A digital forensics expert at Sam Houston State University in Texas is developing a utility for the Xbox 360 to help police find illegal audio, video and text files hidden on its hard drive.

Davids Collins believes that criminals often hide illicit data on the Xbox in the hope that a gaming console will not be seen as a likely evidence target, especially when conventional personal computers are present.

Collins's toolkit will allow police and other investigators the chance to lay bare the contents of XBox hard discs, as they search for child pornography or evidence of computer fraud.

FAT chance of escaping

Collins's utility allows the user to explore the Xbox 360's directory structure in detail. Collins points out that unlike the standard FAT32, NTFS, and similar systems used by the hard drives in personal computers, there is little documentation on Microsoft's proprietary FATX system.

"Once the Xbox file system is mounted, the analyst can browse the directory tree, list its contents, open and view files, and expand subdirectories and files," explains Collins.

Importantly from the legal perspective, XFT can also record investigative sessions for playback in a court of law.

Collins explains how future work on XFT will involve making the toolkit into a fully functional forensic operating system (OS). This OS will be packaged as both a bootable operating system from a hard disk and a live bootable disc.