Basics of Digital Forensics

Written by Amber Schroader

January 20, 2020

Your cell phone, laptop, desktop, and every smart device you own hosts a powerhouse of data that can be subject to analysis. When it comes to investigations of crimes, forensic tools make it possible for investigators to retrieve this valuable data from the devices of a crime suspect.

However, every software doesn’t serve the same purpose. That’s why you have a variety of tools designed separately for cell phones and computers, each of which requires the expertise of a trained professional to operate. The training component of digital forensics can be just as important as the tool selection. When getting started in the digital forensics field it is important to pick tools and training that you feel will match the goals of the services you want to provide and the skills and interests you have.

Digital Forensic Tools

Here are a few kinds of computer forensic tools that help computer or mobile-based investigations possible.

  1. Disk Imaging Software

Disk imaging involves the recording of the contents on a hard drive. The best software in this field would be able to record the structure and organization of the content, along with the actual content itself. A close relative is disk cloning, which simply creates an identical copy of the data on the hard disk. When selecting tools for imaging you need to look at both software and hardware or software integrated into hardware. The tools should have verification of the technique to show that it is a read-only bitstream copy or a triage copy that is only partial data has all the required hash verifications.

  1. Hashing Tools

Hashing tools can be a valuable accessory to disk imaging software. It allows you to analyze and compare copies with an original and identify matching content, accuracy, and replicas.

It allows you to examine a given image or piece of content and assign it a unique number. This number then helps you identify other copies that match correctly and exactly with the original. In essence, it serves as a signature generator. Hashing is typically used with all the different tools and methods in digital forensics as the primary method for verification. It has been listed here to ensure that the answer to hashing is addressed when selecting digital forensic tools.

  1. File Recovery

These kinds of tools are extremely important during forensic investigations because they have the ability to uncover lost or purposefully deleted data. Most tools also allow you to create a more comprehensive search for valuable information that though deleted, may not be overwritten.

File recovery tools will vary on their results based on the manufacturer as most tool providers do separate research on their recovery techniques. The file recovery for computer data vs. mobile data is also very different so make sure if you are using a tool that can do both that you confirm the methods that are used.

Understanding the ins and outs of the recovered data is typically found through the training that is received with the tools used and is critical if the investigator plans on taking this data to the court.

  1. Analysis Tools

Analysis tools are particularly helpful when you want to track down very specific information. When it comes to investigations, internet search histories and other web activity become vital to the case. This kind of tool helps track down internet cookies and trace the tracks of a criminal or another suspect in a case.

The analysis component of the tools can range from OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to indexing, searching, and the parsing of the data. There are a lot of features when it comes to forensic analysis that should be evaluated with tool selection. Ensure the data you want to review is supported by the tool you select and that you can easily follow the workflow of that data.

Computer Forensic Tools Need the Right Kind of Training

While computer forensic tools are indispensable to any investigation, you can only get the best out of them with the right kind of training. The tools used are for mobile investigations and computer investigations are different, requiring unique sets of knowledge and skills.

While there are a variety of training options out there the most common are both in-person training as well as online training. The easiest option when exploring the field of digital forensics is to start exploring the online training options. Many of the tool providers also have online courses that are related to their forensic tools or/and related to computer forensics and mobile forensics in general. Once you take an online course you will be able to determine what in-person computer forensics or mobile forensics courses you would most benefit from.

When getting started in the field of computer forensics and mobile forensics be patient. It is important to realize you are still doing an investigation and those skills are something you already have. Now you are just learning different areas or resources for the data you are investigating.

Want more insight? Take a look at a 15-day trial of the Paraben E3 Platform or have a look at our training courses and enroll now into any of our online or hands-on certification courses!

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