New macOS Sierra (10.12) Forensic Artifacts – Introducing Unified Logging

I know its been a while since I've last posted - I've been hard at work delving into macOS Sierra and iOS 10 to add new artifacts into my course. Here is something new that macOS Sierra has to offer us forensic analysts!

macOS Sierra (10.12) introduced a new logging mechanism called Unified Logging. The developer reference document  states that the same mechanism will be used for iOS 10, tvOS 10, and watchOS 3 as well.

The developer docs also state that unified logs will take the places of Apple System Logs as well as Syslog which is what rely on quite heavily for log analysis on 10.11 and older systems. As of 10.12.1, these logs still exist in /var/log so don’t discount them just yet. (Also as far as I know, Audit logs are still fair game.)

The unified logs are stored in two directories:

  • /var/db/diagnostics/
  • /var/db/uuidtext/

The first file path (/var/db/diagnostics/) contains the log files. These files are named with a timestamp filename following the pattern logdata.Persistent.YYYYMMDDTHHMMSS.tracev3. These files are binary files that we’ll have to use a new utility on macOS to parse them. This directory contains some other files as well including additional log *.tracev3 files and others that contain logging metadata. The second file path (/var/db/uuidtext/) contains files that are references in the main *.tracev3 log files.

The new utility used to interact with these log files is simply called ‘log’. The ‘log’ command can be used to do everything from collecting, removing, configuring, and reviewing logging data. The new ‘Console’ application can be used to view logs in real-time (volatile logs) but you may find it easier to use the ‘log’ command to view log historically or those that are extracted from another system.

The ‘log collect’ command can collect records from a certain timeframe, log size, or type into a *.logarchive archive bundle. *.logarchive files can be imported into the Console application.

The ‘log show’ command will parse the records from the binary log files either from a specific *.tracev3 file(s) or from a *.logarchive bundle . A user can filter on different predicates filters or time frames. It is worth noting that this command by default will not show you “info” or “debug” messages – be sure to keep that in mind. You can choose between different outputs as well including syslog or JSON styles.

Additional References:

  • https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2016/721/