Recovering Data with Autopsy

A little while back, a friend brought a USB to me and asked if I could attempt to retrieve any data off the device. After some research, I found the open source tools, autopsy and Sleuthkit, that can be used for recovering data. I found these tools very helpful in retrieving deleted data off a drive. The web interface is not the easiest to use but it is still an effective recovery tool.

Autopsy is a web user interface tool that utilizes the Sleuthkit forensics toolkit. Backtrack comes with Autopsy and Sleuthkit already install but for any other Debian based Linux system, they can be installed with:

sudo apt-get install autopsy
sudo apt-get install sleuthkit

Autopsy will perform forensics on a disk/storage image file. Anything from an image of a hard drive partition to a USB device. An image file can be created of any mounted drives. In Linux, to view current mounted drives use the command:

fdisk -l

The system column provides a description of the drive. The last item printed is that of an attached USB. Once, the desired drive to perform forensics on has been located, create an image of it.

dd if=<Device Boot Location> of=<Saving Location>.img bs=2048
Example: dd if=/dev/sdb1 of=usb.img bs=2048

This will take a few minutes.

On Backtrack R1, when first trying to run Autopsy (typing ‘autopsy’ in the terminal), I ran into an error saying autopsy was not installed.

This happens if autopsy does not have an initialized evidence locker. Find and run autopsy from the Applications->Backtrack->Forensics under Forensic Suites. A new terminal will open prompting for the full path to an evidence locker location. A valid/existing location has to be given or else autopsy will error again.

When autopsy is successfully running, it will begin servicing a website user interface that can be accessed in a browser by going to:


On this webpage, choose to create a new case. Autopsy will ask background questions on the forensic case. Since this is most likely for personal use, these questions do not matter. Fill them out however you like.

Continuing, once prompted for an image file, enter the full path location to the one created earlier. Depending on what type of storage image, select Disk or Partition. When I performed this I was analyzing a USB image and selected partition. The third question asks for the desired type of import. Choose whichever method you prefer. I like to use Symlink.

Following, the data integrity section can be ignored. The last section needs to be verified. Check to make sure the file system type is correct. Then complete the process and add the case.

Now the image can be searched for lost files. Choose to “Analyze” the image. Then select “File Analysis” from the top left of the window. If this button is disabled, it is most likely the wrong image type was selected (Disk or Partition). Re-create the case and choose the other option. File Analysis, provides a view of all files and directory contents found on the image. Now you can search through the files and ideally find the lost file to recover. Once it is found, the file can be exported to your local system.

Good Luck! This is just one method of data recovery.

I received the most help from this article in performing this type of forensics.

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