23 Years of Innovations from Small Business

Written by Amber Schroader

Starting 24 years of being a small business in the digital forensic investigations space is a rare activity. With many transitions happening with the different technology providers being sold, going public, or just disappearing it is rare to experience this many years standing strong. So, on this anniversary I wanted to take a moment to talk about what it means to be a small business in a specialized space. 

When you think about digital forensics investigations you think of massive efforts that involve hundreds of people. What you might not realize is that this is rarely the case. Many times, a larger-scale investigation will be a smaller team with amazing minds solving the problem. The investigator side of digital forensics is quite small with fewer people than in many similar industries. The ability to accomplish so much with fewer people is primarily driven by the technological innovations that exist in the space.  The customized tools in digital forensics can in some way give superhero-level powers to a single investigator with many of the deep-dive functions required for the job being done through a machine. This is where it all starts with small businesses. Many of the tools and technology in the space started in smaller companies with just a few people that understood the issues and decided to tackle them. Companies emerged to solve problems like case management, drive duplication, and password breaking. Each with its own approach and technique to help the investigator in their case.

This combination of people and machines is unique to the space as they are required to be brought together to accomplish the end goal of an investigation. I have always been a firm believer that you cannot do a digital investigation with just machines. You need the mind of the investigator to guide the search for data. With that in mind all the innovative technology developed in the space impact the speed, performance, and quality of the results.

As a small business Paraben started in 1999 with the idea of using technology to enhance the skills of a person. We started making tools for simple tasks like resume creation, flow charts, etc. In 2001 PDA devices were becoming popular and an idea sparked about doing forensics on them. Other companies felt it was a fad and not going to stay so Paraben proceeded to make the first commercial tool to do mobile forensics with PDA Seizure. Innovations continued in Paraben while we looked at other issues such as processing network mail storage, IoT devices, and even gaming systems. Larger companies came into the field to adapt their technologies to digital investigations with their eventual push to the top of the space. However, the innovation cycle that has made digital forensic investigations such a unique space still was held strong with the smaller businesses with many other firsts in this discipline. 


Small businesses can pivot and not be constrained by some of the limitations that come from a larger business that is forced to focus on the shareholder more than the problem. Many organizations only look at larger companies for outfitting their teams. However, it is with the smaller businesses that innovation still lives strong. The field in general is of the highest-cost research areas in all the technology with the need to truly understand the data to be able to investigate it. Larger organizations might have more people to toss at the problem, but it doesn’t mean they are always the companies to catch the answer. In 2001 the idea, research, and innovation came from a small perspective with a  PDF that grew into the largest discipline of digital forensics today with smartphone forensics.  As I start 24 years of supporting the field of digital forensic investigations, I remind myself and others that innovation is not about size it is about ideas, dedication, and innovation. Consider supporting the many small businesses that make up the technology innovations that are in digital forensics.

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