Forensics Investigation

What is

I was first introduced to Keybase a few years ago. It was explained to me as a place to validate your identity with regards to sharing public keys for email encryption. Showing that a Twitter account is controlled by you, or that a github repo is truly yours.

It is a good way to view the ‘web of trust’ around a person, especially if this is a person you would not expect to meet face to face.

I personally never paid much attention to it, not because of anything bad around Keybase, just because it didn’t solve any problems that I was facing.

Forensics on a Website?

At first glance, or if you used Keybase historically you may think that this is simply a website offering a web of trust style service. However Keybase was brought to my attention by a friend. They asked if I had ever carried out an investigation or researched it.

I was very confused, so I went back to see what had changed. I saw that there is now a downloadable app which offered encrypted chat, file transfer and groups. This piqued my interest as this is the criteria bad guy would look for if they wanted to discuss bad things!

Is Keybase Bad?

Just to get this out of the way first, at no point in this post am I attempting to say Keybase is anything other than a legitimate company/app offering a service. Anyone abusing this service is the same as those who abuse other communication mediums. I am carrying out this investigation purely as I feel it could benefit a forensicator that hasn’t come across this before.

Lab, Set-up and Basic Scope

I will be using virtual machines for this investigation. One is Windows 10 (1703) the other is Ubuntu 16.04. I will be creating 3 accounts on Keybase:

  1. Windows 10 App
  2. Linux App
  3. Chrome Browser

My primary focus will be on the Windows machine, but I will be cross checking with Linux to see if similar artefacts exist.

I will create a ‘team’ and also ‘follow’ my accounts. I will look to see if I can find proof that the accounts are connected from host based artefacts alone. I will also look to see if I can capture files that were transferred privately or via the team and any other information that might be available.

The images I will use will be from or something I create in Paint (I am a terrible artist!!)

I intend to look at browser extensions, but that may wait for another blog post.

I won’t be looking at mobile apps, I do not presently have the set up to do so. I hope that someone reading this will pick up that research. I would be very interested to see how we could tie a user to a device.

Signing Up

Initial sign up is very easy from the app. You only need to provide a username, password and a name for your device. All of these are public. You do not need a valid email address and testing has shown you can use throw away services such as Mailinator.


Now the part you are really here for. Lets start going through the artefacts at what they mean.

Firstly the application itself is in the Local Appdata folder (I will refer to this from the ‘Local’ root folder in future file paths)


There is also a Roaming AppData folder created (I will refer to this from the ‘Remote’ root folder in future file paths)


There is no sign of this program in the Program files Directory.


On both Linux and Windows there is an ‘Avatars’ folder which contains the profile picture of anyone who has appeared in the app. Unfortunately the app auto suggests people to you, as such this would be difficult to prove a connection. It does however indicate how active a person has been. 10-20 avatars were recorded from a couple of clicks after creating the account





The files are named ‘avatar<9-digits>.avatar’ on both operating systems and after testing known profile images I can say that the 9 digits do not match. I confirmed the MD5 of two profile images. While the hashes matched, as did the image, the filename did not.

Within a few clicks I had this directory over 1,500 avatars.

Viewed Images & Avatars

The following folder contains a cache of image files that were viewed within Keybase. This includes Avatars and any images sent or received by the machine being investigated. It does not store all files, for example documents, that are transferred. Instead it is my belief this is simply caching any image that was viewable in the app.


This location is probably the most important to criminal investigations as the files in here show what images were shared. These files no not have a file extension, but are in their native format. In order to filter out Avatars from Images I would suggest sorting by size as the Avatars are typically no larger than 60kb in size, where as images are more in the region of 100+kb

Location of last sent file

It is possible to see the location of the last file that was sent over Keybase chat. There is no obvious difference from this artefact alone as to whether it was sent in a team chat or a 1:1 chat.

The following file does not have a file extension, but can be read using a normal text editor.


