In criminal and civil cases, computer forensics experts play a pivotal role in extracting evidence fro computers or other digital storage devices. It requires years of experience and education to make sure that the data is extracted and preserved in accordance with the precise methodologies to verify any criminal or illegal activity.
Types of Forensic Activities
Computer forensic services involve multiple activities that enable collection and preservation of digital evidence:
- Investigation of crime scene to gather and analyze any source of digital data available at the scene.
- Tracing corporate network breaches and locating their root cause.
- Any erased or damaged storage media is worked upon to recover or rebuild evidence.
- Collecting evidence for personal matter like infidelity or professional ones like company policy violation.
- Creating an investigative report on any evidences gathered.
- Collaborating with law enforcement agencies or attorneys
Forensic engineers also educate organizations on how to preserve evidence of any inappropriate activities and the best practices for data protection.
Steps in computer forensics investigations
The computer forensics engineers are required to be aware of the sensitivity of the data to be investigated. To ensure data preservation and evidence collection that relevantly stands up in court they are required to follow a strict protocol of activities.
This step determines the most appropriate approach to take in recognizing the evidence that is to be collected and preserved by collecting the details of the incident to be investigated.
The description of all specifications of the system to be assessed is created including the OS, installed software, physical location, storage devices, network configuration, amount of RAM and any peripheral devices.
There is a chain of custody that is established over all data sources like network connections, storage, RAM, running process profiles, ARP cache plus open files or any other programs. System resident programs are replaced with trusted programs to collect data.
Timeline and Artifact Reconstruction
To determine file access and modification activity, this step analyzes the file systems. A detailed record of data artifacts is then created and actions are performed on them in the desired order. Information volume is reduced using sophisticated tools and a picture of programs executed, files opened or modifies and of any browsing activity or use of external storage is reconstructed.
Raw Image Reconstruction
Byte signatures, also called String searches or “magic cookies” are applied to identify the form of raw data image so as to reconstruct them in executable code or images.
Additional data that is hidden, corrupted, deleted or encrypted is recovered at this step. Advanced software tools are used to accomplish these tasks.
A detailed report of the analysis is created by the expert, which describe the analyses performed, and the result. A factual, logical and scientific approach that may be replicated is displayed in the report. It may also suggest any further investigative steps as may be necessary.
Additional Skills of Top Notch Forensics Engineers
Beside the discipline needed to conduct investigation with accuracy and the engineering qualification, the forensic engineers also require creativity and flexibility due to varied nature of the cases. Challenges such as anti-forensic software or broken components may pose unforeseen problems in their investigation.
As they are often required to work with law enforcement team and also be called upon for testimony in court, they possess recommendable interpersonal and communication skills.
As challenging as it gets, the work of computer forensic engineers is also rewarding. They own the satisfaction of being crucial to successful resolution of criminal, civil, business or personal matters alike.