What Is Digital Forensics? How Cyber Investigators Work

Data forensics is a subset of digital forensics that examines structured data related to financial crime incidents. In addition, criminal investigations may be limited by national laws that dictate the scope of information that can be seized. For example, the seizure of evidence by law enforcement agencies is governed by the PACE Act in the United Kingdom. The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 prohibits unauthorized access to computer materials, making it difficult for civilian investigators in the United Kingdom.

Digital forensics can also include providing evidence to support litigation or documentation for submission to auditors. Tools and procedures have been developed and documented, and training and accreditation have been required, giving digital forensics teams the confidence that their investigations can withstand the rigors of cross-examination in court. In an enterprise setting, digital forensics could be used as part of the incident response protocol security incident response handling to determine exactly what happened and what or who was responsible, either for law enforcement or simply for internal knowledge. In many cases, digital forensics investigators have a background in computer science that can help them develop the skills necessary to understand how virtual networks work and how they work together. Perhaps most importantly, they know what vulnerabilities exist in these systems and how they can be attacked.

With this knowledge, digital forensics experts seek to recover deleted data, analyze recovered data, and conduct a full forensic examination of all computers, databases, and systems. This information is collected and used to reconstruct what actually happened, and then communicated to the parties involved. In civil or criminal cases that are tried in court, digital forensic experts are often called in to provide expert testimony. Digital forensics is a branch of forensic science that deals with digital devices and cybercrime. Through a process of identifying, securing, analyzing, and documenting digital evidence, forensic investigators recover and examine information to help convict criminals.

The analysis is performed using a methodical approach to review factual information in civil or criminal cases. The process is based on strict adherence to ACPO guidelines to ensure data integrity in order to be admissible in court. CYFOR’s Head of Investigations explains this specialized digital forensic technique that can provide important digital evidence in criminal and civil investigations. In 2018, UAlbany’s Computer Forensics class achieved a 100% job placement rate within 6 months of graduation. This degree also prepares you for further study in a master’s or doctoral program in digital forensics, cybersecurity, and related fields.

The CHFI certification strengthens the application skills of law enforcement, security officers, network administrators, lawyers, and anyone concerned with the integrity of network infrastructure. EC-Council’s CHFI is a comprehensive, vendor-neutral program that equips professionals with the digital forensics skills they need. Consult with Fortune 500 companies or government and law enforcement agencies in the areas of forensics, cyber risk, regulatory compliance and criminal investigations, as well as cyber intelligence and systems defense related to cyber attacks. Our DFIR experts help organizations improve their digital forensics and incident response operations by standardizing and streamlining the process. We also analyze an organization’s existing plans and capabilities, then work with your team to develop “playbooks” of standard operating procedures to guide your activities during incident response.

Organizations also use computer forensics to track down information about the compromise of a system or network that can be used to identify and track cyber attackers. Companies can also turn to digital forensics experts and procedures to help recover data in the event of a system or network failure caused by a natural or other disaster. As a result, digital forensics is critical to both solving crimes and convicting criminals. The field of digital forensics has expanded to include network forensics and includes areas of expertise such as the investigation of network security breaches, hacking attempts, and data theft. Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights imposes similar privacy restrictions as the ECPA, limiting the processing and exchange of personal data both within the EU and with third countries. Law enforcement agencies to conduct digital forensic investigations is governed by statute through the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

In civil litigation or corporate matters, digital forensic investigation is part of the e-discovery process. Forensic procedures are similar to those used in criminal investigations, although different legal requirements and limitations often apply. Outside of the courts, digital forensics can be part of internal corporate investigations. In the 1980s, there were very few specialized tools for digital forensics, so investigators often performed live analysis of disks by examining computers from the operating system and using existing system management tools to obtain evidence. This practice risks inadvertently or otherwise altering the data on the disk, which can lead to lawsuits for tampering with evidence. Since 2000, several boards and agencies have issued guidelines for digital forensics in response to the need for standardization.

Using data collected from electronic devices, digital forensics investigators can prevent hackers and other cybercriminals from compromising an organization’s digital infrastructure. They can also help recover lost or stolen data, find out where a particular attack came from and trace it back to its source, and help create a detailed investigative report that can fix any crime. When a cyberattack has occurred, digital artifacts and evidence must be secured immediately so that an effective investigation can take place.