Browser Artifacts

Browsers Artefacts

When we talk about browser artefacts we talk about, navigation history, bookmarks, list of downloaded files, cache data…etc.

These artefacts are files stored inside of specific folders in the operating system.

Each browser stores its files in a different place than other browsers and they all have different names, but they all store (most of the time) the same type of data (artefacts).

Let us take a look at the most common artefacts stored by browsers.

  • Navigation History : Contains data about the navigation history of the user. Can be used to track down if the user has visited some malicious sites for example

  • Autocomplete Data : This is the data that the browser suggest based on what you search the most. Can be used in tandem with the navigation history to get more insight.

  • Bookmarks : Self Explanatory.

  • Extensions and Addons : Self Explanatory.

  • Cache : When navigating websites, the browser creates all sorts of cache data (images, javascript files…etc) for many reasons. For example to speed loading time of websites. These cache files can be a great source of data during a forensic investigation.

  • Logins : Self Explanatory.

  • Favicons : They are the little icons found in tabs, urls, bookmarks and the such. They can be used as another source to get more information about the website or places the user visited.

  • Browser Sessions : Self Explanatory.

  • Downloads :Self Explanatory.

  • Form Data : Anything typed inside forms is often times stored by the browser, so the next time the user enters something inside of a form the browser can suggest previously entered data.

  • Thumbnails : Self Explanatory.


Firefox use to create the profiles folder in ~/.mozilla/firefox/ (Linux), in /Users/$USER/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/ (MacOS), %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\ (Windows). Inside this folder, the file profiles.ini should appear with the name(s) of the used profile(s). Each profile has a "Path" variable with the name of the folder where it's data is going to be stored. The folder should be present in the same directory where the profiles.ini exist. If it isn't, then, probably it was deleted.

Inside the folder of each profile (~/.mozilla/firefox/<ProfileName>/) path you should be able to find the following interesting files:

  • places.sqlite : History (moz__places), bookmarks (moz_bookmarks), and downloads (moz_annos). In windows the tool BrowsingHistoryView can be used to read the history inside places.sqlite_.

    • Query to dump history: select datetime(lastvisitdate/1000000,'unixepoch') as visit_date, url, title, visit_count, visit_type FROM moz_places,moz_historyvisits WHERE = moz_historyvisits.place_id;

      • Note that the link type is a number that indicates:

        • 1: User followed a link

        • 2: User wrote the URL

        • 3: User used a favorite

        • 4: Loaded from Iframe

        • 5: Accessed via HTTP redirect 301

        • 6: Accessed via HTTP redirect 302

        • 7: Downloaded file

        • 8: User followed a link inside an Iframe

    • Query to dump downloads: SELECT datetime(lastModified/1000000,'unixepoch') AS down_date, content as File, url as URL FROM moz_places, moz_annos WHERE = moz_annos.place_id;

  • bookmarkbackups/ : Bookmarks backups

  • formhistory.sqlite : Web form data (like emails)

  • handlers.json : Protocol handlers (like, which app is going to handle mailto:// protocol)

  • persdict.dat : Words added to the dictionary

  • addons.json and extensions.sqlite : Installed addons and extensions

  • cookies.sqlite : Contains cookies. MZCookiesView **can be used in Windows to inspect this file.

  • cache2/entries or startupCache : Cache data (~350MB). Tricks like data carving can also be used to obtain the files saved in the cache. MozillaCacheView can be used to see the files saved in the cache.

    Information that can be obtained:

    • URL, fetch Count, Filename, Content type, FIle size, Last modified time, Last fetched time, Server Last Modified, Server Response

  • favicons.sqlite : Favicons

  • prefs.js : Settings and Preferences

  • downloads.sqlite : Old downloads database (now it's inside places.sqlite)

  • thumbnails/ : Thumbnails

  • logins.json : Encrypted usernames and passwords

  • Browser’s built-in anti-phishing: grep 'browser.safebrowsing' ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/*/prefs.js

    • Will return “safebrowsing.malware.enabled” and “phishing.enabled” as false if the safe search settings have been disabled

  • key4.db or key3.db : Master key ?

