Forensic Disk Copies in Azure

In a previous blog post, we presented how libcloudforensics facilitates digital forensics investigation in the cloud, in particular we focused on disk copy functionality in Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Amazon Web Services (AWS). We recently added support for Microsoft Azure. In this post we show how the library can be used to respond to incidents occurring on Azure, and present solutions to the main challenges we faced while adding support for this cloud provider.


Azure’s architecture is pretty straightforward: each account has a set of “subscriptions”, within which resources can be organized by “resource groups”. Resource groups can contain any valid Microsoft Azure resource, be it a Compute resource (e.g. a virtual machine) or another kind of resource (e.g. a Network resource such as a network interface).

Snapshotting disks in the cloud

The following code snippets give examples of forensic acquisition within the Azure environment using the libcloudforensics API. Note that these are examples intended to showcase how one can carry analysis in a different account than that where the disk is copied from. For other scenarios, please refer to the official documentation.

The snippet below shows how libcloudforensics makes a forensic copy of the disk 'disk1' that is attached to the instance 'instance1' in the Azure resource group 'blogpost'. It then attaches that copy to a VM that it creates ('vm-forensics') in a different account, referred to by 'analysis_profile'.

from import forensics

# Create a forensic copy of the disk 'disk1', 'disk1-copy' 

copy = forensics.CreateDiskCopy('blogpost',




# Start an analysis VM 'vm-forensics' for investigation in the destination account 

# and attach the copy created in the previous step.

analysis_vm, _ = forensics.StartAnalysisVm('blogpost',



                                            'ssh-rsa AAAbbbbFFFF...',




Libcloudforensics also provides a command line interface (CLI) to accomplish the same objective:

# Create a forensic copy of the disk 'disk1', 'disk1-copy'  

cloudforensics az 'blogpost' copydisk --disk_name='disk1' 



# Start an analysis VM 'vm-forensics' for investigation in the destination account 

# and attach the copy created in the previous step.

# A SSH key pair will be automatically generated and associated with the instance.

cloudforensics az 'blogpost' startvm 'vm-forensics'  --disk_size=50 




How does cross-account/region disk copies work?

Microsoft Azure does not directly provide a simplified way to achieve the above scenario, e.g. by offering a --destination-account parameter in their CLI. Luckily for us there’s a workaround. Snapshots can be shared through a Shared Access Signature (SAS) URI. A SAS provides secure delegated access to resources in one’s storage account without compromising the security of the data [1]. Anyone with this link can access the snapshot. This is how cross-account/cross-region disk copies can be automated in Azure. 

Libcloudforensics takes care of creating a temporary storage account in the destination account, downloads the snapshot from the SAS URI into the storage account, and subsequently creates the disk copy. The process is depicted below:


In this post we outlined Azure’s resource organization and showed how libcloudforensics could be used to automate forensic disk copies, both within the same Azure account and across different accounts.

We hope this blog post has given you inspiration on how to further automate your cloud incident response. If you have questions, reach out on the Open Source DFIR Slack, you can find us in the libcloudforensics channel.



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