live in the defined file space that can be readily accessed by a viewer. From partially overwritten to deleted data, we will explore techniques you can employ when traditional tools fail.

Data carving is a skill that is increasingly important. Once the reference to a file is destroyed, how can the data still be recovered? File carving tools will assist in this, but examiners must understand the limitations of their tools. Without the proper pieces of the original file, a carver is useless.

At some point, you will be faced with non-functioning media. Learn about the inner workings of hard drives, and what you can (and cannot) do to revive them to a point where you can then create your forensic image. We will also be looking at the "best of breed" data recovery tools, from those that are free to those that cost many thousands of dollars.

  • Data & Stream Carving
  • Data Recovery
  • Data Rebuilding

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


File and Stream Recovery

  • Data streams
    • Chat sessions
    • IEF/Axiom

  • Deleted data recovery
    • Carving via Photorec
    • Extracting metadata via ExifTool
    • File and stream carving
    • Understanding carving tool limitations and capabilities

Advanced Data Carving and Rebuilding

  • Using manual analysis techniques to find and recover data not normally recoverable
  • Understanding file signatures, headers, and footers
  • MS Office file format
    • OLECF
    • OpenXML

  • Manual data carving
  • Data rebuilding
  • Repairing corrupted and/or partially overwritten files

Data Recovery

  • Device components
    • Mechanical drive
    • Solid State Drive

  • Basic troubleshooting
    • Based on the symptoms, what are your options?
  • Flash drive recovery
  • RAID data recovery
  • Common myths and misconceptions about data recovery
  • Logical level recovery techniques
  • Professional data recovery tools

Where Do We Go From Here

  • How do go from where you are to lethal forensicator -- in depth
    • To specialize or generalize: you can't be good at everything

Additional Information

Important! Bring your own system configured according to these instructions!

We ask that you do 5 things to prepare prior to class start. This early preparation will allow you to get the most out of your training. One of those five steps is ensuring that you bring a properly configured system to class. This document details the required system hardware and software configuration for your class. You can also watch a series of short videos on these topics at the following web link

A properly configured system is required to fully participate in this course. If you do not carefully read and follow these instructions, you will likely leave the class unsatisfied because you will not be able to participate in hands-on exercises that are essential to this course. Therefore, we strongly urge you to arrive with a system meeting all the requirements specified for the course.

  • Do not bring a system that has critical data you cannot afford to lose. You do so at your own risk.
    • SANS and its instructors are not responsible for any damage caused to student systems.
    • Many of the activities involved in this course will be performed on your host computer, and not inside the virtual machine.
    • You will risk damaging or destroying data on your host computer if you fail to follow lab directions exactly as specified.
  • Apple Mac Note: While an Apple Mac host computer should work for the majority of labs, a Windows host computer is recommended for the best experience.

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


  • CPU: 64-bit Intel i5/i7 (4th generation+) - x64 bit 2.0+ GHz processor or more. A recent processor is mandatory for this class
  • BIOS settings for Intel-VT enabled. Being able to access your BIOS (if password protected) is also required in case changes are required.
  • 16 GB (Gigabytes) of RAM or higher is required for this class to run two VMs at the same time. Systems with 8 GB of RAM may still permit labs to function but will be significantly slow and severely limited.
  • Wireless 802.11 Capability
  • USB 3.0
  • 200 Gigabytes of Free Space on your System Hard Drive - Free Space on Hard Drive is critical to host the VMs we distribute
  • Additional Non-SSD Hard Drive: Students must provide a minimum 500 GB (can be larger) spinning hard drive (no SSD), 2.5" SATA, 7200 RPM. We recommend a bare hard drive similar to the one that can be viewed HERE.
  • Students must have Administrator-level Access to both the laptop's host operating system and system-level BIOS/EFI settings. If this access is not available, it can significantly impact the student experience.
  • Disable Credential Guard if enabled. Hyper-V required for Credential Guard will conflict with VMware products required for the course.


  • Host Operating System: Fully patched and updated Windows 10 or Apple Mac OSX (10.12+)
  • While an Apple Mac host computer should work for the majority of labs, a Windows host computer is recommended for the best experience. There is at least one exercise in the class that cannot be performed if using an Apple Mac is selected as your host device.
  • 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.
  • Do not bring a host system that has critical data you cannot afford to lose.


  • Apple iPhone or Android phone.
  • Must have full access to the device. If the device is controlled through Mobile Device Management (MDM), the student will not be able to perform the exercise.
  • One exercise with the student cellular device is live on the device. As a result, the student is strongly recommended to have a current backup of the device.


  • Please download and install VMware Workstation 15.5, VMware Fusion 11.5, or VMware Workstation Player 15.5 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
  • Install 7Zip on your host OS
  • Some version of Microsoft Office (2013 or newer) to include Word and Excel. Viewer is NOT acceptable


  1. Bring the proper system hardware (64bit/8 GB+ ram, 200GB free drive space) and operating system configuration
  2. Bring a supported host OS
  3. Install VMware (Workstation, Player, or Fusion) and 7zip
  4. Install Microsoft Office 2013 version or newer
  5. Bring iPhone or Android cellular device
  6. Bring 500GB (or larger) bare 2.5" SATA spinning hard drive

Your course media will now be delivered via download. The media files for class can be large, some in the 40 - 50 GB range. You need to allow plenty of time for the download to complete. Internet connections and speed vary greatly and are dependent on many different factors. Therefore, it is not possible to give an estimate of the length of time it will take to download your materials. Please start your course media downloads as you get the link. You will need your course media immediately on the first day of class. Waiting until the night before the class starts to begin your download has a high probability of failure.