In order to try to decrypt the master password you can use With the following script and call you can specify a password file to bruteforce:

#./ top-passwords.txt 2>/dev/null | grep -A2 -B2 "chrome:"
while read pass; do
  echo "Trying $pass"
  echo "$pass" | python
done < $passfile

Google Chrome

Google Chrome creates the profile inside the home of the user ~/.config/google-chrome/ (Linux), in C:\Users\XXX\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\ (Windows), or in /Users/$USER/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/ (MacOS). Most of the information will be saved inside the Default/ or ChromeDefaultData/ folders inside the paths indicated before. Inside here you can find the following interesting files:

  • History : URLs, downloads and even searched keywords. In Windows you can use the tool ChromeHistoryView to read the history. The "Transition Type" column means:

    • Link: User clicked on a link

    • Typed: The url was written

    • Auto Bookmark

    • Auto Subframe: Add

    • Start page: Home page

    • Form Submit: A form was filled and sent

    • Reloaded

  • Cookies : Cookies. ChromeCookiesView can be used to inspect the cookies.

  • Cache : Cache. In Windows you can use the tool ChromeCacheView to inspect the ca

  • Bookmarks : ** Bookmarks

  • Web Data : Form History

  • Favicons : Favicons

  • Login Data : Login information (usernames, passwords...)

  • Current Session and Current Tabs : Current session data and current tabs

  • Last Session and Last Tabs : These files hold sites that were active in the browser when Chrome was last closed.

  • Extensions/ : Extensions and addons folder

  • Thumbnails : Thumbnails

  • Preferences: This file contains a plethora of good information such as plugins, extensions, sites using geolocation, popups, notifications, DNS prefetching, certificate exceptions, and much more. If you’re trying to research whether or not a specific Chrome setting was enabled, you will likely find that setting in here.

  • Browser’s built-in anti-phishing: grep 'safebrowsing' ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Default/Preferences

    • You can simply grep for “safebrowsing” and look for {"enabled: true,"} in the result to indicate anti-phishing and malware protection is on.

SQLite DB Data Recovery

As you can observe in the previous sections, both Chrome and Firefox use SQLite databases to store the data. It's possible to recover deleted entries using the tool sqlparse or sqlparse_gui.

Internet Explorer 11

Internet Explorer stores data and metadata in different locations. The metadata will allow to find the data.

The metadata can be found in the folder%userprofile%\Appdata\Local\Microsoft\Windows\WebCache\ where VX can be V01, V16 o V24. In the previous folder you can also find the file V01.log. In case the modified time of this file and the file are different you may need to run the command esentutl /r V01 /d to fix possible incompatibilities.

Once recovered this artifact (It's an ESE database, photorec can recover it with the options Exchange Database or EDB) you can use the program ESEDatabaseView to open it. Once opened, go to the table "Containers".

Inside this table you can find in which other tables or containers each part of the stored information is saved. Following that you can find the locations of the data stored by the browsers and metadata about that data inside the .

Note that this table indicate also metadadata of the cache of other Microsoft tools also (e.g. skype)


You can use the tool IECacheView to inspect the cache. You need to indicate the folder where you have extracted the cache date.


The metadata information about the cache stores:

  • Filename in the disc

  • SecureDIrectory: Location of the file inside the cache directories

  • AccessCount: Number of times it was saved in the cache

  • URL:The url origin

  • CreationTime: First time it was cached

  • AccessedTime: Time when the cache was used

  • ModifiedTime: Last webpage version

  • ExpiryTime: Time when the cache will expire


The cache information can be found in %userprofile%\Appdata\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5 and %userprofile%\Appdata\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\low

The information inside these folders is a snapshot of what the user was seeing. The caches has a size of 250 MB and the timestamps indicate when the page was visited (first time, creation date of the NTFS, last time, modification time of the NTFS).


You can use the tool IECookiesView to inspect the cookies. You need to indicate the folder where you have extracted the cookies.


