What is Digital Forensics?
Understanding digital forensics
and its use cases
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Digital forensics is the process of uncovering and interpreting electronic data from digital devices. Data collected from these devices help identify and preserve evidentiary materials in an organisation’s digital infrastructure.
Digital forensics originated as a tool for data recovery and evolved as a critical capability for law enforcement, and criminal and civil proceedings. It is one of many capabilities employed by advanced incident responders, serving as a critical tool against cybercrime.
How is Digital Forensics Used By Incident Responders?
Acting as watchdogs and first responders against cybercrimes, cybersecurity incident responders provide invaluable support in times of crisis with their proficiency in understanding the mechanics of computer networks and how systems may become compromised. They use digital forensics disciplines to collect, process, preserve, and analyze the digital evidence of a compromised system, looking for footprints and signatures left behind by cybercriminals.
While each case presents its own set of challenges, incident responders are able to identify, compile, and interpret large volumes of electronic data, largely through digital forensic techniques.
Additionally, the use of digital forensics assists in the recovery of lost or stolen data as part of cyber incident response efforts following a breach.
Digital forensic practitioners are skilled in identifying and working to retrieve data that is intentionally hidden, password-protected or encrypted while ensuring that data is not damaged or altered during the examination. Concepts such as Rules of Evidence, Chain of Custody, and Data Integrity (to name a few) are commonly used by professional digital forensic practitioners.
"Digital forensic practitioners are skilled in identifying and working to retrieve data that is intentionally hidden, password-protected or encrypted"
Is digital forensics reliable?
Digital forensics is a discipline that provides decision-makers with factual and reliable evidence of digital traces on any device under investigation. It is a collection of techniques that have been used in civil, corporate, law enforcement, and military applications globally.
Practitioners should be highly trained and experienced. Digital forensic practitioners must be able to attest that steps taken during the digital forensic investigation adhere to one or more regulatory frameworks and have produced the most reliable evidence given the available data, making it admissible in a court of law. Digital forensic practitioners that have their evidence examined in court are ultimately accepted as subject matter experts in certain jurisdictions.
However, investigative results and human interpretations depend on transparent access to client information as well as the proper use of specialist tools and applications designed to interpret and generate digital data. Tools may be used improperly by untrained responders, leading to faulty investigative conclusions. Where client data is limited (whether by lack of pre-breach preparation or unwillingness to disclose), investigative results may also be limited.
Critical to improving the reliability of investigative results depends on sufficient pre-breach incident response planning, including security event monitoring and logging, as well as ensuring your incident response team uses high-quality tools in which they are both properly trained and experienced.
Digital Forensics and the Corporate World
Cyber threats are no longer solely external. The rise of phishing emails, inadvertent data leaks, and malicious insider threats remains a top concern of IT leaders across the globe, accentuating the need for accurate and efficient digital forensic investigations supported by a comprehensive cyber incident response plan.
The protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is another aspect of business that requires vigilance as it includes financial and legal repercussions, often requiring highly valuable digital forensic evidence in a court of law.
As more companies turn to digital forensics experts to investigate their digital infrastructure following a breach or compromise, valuable insights into the company’s digital vulnerabilities, both as they pertain to outside threats and security weaknesses within the business, are usually identified, which can then be acted upon to secure the enterprise.
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