Forensics in Qubes OS

Sometimes it may be necessary to forensically investigate a Qubes OS VM. This guide describes how this can be accomplished. It is intended for advanced users.

For forensics of Qubes OS dom0 please refer to any standard Linux forensics guide.

Disk Forensics

You can mount disks of all VMs to another investigation VM in both r/w and r/o fashion and use your favorite forensic analysis tools.

Users of non-LVM storage pools may refer to this code.

Memory Forensics

The following guide uses volatility3 for memory forensics on a previously created memory dump. Other tools may work as well.

The VM under analysis is called vm. The VM where the memory dump is analyzed is called analysis-vm.

(dom0) Use template VM kernels

Since Qubes OS currently does not provide kernel debug symbols for its default kernels, you will have to switch to VM template kernels at least for the VM under analysis and the analysis VM. Without this step, the analysis tool (here volatility3) will be unable to interpret the memory dump.

Please follow the official guide on how to use a kernel installed inside a VM. The required package for pvh VMs is called grub2-xen-pvh.

(dom0) Pause the VM under analysis

qvm-pause vm

You can later unpause it via qvm-unpause vm. Skipping this step may cause memory smear and render the memory dump useless.

(dom0) Dump the memory

virsh -c xen:// dump vm vm.dump --live
sudo chown [user]:[user] vm.dump

(dom0) Create the analysis-vm

qvm-clone --class StandaloneVM debian-11 analysis-vm
qvm-prefs analysis-vm label red
qvm-prefs analysis-vm netvm sys-firewall
qubes-vm-settings analysis-vm (make sure you have at least 7 GB free system storage and enough private storage to fit your memory dump)
qvm-copy-to-vm analysis-vm vm.dump

(analysis-vm) Install volatility3

Follow the install instructions inside the

As of 2023 the volatility3 support for Xen memory dumps is limited. Your mileage may vary.

(analysis-vm) Create a volatility binary for convenience

sudo su
echo '#!/bin/bash'$'\n''python3 "[path to]/" "$@"' > /usr/bin/volatility
chmod +x /usr/bin/volatility

(analysis-vm) Build and install dwarf2json

You may have to install golang first (debian: sudo apt install golang).

cd ~
git clone ''
cd dwarf2json
go build

(analysis-vm) Generate the symbol tables for volatility3

On debian use sudo apt install linux-image-amd64-dbg to install the version matching the kernel version of the VM under analysis.

Afterwards generate the symbol table lookups for volatility3 via dwarf2json:

./dwarf2json linux --elf /usr/lib/debug/boot/vmlinux-[kernel version]-amd64 --system-map /usr/lib/debug/boot/[kernel version]-amd64 > [volatility path]/volatility3/symbols/[kernel version]-amd64.json

(analysis-vm) Analyze the memory dump

cd ~
mv ~/QubesIncoming/dom0/vm.dump ~
volatility isfinfo (should show the symbol file)
volatility -f vm.dump banner
volatility -f vm.dump linux.pslist

This document was migrated from the qubes-community project
  • Page archive
  • First commit: 13 Jan 2023. Last commit: 13 Jan 2023.
  • Applicable Qubes OS releases based on commit dates and supported releases: 4.1
  • Original author(s) (GitHub usernames): 3hhh
  • Original author(s) (forum usernames): N/A
  • Document license: CC BY 4.0