Information Security
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October 6, 2021 6:38 pm

How to Install Volatility 2 and Volatility 3 on Debian, Ubuntu, or Kali Linux

By Sean Whalen
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Volatility is a powerful memory forensics tool. This guide will show you how to install Volatility 2 and Volatility 3 on Debian and Debian-based Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu and Kali Linux.

With Volatility, you can read memory/RAM captures and determine all sorts of things about the state of a system when the memory capture was made, including, but not limited to:

  • Cached files
  • Cached RSA private/public keys
  • Clipboard contents
  • Command history
  • Driver/kernel module details
  • Keyboard buffer contents
  • Open sockets
  • Registry contents
  • Running processes
  • Shellbags

Unfortunately, most of these features/plugins only apply to memory captures of systems running Windows.

Volatility 2 vs Volatility 3

Volatility 2 is written for Python 2. Python 2 reached End of Life (EOL) in 2020. Volatility 3 is written for Python 3, and is much faster. However, Volatility 3 currently does not have anywhere near the same number of plugins/features as Volatility 2, so is is best to install both versions side-by-side and use whichever version is best suited for a particular task, which for now is most likely Volatility 2.

Install system dependencies

sudo apt install -y build-essential git libdistorm3-dev yara libraw1394-11 libcapstone-dev capstone-tool tzdata

Install pip for Python 2

sudo apt install -y python2 python2.7-dev libpython2-dev
curl https://bootstrap.pypa.io/pip/2.7/get-pip.py --output get-pip.py
sudo python2 get-pip.py
sudo python2 -m pip install -U setuptools wheel

Install Volatility 2 and its Python dependencies

To install system-wide for all users, use the sudo command in front of the python2 commands.

python2 -m pip install -U distorm3 yara pycrypto pillow openpyxl ujson pytz ipython capstone
sudo python2 -m pip install yara
sudo ln -s /usr/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/usr/lib/libyara.so /usr/lib/libyara.so
python2 -m pip install -U git+https://github.com/volatilityfoundation/volatility.git

install pip for Python 3

sudo apt install -y python3 python3-dev libpython3-dev python3-pip python3-setuptools python3-wheel

Install Volatility 3 and its Python dependencies

To install system-wide for all users, use the sudo command in front of the python3 commands.

python3 -m pip install -U distorm3 yara pycrypto pillow openpyxl ujson pytz ipython capstone
python3 -m pip install -U git+https://github.com/volatilityfoundation/volatility3.git

Adding your user bin to your PATH

Installing Volatility as a user instead of as root allows you to install Volatility and its dependencies without polluting your system’s Python environment. Installed commands are not in your PATH by default, so if you try running vol.py (Volatility 2) or vol/volshell (Volatility 3) in your shell, the command will not be found.

To fix this you need to add /home/username/.local/bin to your the PATH, replacing username with your actual username. The process for doing this varies, depending which shell you are using.

bash (The default shell)

  1. Open a terminal or SSH session
  2. Make sure you are in a bash shell. If not, type bash and hit enter
  3. Type the following commands and press enter after each line (replace username with your actual username)
    echo 'export PATH=/home/username/.local/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.bashrc
    . ~/.bashrc

fish (My personal favorite shell)

  1. Open a terminal or SSH session
  2. Make sure you are in a fish shell. If not, type fish and hit enter
  3. Type the following commands and press enter after each line (replace username with your actual username)
    mkdir -p ~/.config/fish
    echo 'set -x PATH /home/username/.local/bin $PATH' >> ~/.config/fish/config.fish
    . ~/.config/fish/config.fish

ksh or sh

  1. Open a terminal or SSH session
  2. Make sure you are in a ksh or sh shell. If not, type ksh or sh and hit enter
  3. Type the following commands and press enter after each line (replace username with your actual username)
    echo 'export PATH=/home/username/.local/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.profile
    . ~/.profile

zsh

  1. Open a terminal or SSH session
  2. Make sure you are in a zsh shell. If not, type zsh and press enter
  3. Type the following commands and press enter after each line (replace username with your actual username)
    echo 'export PATH=/home/username/.local/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.zshrc
    . ~/.zshrc

This post was last modified on October 6, 2021 6:59 pm

Sean Whalen

Sean Whalen is an Information Security Engineer in the healthcare industry, and founder of the InfoSec Speakeasy, specializing in intelligence and malware analysis. Previously, he worked as an intelligence analyst in the defense industry. He has a passion for open source software, and sci-fi.

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  • Thanks for taking the time on this , much appreciated.

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