The metadata information about the cookies stores:

  • Cookie name in the filesystem

  • URL

  • AccessCount: Number of times the cookies has been sent to terhe serv

  • CreationTime: First time the cookie was created

  • ModifiedTime: Last time the cookie was modifued

  • AccessedTime: Last time the cookie was accesed

  • ExpiryTime: Time of expiration of the cookie


The cookies data can be found in %userprofile%\Appdata\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies and %userprofile%\Appdata\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies\low

Session cookies will reside in memory and persistent cookie in the disk.



Checking the tool ESEDatabaseView you can find the container with the metadata of the downloads:

Getting the information of the column "ResponseHeaders" you can transform from hex that information and obtain the URL, the file type and the location of the downloaded file.


Look in the path %userprofile%\Appdata\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\IEDownloadHistory


The tool BrowsingHistoryView can be used to read the history. But first you need to indicate the browser in advanced options and the location of the extracted history files.


  • ModifiedTime: First time a URL is found

  • AccessedTime: Last time

  • AccessCount: Number of times accessed


Search in userprofile%\Appdata\Local\Microsoft\Windows\History\History.IE5 and userprofile%\Appdata\Local\Microsoft\Windows\History\Low\History.IE5

Typed URLs

This information can be found inside the registry NTDUSER.DAT in the path:

  • Software\Microsoft\InternetExplorer\TypedURLs

    • Stores the last 50 URLs typed by the user

  • Software\Microsoft\InternetExplorer\TypedURLsTime

    • last time the URL was typed

Microsoft Edge

For analyzing Microsoft Edge artifacts all the explanations about cache and locations from the previous section (IE 11) remain valid with the only difference that the base locating in this case is %userprofile%\Appdata\Local\Packages (as can be observed in the following paths):

  • Profile Path: C:\Users\XX\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_XXX\AC

  • History, Cookies and Downloads: C:\Users\XX\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\WebCache\WebCacheV01.dat

  • Settings, Bookmarks, and Reading List: C:\Users\XX\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_XXX\AC\MicrosoftEdge\User\Default\DataStore\Data\nouser1\XXX\DBStore\spartan.edb

  • Cache: C:\Users\XXX\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_XXX\AC#!XXX\MicrosoftEdge\Cache

  • Last active sessions: C:\Users\XX\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_XXX\AC\MicrosoftEdge\User\Default\Recovery\Active


The databases can be found in /Users/$User/Library/Safari

  • History.db: The tables history_visits and history_items contains information about the history and timestamps.

    • sqlite3 ~/Library/Safari/History.db "SELECT h.visit_time, i.url FROM history_visits h INNER JOIN history_items i ON h.history_item ="

  • Downloads.plist: Contains the info about the downloaded files.

  • Book-marks.plist: URLs bookmarked.

  • TopSites.plist: List of the most visited websites that the user browses to.

  • Extensions.plist: To retrieve an old-style list of Safari browser extensions.

    • plutil -p ~/Library/Safari/Extensions/Extensions.plist| grep "Bundle Directory Name" | sort --ignore-case

    • pluginkit -mDvvv -p

  • UserNotificationPermissions.plist: Domains that are allowed to push notifications.

    • plutil -p ~/Library/Safari/UserNotificationPermissions.plist | grep -a3 '"Permission" => 1'

  • LastSession.plist: Tabs that were opened the last time the user exited Safari.

    • plutil -p ~/Library/Safari/LastSession.plist | grep -iv sessionstate

  • Browser’s built-in anti-phishing: defaults read WarnAboutFraudulentWebsites

    • The reply should be 1 to indicate the setting is active


The databases can be found in /Users/$USER/Library/Application Support/com.operasoftware.Opera

Opera stores browser history and download data in the exact same format as Google Chrome. This applies to the file names as well as the table names.

  • Browser’s built-in anti-phishing: grep --color 'fraud_protection_enabled' ~/Library/Application Support/com.operasoftware.Opera/Preferences

    • fraud_protection_enabled should be true

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