Understanding Microsoft Teams Forensics Needs, Strategy, and Approach

Microsoft Teams Forensics Guidelines For Digital Investigators
author
Published By Jaspreet Singh
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh
Published On December 18th, 2023
Reading Time 6 Minutes Reading
Category Forensics

Microsoft Teams, first released in 2017, saw a rapid rise in user adoption thanks to remote working during the pandemic. Its ease of use, countless functionalities, and seamless integration with other Microsoft products made it an industry favorite.

However, due to such advanced capabilities present inside it, many individuals with nefarious intentions have also started using it. That’s why investigators and agencies search for Microsoft Team forensics and the methods to perform it. Not only has the digital investigation of teams become important it has also become the most sought-after topic.

All owing to the rapid rise of cybercrimes committed on and with the platform’s help. That’s why we present a breakdown of the entire process of how to conduct an investigation. Let’s first prepare a list of the data you encounter in MS Teams.

Components Of MS Teams

Chats: The most basic MS Teams feature part of its portfolio since the beginning has this feature from the beginning. Moreover, Chats have undergone regular changes over time. Users can now, edit, delete, react to, and reply to specific individuals. Apart from Text data Teams chats can be used to share a variety of file formats, emojis, stickers, etc.

Private Chats: Most Microsoft Teams Forensics is based on finding the content present in Private chats. Microsoft added this feature to enhance user privacy and protect people from unnecessary oversight. However, this was quickly being misused to conduct illegal and unauthorized conversations.

Channels: This is the term used by Teams to define a Group of users. Unlike a group chat, a Channel has to be created by authorized personnel. They can then set the permissions and invite other users.

Attachments: These are external files shared between individuals, groups, channels, or Teams. Such files include but are not limited to PDFs, Videos, Images, Doc files, and Spreadsheets.

Data Storage in MS Teams

Microsoft Teams is not a storage service. Its primary role is collaboration and communication between people. As a result, Microsoft designed Teams in such a way that users need not be concerned about data storage or other secondary tasks. Moreover, all of these are handled by other services like One Drive, SharePoint, etc.

All files created by users inside teams are directly put on their One Drive accounts. Whereas the documents that are shared inside a channel generate a space inside the SharePoint site on the backend. Team-level sharing uses One Drive for business.

All of this results in a complicated maze when investigators want to conduct Microsoft Teams forensics.

Why Microsoft Teams is Being Used in CyberCrime

Being relatively new, this software was not very well understood by law enforcement agencies. Moreover, as Microsoft adds new features almost every month, Teams became too much of a burden to tackle manually. Coupled with high user adoption and poor understanding, criminals made it their new playground. Not only criminals but disgruntled employees started using Teams for corporate espionage.

The Video Call feature is another way in which hackers can target naive employees. Resulting in blackmailing and ransom extraction.

The reason why Teams become so widely used by criminals is that they are also somewhat aware of the limitations of law enforcement agencies. Some of them are:

Manual methods are complex and require a deep, fundamental understanding of Teams structure and behavior. More often than not the investigating agencies may not lack the technical expertise. However, the time required to extract the information manually is what prevents detectives from pursuing the manual method. Don’t worry as we have a

How to do Microsoft Teams Forensic Analysis Professionally

MailXaminer is the utility that is best for the forensic analysis of Teams data. This is the same utility that is also known for its Skype forensic analysis. With an easy-to-use interface, the utility assists investigators in extracting data from a variety of sources. In its latest update, it has added the provision to bring in data from Teams via the admin credentials. Unlike manual methods, the tool has all the functionality in a single place. Every thing from data extraction, aggregation, searching, sorting, and visualization is possible with the tool. Let’s go over the feature set in more detail.

Feature Set to Conduct an e-Discovery Investigation of Content in Microsoft Teams

  • Separate section for user and team data ingestion to provide top-notch customization.
  • Domain addition of Teams to bring in data for analysis
  • Ability to pick Chats from specific dates.
  • A variety of filtering and searching parameters are available at the click of a button.
  • Inbuilt Dashboard to conduct data visualization via piecharts, timelines, Wordclouds, etc.
  • Export Custom Search Results  & download all loose files from the screen.

Simple Steps to Conduct Microsoft Teams Forensics

Step 1. Launch the tool >> Create a New Case >> Click on Add New Evidence.

Step 2. Under the Cloud Subsection >> Select Teams as the Platform >> Press Next.
Select Teams

Step 3. Configure General Settings >> Index Settings (language) >> Hash Settings >> Press Next.

Step 4. Click on Add Domain >> Enter Domain Name >> Click Add >> Press Finish.
Add Domain 

Step 5. Make Workload Selections >> Apply Date Filter For User Chats >> Press Next.

Step 6. Perform Credential Validation for Admin Email and Application ID >> Press Next.

Validate Credential

Step 7. Choose a User Mapping option (Fetch, Import, Download)

Step 9. Preview >> Select >> Validate >> Ingest User data.

Step 10. Map Teams Data >> Create Custodian >> Repeat Same Steps as Users.

Step 11. Once data is available, go to the Search Screen. Here Teams Data is split on two different tabs Chats and Loose files.

Chat and Loose Files

Step 12. Apply the filters, conduct a thorough search, and export the result of the Microsoft Teams forensic analysis.

Conclusion

In this blog, we discussed the approach investigators should take for Microsoft Teams forensics. Considering the challenges involved in the process, we recommend going for the professional tool. Additionally, the tool has special criteria for handling Teams as a source platform. Moreover, this makes the tool the best way to conduct a digital investigation of Teams data. Combining this with the additional features present eliminates the need for manual searching.