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The What, Why, and How of Digital Forensics in 2018

01/31/2018  |  By: Bill Dean, CCE, GCIH, GCFA, GPEN, Senior Manager

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Digital forensics is a popular topic in the world of information security — largely in part to popular television shows like CSI and movies where sensitive information is stolen and it’s up to the team of investigators to figure it out. However, the value of digital forensics is growing quickly in the real world.

Why is the Digital Forensics Landscape Growing?

As more and more businesses leverage technology, digital forensics has continued to become an increasingly popular topic over the past several years. When most people think of digital forensics, they think about employee theft. And for good reason. According to a recent article from Dark Reading, digital forensics has become a necessity in a world where:

  • 69 percent of enterprise businesses experienced an attempted theft or corruption of data by insiders during the last 12 months.
  • Nearly a third of organizations still have no capability to prevent or deter an insider incident or attack.

But theft and fraud isn’t the only business issue digital forensics is intended to combat. It can also be used to help with employment and commercial disputes, domestic matters, patent/copyright infringement, and incident responses related to data breaches.

How Digital Forensic Investigations Work                                  

While shows like CSI have helped bring digital forensics into the mainstream, the actual process for investigating a case isn’t truly like what you see on television. Most investigations require a much more complicated and thorough process:                                 

Step 1: Preparation and Readiness

Forensic readiness is an important stage in the examination process. The first step in any forensic investigation is to review existing electronically-stored information (ESI) data maps and the locations where sensitive data is stored.             

Step 2: Collection and Identification

After examiners verify the integrity of the data to be analyzed, a plan is developed to extract data and identify any potential ESI sources. For each item that is extracted, forensic investigators must determine what type of item it is and if it is relevant to the forensics request. If it’s not, they simply mark it as processed and move on.

Step 3: Processing and Analysis

In this phase, examiners connect all the dots and paint a complete picture of all the potentially-threatening actions that were identified through the investigation. The analysis must be accurate, thorough, impartial, and recorded to provide proper documentation required by courts or legal entities.

Step 4: Review & Report

This stage usually involves the examiner producing a structured report of their findings. It also includes recommendations for how the business can elevate their incident response plans into proactive incident response programs to prevent future attacks.

In conclusion, digital forensics is a very specialized skill set that requires large amounts of training and experience to be successful in uncovering all related artifacts. Each step of the process requires a meticulous amount of detail. Without the proper experience, information of value could be overlooked or destroyed. If you’re looking for support with a digital forensics analysis, click here to learn how our team of certified forensic analysts can help.

Posted in: Security Consulting