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Screen after Previous Screens: Spatial-Temporal Recreation of Android App Displays from Memory Images
Brendan Saltaformaggio, Rohit Bhatia, Xiangyu Zhang, and Dongyan Xu, Purdue University; Golden G. Richard III, University of New Orleans
Smartphones are increasingly involved in cyber and real world crime investigations. In this paper, we demonstrate a powerful smartphone memory forensics technique, called RetroScope, which recovers multiple previous screens of an Android app — in the order they were displayed — from the phone’s memory image. Different from traditional memory forensics, RetroScope enables spatial-temporal forensics, revealing the progression of the phone user’s interactions with the app (e.g., a banking transaction, online chat, or document editing session). RetroScope achieves near perfect accuracy in both the recreation and ordering of reconstructed screens. Further, RetroScope is app-agnostic, requiring no knowledge about an app’s internal data definitions or rendering logic. RetroScope is inspired by the observations that (1) app-internal data on previous screens exists much longer in memory than the GUI data structures that “package” them and (2) each app is able to perform context-free redrawing of its screens upon command from the Android framework. Based on these, RetroScope employs a novel interleaved re-execution engine to selectively reanimate an app’s screen redrawing functionality from within a memory image. Our evaluation shows that RetroScope is able to recover full temporally-ordered sets of screens (each with 3 to 11 screens) for a variety of popular apps on a number of different Android devices.
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