This could be useful if you suspect external media, encrypted media, or network locations may be in use. The artefact should read


Team Creation

If a team is created on the machine being investigated it will be recorded in the keybase.sevice.log file.


and will be easily identified by the log entry:

YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.mmmmmmZ - [DEBU keybase teams.go:63] 1053 + TeamCreate(TeamName) [tags:TM=hXqL-F0Xwsfw]

The ‘1053’ appears to be an iterative Hex value for the log entry. The ‘go’ value and the makeup of the ‘tags’ field require further investigation.

Added to a Team

I believe it is important to know that a person can be added to a team without their explicit consent. I simply clicked on the individual I had previously spoken to (in my case my test account) and added them. I then got a notification to tell me I had been added.

When a person is added to a team the same keybase.service.log file will record the following entry

YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.mmmmmmZ - [DEBU keybase team_handler.go:248] 3e64 teamHandler.newlyAddedToTeam: team.newly_added_to_team unmarshaled: [{Id:107282d36081bcbb018874d93e097824 Name:TeamName}] [tags:GRGIBM=WT3UeztTfELk]

Incorrect Team Name

When trying to join a new team, the name must be accurate, you do not appear to be able to search for Teams from a direcory, but instead must know the Team name. There are several log entries relating to a Team not existing such as this one

<date/time> - [DEBU keybase teams.go:4180] 5b34 - TeamAcceptInviteOrRequestAccess -> Root team does not exist (error 2614) libkb.AppStatusError [time=238.3055ms] [tags:TM=IL6Xi8j8UVec]

Unfortunately the team name they searched for does not appear in this log if they were not successful.

Requesting to Join a Team

When a user requests to join a team the following log entry will appear in keybase.sevice.log

<date/time> - [DEBU keybase teams.go:4180] 5b48 - TeamAcceptInviteOrRequestAccess -> ok [time=258.2293ms] [tags:TM=YW_eGpfUPiAX]

There does not appear to be any correlation, in this log file, between the invitation and acceptance to a group. The name of the group is only disclosed once an invitation has been accepted.

Team Chat Members to Team Name

I found that “Chat-Trace” was very useful in linking team members to team names. I have not done extensive research on this artefact to guarantee fidelity, however I was able to use the term to identify the users of the public team chat I joined.

<date/time> - [DEBU keybase user.go:333] 7d64 + Store user UserName [tags:chat-trace=M9L0hrvapdnb,platform=windows,LU=SwGnJf0KDRR7,CHTUNBOX=5ObRJV-ynRzY,CHTLOC=Sk6db9l6bidX,apptype=desktop,user-agent=windows:Keybase CLI (go1.13):5.1.1,CHTLOCS=KKNAAQHUSra6]
<date/time> - [DEBU keybase user.go:355] 7d67 - Store user UserName -> OK [tags:CHTUNBOX=5ObRJV-ynRzY,CHTLOC=Sk6db9l6bidX,apptype=desktop,user-agent=windows:Keybase CLI (go1.13):5.1.1,CHTLOCS=KKNAAQHUSra6,chat-trace=M9L0hrvapdnb,platform=windows,LU=SwGnJf0KDRR7]

Once you have a chat-trace you can use that to pivot either to or from the team name

<date/time> - [DEBU keybase teams.go:432] 7445 ++Chat: + TeamsNameInfoSource: DecryptionKey(TeamName,67c99659bdc24920b56ccec3a42dd424,false,1,false,<nil>) [tags:chat-trace=M9L0hrvapdnb,platform=windows,CHTUNBOX=5ZTfEkNGaDqv,CHTLOC=Sk6db9l6bidX,apptype=desktop,user-agent=windows:Keybase CLI (go1.13):5.1.1,CHTLOCS=KKNAAQHUSra6]

Once you have filtered the log by chat-trace you can then filter again by “keybase user.go” to get a list of users. This list appears to be online users only, further testing required to confirm. In my test the channel info reported 11k users, but the log shows 84 unique usernames.

Leaving a Team

When a user leaves a team the following log entry will be seen

<date/time> - [DEBU keybase teams.go:420] 1e235 + TeamLeave(TeamName) [tags:TM=aByOmRdtM1XJ]


The Keybase app leaves a lot of useful information behind for forensicators to use in their investigations. While currently it is not possible to capture the chat history, we can see Usernames, Team Names and importantly what images where shared in these groups.

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