Technology advancements have led to over half of the world’s population relying on computers and other devices in their day-to-day life, from managing finances to international communication. Unfortunately, technology has evolved into a double edge sword, initiating a new platform for crime: cybercrime. Digital cyber criminals can be quite hard to incriminate without sufficient evidence.
Cyber forensics analysts work in a large variety of areas, including government organizations such as federal and local law enforcement institutions. Their primary role is to retrieve hidden, erased, and destroyed data from computers, mobile phones, laptops, USBs, and other storage and computing devices. This data, after being analyzed and restored to its original state, is then used in legal proceedings as digital evidence in criminal investigations or is used by government officials for national security purposes.
The role of a cyber forensics analyst is important in ensuring the safety of the public and forensics is not an easy field. It requires high amounts of skill and the application of advanced techniques. Like any law enforcement investigation, cyber forensic analysts must follow certain procedures to ensure that best practices are followed. Take a look at some of the steps involved in conducting a cyber forensics investigation:
1. Establishing a Policy
Digital evidence can be highly sensitive and must be handled with extreme care. In order ensure no evidence is lost, policies must be structured in a way that ensures safe retrieval of digital evidence. This includes preparing systems prior to the retrieval of evidence, the storage of evidence acquired, documentation of activities, assessing the case at hand, obtaining warrants and authorization, etc.
2. Assessing Potential Evidence
It is important that the cyber forensics analyst first gain a clear understanding about the details of the case and classify the cybercrime at hand. This means assessing what type of evidence must be sought out before attempting to retrieve the evidence. For example, if a digital forensics investigator is on the lookout for evidence that will prove the crime of identity theft, they will have to scrutinize hard drives, social networking platforms, and email accounts searching for incriminating evidence.
3. Gathering Digital Evidence
Retrieving digital evidence requires not just the technical skills but also a detailed plan. File recovery, data acquisition, password cracking, steganography, and log capturing are few techniques applied to retrieve hidden or lost data on a system. There are also a wide variety of tools that are normally used during the process to avoid damaging files.
4. Examining Evidence
In order to examine evidence, cyber forensic investigators must place the gathered evidence in an appropriate database. This evidence is then examined to find specific file types, keywords, encrypted files, and much more. Analyzing files names can be helpful with understanding when and where specific files were created or downloaded, allowing the digital forensic investigator to connect files to online data.
5. Documenting and Reporting the Findings
Documentation is one of the most critical aspects of cyber forensics. Methods used to retrieve evidence and systems assessed (including hardware and software specifications) as well as recording every aspect of the investigation is imperative. This documentation can then be presented in the court of law as digital evidence. Failure to accurately document the process can lead to the compromise of the case itself.
Learn More About Cyber Forensics
EC-Council University has a unique Master of Science in Cyber Security degree program that includes five specializations! The Master of Science in Cyber Security – Digital Forensics Specializations that delivers extensive classes on cyber forensics, investigation, and response, and includes the chance to attain the Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (C|HFI) credential.