I recently came across Int’l Man of Leisure’s blog posts here and here on “Mounting and Imaging Logical Volume Manager (LVM2)”. He does a great job of defining the problem statement (dealing with LVM’s in their various image formats in a DFIR investigation) and how to work through getting a set of logical images back into their intended LVM layout for appropriate mounting and analysis.

IMOL begins by going through the background of LVM, what it is, and how to install it to prepare your system for dealing with LVM’s. Once prepared, IMOL begins by presenting a set of two VMDK images that must be merged or “stitched together” in order to be interpreted and parsed by the Linux LVM. However, VMDK files are not something natively readable/mountable by a linux system. So, before we can even begin stitching these back together, these VMDK files must be converted into something natively readable by the system, such as a raw image/block device. In IMOL’s testing, he found that FTK Imager was one of a few tools that was able to read the VMDK files in order to convert (image) them to raw files. He then used FTK Imager to image the VMDK files into respective Raw DD format files for continued use. However, here is where I would like to branch into my process for mounting LVM’s that completely eliminates the need for converting an image to raw using a tool called “QEMU”, and thus saving you (potentially) hours of time.

We all know when dealing with forensic imaging/conversion that even the slightest hiccup can render an entire image useless and long-spent time wasted. The less time we spend imaging/converting, the faster we can get to analysis and toward our goals for the investigation. Enter QEMU, specifically “qemu-nbd”. I could go into a lot of detail of all the types of images it can convert and how useful it can be in various capacities (in fact, I may do another blog post about it). However, for this post, I will just stick to specifically how you can use it to perform on-the-fly image format translation (in real-time) between various formats – no need to spend time converting to another image file.

QEMU has a utility called “qemu-nbd” (nbd stands for Network Block Device) that essentially performs real-time translation betwixt (I have waited so long to use that word in a serious tone) various image formats. It’s as easy as the following:

Ensure you have an available NBD
# ls -l /dev/nbd*

If no device files (or not enough) exist as /dev/nbd*, create as many as needed
# for i in {0..<z>}; do mknod /dev/nbd$i b 43 $i; done
*Where <z> is the number of devices you need, minus one

Mount the image file
# qemu-nbd -r -c /dev/nbd<x> image.<extension>
* -r: read-only
* -c: connect image file to NBD device
*Where <x> is the appropriate block device number (typically starting at 0) and <extension> is a supported QEMU Image Type (raw, cloop, cow, qcow, qcow2, vmdk, vdi, vhdx, vpc)

Note that this will need to be done for each image that is a part of the LV group. For example, if there are 3 different VMDK files that together comprise one or more LV groups, you would do the following (ensuring the associated /dev/nbd devices have already been created before issuing the below commands):

# qemu-nbd -r -c /dev/nbd0 image_0.vmdk
# qemu-nbd -r -c /dev/nbd1 image_1.vmdk
# qemu-nbd -r -c /dev/nbd2 image_2.vmdk

That’s it. Each /dev/nbd<x> is immediately translated and available as a raw block device to be queried/mounted just as if it were a raw image to begin with. Pretty awesome, huh?

Now, if you were lucky enough to start with raw/DD images, you don’t need to perform any of the above. Instead, you can just skip to the below instructions for mounting and mapping the LVM’s.

At this point, my process to identify and load the LVM(s) mostly mirrors that as described by IMOL, with a few subtle differences. I won’t go into great detail of it all as IMOL gives great descriptions of each step in his walk-through. However, I will lay out my commands below for those who are looking for an easy copy/paste method to stick into their cheat sheets.

Keep in mind that the order of the below commands is critical to successful mounting of LVM’s.

Load the LVM module if not already loaded
# modprobe dm_mod

Ensure you have enough available loopback devices (one for each nbd device)
# ls -l /dev/loop*

If not enough loopback devices exist, create as many as needed
# for i in {0..<z>}; do mknod /dev/loop$i b 7 $i; done
*Where <z> is the number of devices you need, minus one

Set up a loopback device for each image that is part of the LV group
# losetup -r [-o <byte_offset>] -f [/dev/loop<x>] /dev/nbd<x>

Read partition tables from each loopback device to create mappings
# kpartx -a -v /dev/loop<x>

List the available Physical Volume Groups (VG’s)
# pvdisplay

List the available Logical Volume Groups (VG’s)
# lvdisplay

(Optional) If not listed, re-scan the mounted volumes to identify the associated VG’s
# pvscan
# lvscan
# vgscan

Activate the appropriate VG’s
# vgchange -a y <VG>
** The recombined LVM volume(s) will now be available at /dev/mapper/<VolumeGroup>-<VolumeName>

Mount the LVM Volume(s)
# mount [options] /dev/mapper/<VolumeGroup>-<VolumeName> /mnt/point

Congratulations. You (should) now have filesystem access to the given LVM(s)!

== Sidebar ==

Interested in why we use the given numbers of “43” and “7” for the mknod command?

The mknod command is structured like the following: mknod <device> <type> <major_#> <minor_#>

For our uses, we are creating device files of type “b” (block device), with major #’s of “43” (nbd) and “7” (loopback). The major number tells the system what type of device to expect and operate as. For a list of devices that your system is aware of and can dynamically assign when a major number is not specified, check out your /proc/devices file. IBM does a rather good job of explaining it all here. The minor number is more for reference and thus should probably, as best practice, reference/relate to the device number as well. Though, there is nothing requiring it to be that way.

For further information about the mknod command structure, just check out the man page.

== /Sidebar ==

Once you’re done with the images, the next logical step is to dismount the images which can at times become unnecessarily and illogically troublesome. To properly dismount LVM’s, perform the following steps (again, order is critical here!):

Dismount each mounted filesystem
# umount /mnt/point

De-activate each activated Volume Group
# vgchange -a n <VG>

Remove partition mappings for each loop device
# kpartx -d -v /dev/loop<x>

Remove each loopback device
# losetup -d /dev/loop<x>

(Optional) Force remove an LVM
# dmsetup remove -f <VG>

Keep in mind the dmsetup command above is considered deprecated and not suggested for use. However, I provide it as I have had to use it at times in the past when a VG simply would not detach using the appropriate commands. That said, if all else fails, reboot 🙂

Hopefully, this post will help with the often convoluted process of mounting LVM’s, especially when split across multiple images/devices.