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NSRL Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to the NSRL FAQ. Below you will find answers to some commonly asked questions regarding the NSRL. If you cannot find your question, please feel free to contact us.
Before shipping, we make each release available to vendors of leading forensic tools for testing against their products. For completeness, we also test the data in house against some of the major forensic tools. Our testing is done on contemporary desktop systems running Windows XP.
We try to resolve some questions, but in our experience the vendor support staff will likely give you a better response.
Each release of the NSRL hash set is made available for download free of charge one month after the subscriber CD release. The download comprises 4 ISO files which you can get from our downloads page. The ISO files can be downloaded and burned as a 4-CD set. You should verify the downloads are correct by comparing the value in the iso_hash.txt file to that published on the downloads page. You should also verify that the hash set is correct by using the hashes.txt and version.txt files you find on the CDs.
We would be glad to send you one hard copy via postal mail. Please provide a mailing address.
After this, you will need to download or subscribe to acquire future releases.
The format of the data is described in our paper Data Formats of the NSRL Reference Data Set (RDS) Distribution (PDF).
The full content lists are updated with every quarterly release. You can find links to the Product listing, Manufacturer listing, and Operating Systems listing on the downloads page.
You should verify the downloads are correct by using the hashes.txt and version.txt files.
We purchase most of the software in the NSRL. We try to get everything on major retailers’ top selling lists. Some software we hear about by word of mouth, some by schedule (like tax programs each tax year, security, antivirus) and some by requests from law enforcement and other agencies. We accept donations from manufacturers and have paperwork to state we will not use the software license (donors are recognized on our website). All donations of new software should be COTS shrink-wrapped and exactly what a consumer would purchase. We accept donations of used software as long as it is in useable condition but there is no guarantee that it will make it into the NSRL RDS. We do keep a limited number of duplicate software for media degradation testing and in order to keep a back up of the most popular software, such as operating system packages.
To donate software to the NSRL, please mail packages to:
Can I borrow software from the NSRL?
We apologize, but we cannot lend out copies of the software in our collection.
We make the hashes (MD5, SHA, etc.) available to everyone, but the software itself is (a) stored in an evidence locker, (b) is often donated by vendors with a non-use agreement, or (c) can't be redistributed due to copyright.
However, our experience suggests you might want to try hitting tech swap meets, used bookstores, bargain bins in non-chain stores - they've been a gold mine for us.
We will do what we can within the bounds of the licensing of contents of our collection.
Please contact our subscription department.
No. The NSRL is prevented by law from handling such files, and NSRL policy prevents us from including the hash of a file in the NSRL RDS unless we possess the original copy of that file.
The NDIC HashKeeper project is one source of illicit data hashes (see below).
The NSRL RDS and the NDIC's Hashkeeper are collections of File Identification Information (FII) which are typically used to identify computer files during forensic investigations of computer systems. The principal differences between the two collections are as follows:
Yes, we will be collecting SHA-256, Whirlpool, and several other pieces of metadata that we don't gather now.
The additional metadata will be included in a separate product - the RDS will continue in its present format.
The members of our steering committee (federal, state and local law enforcement) consider the files in the NSRL database as "known" - NOT "known good" OR "known bad" - just "known application files."
NIST does not make a decision about "known bad' or "malicious" or "notable", because there are various case scenarios where that classification is not cut-and-dried.
Note, however, that the NSRL database does contain hashes of files from applications which are traditionally viewed as malicious (encryption, steganography, hacker tools).
You can partition the applications according to your specific needs using the "ApplicationType" field in the "NSRLProd.txt" file - if you consider steganography apps as bad, you can identify them as such using that data.
We have had reports from several investigators that a small number of files - on the order of 10 or 12 - will cause "alerts."
It is our opinion that someone unknown to us has designated all of the file hashes associated with some NSRL hacker applications as "notable" or "malicious" (probably inside a tool that imports the NSRL hash set). Unfortunately, a few of the files used by those hacker apps are very common files used by normally harmless software. If you have a small number of "alert" hits, it is very likely that those are false positives.
No, installed software results are not included at this time.
Collecting installed file hashes is a very labor-intensive process. We hope to have a somewhat automated process to aid in collecting these in the future, but we do not collect them in any bulk manner right now.
The NDIC Hashkeeper collection does have installed file hashes - see above.
You can look in a file called NSRLProd.txt and find a column called "ApplicationType". We have classified the programs, and you can look for the description of your interest - steganography, keylogger, office suite, etc.
The format for running an algorithm against the file collection is basically that you would submit a job - in the form of your code - to the NSRL. We would then run your job against the file collection, returning the results and your code to you upon completion.
There are various conditions of access to the research environment, including:
Please contact us for details.