SANS has begun providing printed materials in PDF form. Additionally, certain classes are using an electronic workbook in addition to the PDFs. The number of classes using eWorkbooks will grow quickly. In this new environment, we have found that a second monitor and/or a tablet device can be useful by keeping the class materials visible while the instructor is presenting or while you are working on lab exercises.

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

  • Federal agents and law enforcement personnel who want to master proper acquisition methodologies and ensure that all data are collected properly and in a defensible manner.
  • First responders who attend to a scene where digital equipment seizure may take place. It is crucial at this point to perform proper scene management, identification, preservation, and acquisition.
  • Digital forensic analysts who want to consolidate and expand their understanding of data storage and acquisition in today's digital storage world.
  • Information security professionals who want to learn the acquisition and triage skills needed to begin Windows digital forensics investigations.
  • Incident response team members who need to preserve indicated computers for digital forensics to help solve their Windows data breach and intrusion cases.
  • Media exploitation analysts who need to collect and preserve systems in Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) operations on systems used by an individual.
  • Department of Defense and intelligence community professionals tasked with rapid collection and triage of systems.
  • Anyone interested in an understanding of the proper preservation of systems and who has a background in information systems, information security, and computers.

"FOR498 provided information I can take back to my company and begin using immediately. It will be very easy to show leadership the ROI on this course." - Jennifer Welsh, CNO Financial Group

FOR498 is an introductory-to-intermediate response and acquisition course that focuses on recognizing a wide range of electronic evidence, and the various ways to collect it. We do not cover in-depth digital forensic analysis in this course.

We recommend that you follow up this course with one of the following SANS courses: FOR500: Windows Forensics Analysis, FOR508: Advanced Digital Forensics, Incident Response & threat Hunting, FOR518: Mac and iOS Forensic Analysis & Incident Response , FOR585: Smartphone Forensics Analysis In-Depth, FOR572 Advanced Network Forensics: Threat Hunting, Analysis & Incident Response, SEC487: Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Gathering & Analysis

"I have taken other SANS forensic courses, and getting more training about acquisition is very helpful. Also, KAPE is a game changer." - C. McAllister, USMC

"In DFIR, things rarely go as planned. This course teaches you about the options to control when things aren't working as expected." - J-Michael Roberts, Corvus Forensics

"This is a great course & would be especially beneficial for people just starting in the field." - S. Lewis, USAF

"This course provided information I can take back to my company & begin using immediately; will be very easy to show leadership the ROI." - Jennifer Welsh, CNO Financial Group

Author Statement

"During my time as a Special Agent with the FBI, it became evident that the digital forensics community needed better methods to look at large amounts of data in an efficient manner to be able to get to answers quickly. As storage capacities increased, more traditional means began to take longer from a collection and analytical perspective. For this reason, I began creating triage software for use by the law enforcement community (and beyond). This problem has not changed since I left the FBI; in fact it has only continued to grow. For this reason, I decided to take a new approach to this problem, but this time in a way that could be given away to everyone in the digital forensics community. The result of this work is KAPE, which allows for rapid collection and analysis as determined by an incident responder. Of course, processing the data is only part of the equation, so this course spends a significant amount of time talking about acquisition--that is, how to get digital data from the devices we encounter. We not only talk about specific techniques for specific devices and situations, but for many of the topics covered, we provide the framework for how you can be successful when you encounter new devices. This course will focus on two key areas: getting the data that have the answers and extracting the answers from the data. We look forward to seeing you in class!" --Eric Zimmerman

"My digital forensics experience started in the mid 1990s. Back then, a hex editor was the most important tool that an examiner had. You had to understand data at rest in its most fundamental levels if you wanted to be effective at forensics. Fast forward to today and there is a myriad of tools to perform most any task that a forensic examiner might want to do. The by-product of this is that an examiner can be overwhelmed with not only the amount of tools available, but the amount of data that needs review. We recognized that the industry needed a more focused approach at the most important information on a hard drive, to the exclusion of the vast amounts of unnecessary noise. We also recognized that examiners need a better understanding of deleted data and how to extract some of the most important information that we have been missing. Finally, in recent years we have taken notice of the number of devices in use today that contain storage that cannot be removed from the machine. Couple this with live response and data that is encrypted at rest and we must recognize that certain approaches have to change. Thus FOR498 was born. We certainly hope you enjoy taking this class is much as we've enjoyed writing it, and our sincere hope is that this information allows you to become more effective at your craft." --Kevin Ripa

"FOR498 is an excellent course! I learned a lot of new skills that I can't wait to develop further, and Kevin Ripa did an outstanding job delivering the content and making it interesting. His personal stories and examples kept the course engaging and rooted in reality." - Christopher Coy, Microsoft

Additional Resources

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