What is digital forensics?
Working in the field of digital forensics has always been “fun.” This is unsurprising, given the increase in public interest inspired by novelists and filmmakers who have made the worlds of digital crime and digital forensics both fascinating and fashionable. The reality, however, is that the digital forensics profession is significantly more disciplined than the media portrays.
Digital forensics is the use of investigation and analytical techniques to collect and preserve evidence from specific computing equipment in a way to present in court. Digital forensics’ purpose is to conduct a structured investigation and maintain a recorded chain of evidence to determine exactly what happened on a computing device and who was accountable.
Types of Digital Forensics
Digital forensics examinations come in a variety of kinds. Each one focuses on a different component of information technology. The following are some of the most common types:
- Database forensics. The examination of information contained in databases, both data and related metadata.
- Email forensics. The recovery and analysis of emails and other information contained in email platforms, such as schedules and contacts.
- Malware forensics. Sifting through code in search of harmful programmes and examining their payload. Trojan horses, ransomware, and different viruses are examples of such programmes.
- Memory forensics. Collecting information stored in a computer’s random access memory (RAM) and cache.
- Mobile forensics. The examination of mobile devices in order to retrieve and analyse information such as contacts, incoming and outgoing text messages, photos, and video files.
- Network forensics. Looking for evidence by monitoring network traffic, using tools such as a firewall or intrusion detection system.
Why is digital forensics important?
Civil and criminal judicial systems use Digital Forensics. To ensure the integrity of digital evidence presented in court cases. Digital evidence and the forensic method used to collect, preserve, and investigate it. It became useful in solving crimes and other legal concerns as we use Computers and data-gathering devices in everyday life.
An average Indian has never seen the data collected by modern devices. In addition, computers in cars continuously collect data on whether a driver uses brakes, switches, or changes speed without the driver’s knowledge. On the other hand, this information can be important in solving a legal issue or a crime, and computer forensics is frequently used to find and preserve it.
Data theft, network breaches, and illicit internet transactions are just some of the crimes that can be solved with digital evidence. We can also investigate physical crimes with Digital Forensics.
To keep proprietary information secure, businesses frequently employ a multilayered data management, data governance, and network security strategy. If the data is well-managed and secure forensic investigation might speed up.
How does Digital Forensics work?
Forensic investigators often follow standard protocols, which vary depending on the forensic inquiry’s context, the equipment under analysis, and the information sought. The following three steps include in most of these procedures:
Information that is saved electronically must be collected in a secure manner. This usually entails physically isolating the device under inspection. So it can’t get tampered with by accident. Examiners create a digital replica of the device’s storage media, often known as a forensic image, and then store the original device in a safe or other secure location to preserve its pristine condition. The investigation is conducted on the digital copy. In other circumstances, publicly available information, such as Facebook posts or public Venmo charges for purchasing illegal products or services listed on the Vicemo website, may be used for forensic purposes.
To obtain information for a case, investigators examine digital copies of storage media in a sterile environment. The Wireshark network protocol analyzer and Basis Technology’s Autopsy for hard disc investigations are among the tools used to aid in this procedure. When analyzing a computer, a mouse jiggler is useful for preventing it from going asleep and losing volatile memory data is lost when the computer goes to sleep or loses power.
In a legal procedure, forensic investigators present their findings to a judge or jury, who uses them to assist determine the outcome of a lawsuit. Forensic investigators present what they were able to retrieve from a compromised system in a data recovery case.
Techniques forensic investigators use
To investigate the replica of a compromised device that investigators made, they use a number of approaches and specialized forensic software. They look for copies of deleted, encrypted, or damaged files in hidden folders and unallocated drive space. In preparation for legal processes involving discovery, depositions, or actual litigation, any evidence found on the digital copy is meticulously documented in a finding report and cross-checked with the original device.
Computer forensic investigations use a combination of techniques and expert knowledge. Some common techniques include the following:
- Reverse steganography. Steganography is a technique for concealing data in any digital file, message, or data stream. By evaluating the data hashes contained in the file in issue, computer forensic professionals can undo a steganography attempt. To the untrained eye, a picture or other digital file may appear the same before and after a cybercriminal hides critical information inside it, but the underlying hash or string of data that encodes the image will change.
- Stochastic forensics. Investigators analyse and recreate digital activity without the use of digital artefacts. Artifacts are unexpected data changes that occur as a result of digital processes. Changes to file properties during data theft are examples of artifact associated to a digital crime. In data breach investigations where the attacker is suspected to be an insider who may not leave behind digital evidence, stochastic forensics is routinely used.
- Cross-drive analysis. This method searches for, analyses, and records data crucial to an investigation by comparing and cross-referencing data from numerous computer drives. Suspicious events are compared to data from other drives to see if there are any similarities and to provide context. Anomaly detection is another name for this.
- Live analysis. Using system tools on the computer, a computer is analysed from within the operating system while the computer or device is running. The investigation focuses on volatile data, which is frequently saved in cache or RAM. To maintain the credibility of a chain of evidence, several tools used to extract volatile data require the computer to be in a forensic lab.
- Deleted file recovery. This process involves examining a computer’s memory and hard drive for pieces of files that were partially erased in one location but left traces elsewhere on the machine. This is also known as data carving or file carving.
Digital forensics careers and certifications
Digital forensics has grown into its own course of research, complete with curriculum and certification. According to Salary.com, the mean annual income for an entry-level computer forensic analyst is around $65,000. The following are some examples of cyber forensic career paths:
- Forensic engineer. These professionals deal with the collection stage of the computer forensic process, gathering data and preparing it for analysis. They help determine how a device failed.
- Forensic accountant. This position deals with crimes involving money laundering and other transactions made to cover up illegal activity.
- Cybersecurity analyst. This role is responsible for assessing data after it has been collected and providing conclusions that can be used to improve a company’s cybersecurity strategy.