Defense Fails To Rattle Computer Forensics Expert In UBS Trial

The prosecution's forensics expert and star witness sparred with the defense Wednesday, taking on often heated questions about hackers and the validity of his analysis.

Sharon Gaudin, Contributor

June 29, 2006

5 Min Read

Newark, N.J. - The government's forensics investigator stood up to an aggressive cross-examination from the defense Wednesday during his fourth day on the stand in the computer sabotage trial of a former systems administrator.

Forensics investigator Keith Jones has plotted a digital trail from the UBS network to the defendant's home computer.

Keith Jones, director of computer forensics and incident response at Mandiant, an information security company based in Alexandria, Va., withstood an hour and a half of often contentious questioning from Chris Adams, the lead defense attorney for Roger Duronio, who is being tried on federal charges for allegedly building and planting malicious code that took down the main host server, along with about 2,000 branch servers, at UBS PaineWebber four years ago. The attack knocked the investment firm's brokers offline for a day to several weeks in some cases.

But before being cross-examined, Jones wrapped up his more than 10 hours on the stand by pulling together the conclusions he formed from his forensics investigation that had him wading through months of UBS VPN logs, IP addresses, root access logs, and login/logout records. For days now, he has testified about piecing together a digital trail that led from Duronio's home in Bogota, N.J., into the UBS network where the components of the logic bomb were created.

''What would the person who did this have to know?'' asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mauro Wolfe, lead prosecutor in this four-week-old trial.

''You would have to know that the [UBS] VPN exists,'' said Jones, who had previously testified that all forensics roads led to Duronio. ''You would have to know where the VPN is. Where to get the VPN software to connect. Where the branch servers are and their importance. You'd have to know Unix, and how to script in Unix, and C programming, and specifically C programming for Unix. You'd have to know Roger Duronio's username and his password. You'd have to have physical access to UBS [on one particular day]. And you'd have to have physical access to Mr. Duronio's house.''

He also testified that the culprit had to specifically have had Duronio's VPN username and password, along with his Unix username and password.

''Whose home computer had the source code for the trigger?'' asked Wolfe. ''Roger Duronio,'' answered Jones.

''Where would the user behind Roger Duronio's assigned VPN user account have had to be physically?'' Wolfe then asked. ''He'd have to be in Roger Duronio's home,'' Jones replied.

After Jones finished laying out his findings for the prosecution, the defense lawyer quickly took the floor and started firing a series of fast-paced, aggressive questions at the investigator. The first topic Adams pounced on was one he hits frequently--the fact that well-known hackers worked for @Stake Inc., the first forensics company hired by UBS to investigate the March 4, 2002, attack. Adams has questioned several of the prosecution's witnesses about Karl Kasper, one of the founders of @Stake who worked on the UBS investigation using his computer industry pseudonym, "John Tan."

Adams first questioned Jones about whether hackers were bad people, and then asked him if his analysis could have been affected if the evidence that @Stake initially collected had ''not been reliable.''

''Whatever you want to say about the author, my opinion hasn't changed,'' said Jones.

Adams went on to question Jones about the number of people who had root access to the Unix-based system, and whether or not he knew how many people had root access during some of the times when logs showed Duronio had been logged in to the system. The defense attorney also went after Jones about the fact that he largely worked from information taken from backup tapes, instead of from forensic mirror images.

For example, he asked Jones about each server he studied, and how many gigabytes of data he had been able to restore and examine for each particular machine, noting that each server could hold more data than the backup tapes held. The forensics investigator said he had been able to ''partially restore a majority'' of most of the tapes.

When Adams asked Jones about what was missing from the data he had to analyze, the forensics investigator started to tell him what he found, but Adams interrupted him. ''I don't want what you found in the data,'' Adams shot back. ''The jurors already heard that. I want to hear about what you didn't find.''

But Jones countered, saying, ''If I magically got another 10 gigs of data, it's not going to change what I did find in that 6.5 gigabytes of data.''

And when Adams asked Jones if he'd rather have a mirror image to work with, or a backup tape, Jones said in this case, he was glad he had a backup.

''My experience tells me I'm not going to find much on a deleted file,'' he said, referring to the fact that the malicious code deleted all the files on the servers. ''In the case of a logic bomb going off, there might not be enough information left to pull off for a mirror image. Then you go to the backup tape.''

At one point, Adams laid out a scenario in which someone could have created a backdoor in the UBS system and then deleted it before a backup could capture it. When he asked Jones if he personally could do such a thing, Jones replied, ''I could do a lot of things. That's why I'm hired to do the investigation.''

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