Digital forensics plays a key role in investigating cybercrime, preventing data breaches, providing evidence in legal cases, protecting intellectual property, and recovering lost data.
Learn more about the importance of digital forensics, how cybersecurity investigations are carried out, and challenges facing digital forensic specialists.
The 4 Types of Digital Forensics
Digital forensics involves the use of specialized techniques and tools to examine digital devices, networks, and storage media to uncover evidence of cybercrime, data breaches and other digital incidents.
There are four main types of digital forensics used to fight cybercrime:
- Computer forensics
- Mobile device forensics
- Network forensics
- Cloud forensics
Also called information technology (IT) forensics, digital forensics is crucial in today’s digital age to help investigators understand the who, what, when, where, and how of cybercrime and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Why Is Digital Forensics Important?
Digital forensics has become a critical tool in investigating and prosecuting cybercrime, providing crucial evidence to help identify and apprehend cybercriminals. This digital proof is often admissible in legal cases and can provide key evidence to support a case.
Aside from the legal and law enforcement field, digital forensics can also help organizations—be it a business, medical facility or educational institution—identify vulnerabilities in their systems and networks that may have been targeted in data breaches. By detecting and addressing these weaknesses, digital forensics can help prevent future data breaches and protect sensitive information.
If an organization’s data is lost, corrupted or stolen, digital forensic specialists may be able to recover the data and further protect intellectual property.
The Role of a Digital Forensic Specialist
A digital forensic specialist is a trained professional who specializes in investigating digital devices, networks, and storage media to uncover evidence of cybercrime, data breaches, and other digital incidents.
A digital forensic specialist:
- Collects and analyzes digital evidence: A digital forensic specialist uses specialized tools and techniques to extract digital evidence from a variety of sources, including computers, mobile devices, and cloud storage. They’ll then analyze the evidence to identify relevant information, such as deleted files, timestamps, and other metadata.
- Conducts investigations: Digital forensic specialists may be called on to conduct investigations into cybercrimes and data breaches. This may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing logs, and other records, and collaborating with law enforcement agencies.
- Providing expert testimony: In some cases, these professionals are called upon to provide expert testimony in court to explain their findings and help jurors understand complex technical concepts.
- Recovers data: They may also be responsible for recovering data that has been lost due to hardware or software failures, malware infections, or other incidents.
Digital forensic professionals use special tools to collect, preserve, analyze, and present electronic evidence in a manner that is admissible in a court of law. These tools may include forensic software and hardware, as well as open-source tools.
The Digital Forensics Process
The digital forensics process involves identifying, preserving, and analyzing digital evidence, as well as documenting and presenting their findings.
In this first step, the digital forensic specialist identifies the digital evidence, the type of data that has been compromised or tampered with, and how or where the data is stored.
This involves securing the digital device, network or storage media that is suspected of containing evidence to ensure that it remains unaltered and tamper-free. Preservation can be done using specialized tools and techniques to take a forensic image of the digital media.
Next, the digital evidence is analyzed to identify information relevant to the incident being investigated. This information may include internet history, emails, chat logs and other documents and images.
After analyzing the digital evidence, investigators reconstruct the events leading up to the incident. This helps them understand the chronology of events and identify the parties involved.
Once the investigation is complete, they report the findings. The report includes a summary of the investigation and recommendations for actions. In some cases, the digital evidence and investigation report may be presented in court or during other legal proceedings.
Challenges in Digital Forensics
Digital forensics is a complex field that presents a number of challenges to specialists.
- Encryption and password protection: With the widespread use of encryption and password protection, accessing digital evidence has become more challenging for investigators. Encryption can prevent investigators from accessing data, even if they have physical access to the device. Password protection can also pose challenges as investigators may need to crack passwords or work around them to access digital evidence.
- Volume of data: Digital evidence can be vast, and analyzing this large volume of data can be a significant challenge. Digital forensic specialists may have to spend a lot of time sifting through data to identify relevant information.
- Rapidly changing technology: Technology is rapidly evolving, and new devices and software are constantly being introduced. This means that investigators must continually update their knowledge and skills to keep up with these changes.
- Data storage formats: Digital data can be stored in a variety of formats, including hard drives, USB drives, cloud storage, and mobile devices. Each of these formats has its own challenges, and specialists must have the appropriate tools and techniques to access and analyze the data.
- Data integrity: Digital data can be easily altered, and ensuring data integrity is critical for digital forensic investigations. Investigators must use techniques to preserve the data’s original state and ensure that it has not been tampered with or altered in any way.
- Legal issues: Digital forensics investigations can raise legal issues, including privacy concerns, chain of custody, and admissibility of evidence in court. Specialists must be familiar with the legal landscape and ensure that their investigations comply with legal requirements.
Just as cybercrimes and data breaches can have immense consequences for organizations, IT forensic specialists also face difficult challenges in their work to investigate these crimes and bring those at fault to justice. Staying up-to-date with the latest technology and techniques is critical.
How Sikich’s Digital Forensic Specialists Can Help
Digital forensics plays a crucial role in investigating, prosecuting and recovering from cybercrime. You need a solid partner who can get to the bottom of an incident and reduce the likelihood of it occurring again.
Sikich experts speak at security and law enforcement conferences across the country. We develop and maintain tools that are widely used in the security community and collaborate with law enforcement professionals and prosecutors.
Whether we investigate a breach of credit card numbers or recover sensitive data, Sikich has the experience to analyze and bring to closure the most complicated forensic cases.