Computer Forensics



Computer Forensics- Two of the most often asked questions about hacking attempts and data breaches are answered using computer forensics:

  • How did the attack happen?
  • Is there a chance that this may happen again, and how can such dangers be avoided in the future?

There are no particular answers to these questions because the severity or rather the complexity of the cyber-attack determines the level of severity. It can take weeks or even months to figure out how the attack transpired and whether it can happen again in the future. Several penetration tests must be conducted in a methodical manner for an in-depth examination of the source of the threat.

Several lines of protection must be implemented in this regard in order to fully test the underpinning defence mechanism. A tech expert performs this to find any hidden flaws in a system. To detect the threat, appropriate lines of code must be utilised. This is when forensic science comes into play. The investigation could begin by looking for any evidence left behind by the assailant. Any evidence or relics of the cyber-attack should be gathered and thoroughly scrutinised for any leads. The forensic examiners and investigators can now answer questions like “who instigated the attack?” based on the evidence. What triggers the attack? What was the source of the threat? When did the attack begin? “And why was the system attacked?” you might wonder.

As we progress through the research, it’s important to remember that the field of computer forensics as it pertains to information technology is extensive. It encompasses a wide range of minor skills. Database forensics, digital forensics, logical access forensics, and mobile forensics are just a handful of the sub-specialties available.

We focus on what computer forensics is all about, what drives the need for computer forensics, procedures on how to do detailed forensics, and other elements that include computer forensics in this post.

The Need for Computer Forensics 

With the development of the internet, digital life, and computer systems, the world has become a global village. Because these technologies are so fundamental to everything we do, life might seem impossible without them. Electric devices such as flash drives, the internet, computers, and other techniques can be used to store and transfer information and other useful data. The evolution of forensic techniques, processes, investigators, and instruments has been aided by the diverse diversity and growth of information storage and transport capabilities.

We have recently seen and observed a significant increase in the number of crimes involving computer use. Malicious hackers attack governments, huge corporations, small businesses, and people with the goal of stealing any valuable information they can get their hands on. In the majority of cases, the attack results in significant financial loss. As a result, computer forensics and digital investigations have fused to form a legitimate channel for identifying, collecting, examining, analysing, and mitigating or reporting computer crimes.

What is the definition of computer forensics?

Computer forensics is a mixture of two terms: forensics, which refers to the scientific techniques or tests used to detect a cyber-threat, and computer, which refers to the data or information transmission medium. Some scholars have described forensics as the process of using scientific procedures and skills to identify, examine, gather, and report cyber-crime to the court in previous studies. “A methodical series of techniques and procedures for gathering evidence, from computing equipment and other storage devices and digital media, that may be represented in a court of law in a cohesive and intelligible fashion,” according to Dr. H. B Wolfe. According to Wolf’s definition, forensics is a process that involves the analysis and presentation of data collected. All sorts of data that can be utilised as evidence, on the other hand, are crucial.



The following is a formal definition of computer forensics:

“It’s a discipline that combines parts of law with computer science to collect and analyse data from computer systems, networks, wireless communications, and storage devices in a way that may be used in a court of law.”

Motivations behind an attack

What data should you seek as an investigator?

After a cyber-attack, gathering all relevant information is critical to responding effectively to the concerns posed above. A forensic examiner or investigator is primarily concerned with “latent data,” which is a specific piece of evidence.

Ambient data is another name for latent data. Ambient data is a sort of data that is not immediately accessible or visible at first look at the scene of a cyber-attack in the cybersecurity arena. To put it another way, accessing latent data as critical evidence necessitates going the extra mile from a security professional. To uncover this type of information, an expert must conduct far more in-depth research. Ambient data has various applications and is just as significant as other forms of data, except that it is implemented in such a way that access to it is limited.

Examples of ambient data include the following;

  • Information that isn’t easily accessible through typical software programmes
  • Information or data that the current operating system is unable to read.
  • Information that is stored on a computer but is not easily accessible in the file allocation tables
  • Data that was previously deleted and is now stored in:

Replace the files.

dumps of memory

On the hard disc, there are a lot of empty folders.

spooler files to print



Between the existing files and the temporary cache, there is some slack space.

Importance of computer forensics 

In-depth forensics is critical for every organisation or enterprise. For example, there is a common misunderstanding that deploying defences such as routers, firewalls, and antivirus software is sufficient and dependable enough to repel any cyber-attack. With today’s highly adaptable technology and rapid improvements, a security expert should be aware that simply installing firewalls as a defence line will not prevent hackers from gaining access to their system.

The assumption is false from the standpoint of computer forensics, because measures like firewalls only provide a sliver of the information required in the event of an attack. These specialist pieces of software can only supply limited information. Such a system lacks the deeper layer of data needed to provide hints as to what occurred. In order to obtain these exact facts, an organisation must use security methods in addition to the technologies stated above. “Defense in Depth” is the term for deploying this type of security model.

In systems that use the defence in depth paradigm, the data given in the event of an attack has a better chance of being easily acceptable in a court of law. The perpetrators of the attack can then be brought to justice.

Also, by adopting the ideas of a defence in depth, a business or corporation can meet regulatory obligations such as HIPPA. Every sort of data must be maintained and archived appropriately for audits, according to federal laws and legislation. Failure to meet the compliance standards put in place might result in significant financial penalties.

Computer Forensics Process

Maintaining a chain of custody of the evidence and latent data throughout the inquiry is critical while doing forensics. As a result, keep in mind that the techniques listed below are merely suggestions for conducting computer forensics in the event of an attack. Depending on the nature of the danger, the particular sequence of tasks may differ. Because each cyber-attack is different, it is recommended to use a dynamic forensic technique.

The five major categories of work procedure are as follows:

Steps in Computer Forensics

Identification

Understanding and identifying the scenario is the first step in computer forensics. This is where the investigator explains why forensic analysis is being performed. In addition, the investigator determines the nature of the occurrence, the individuals involved, and the resources required to meet the case’s requirements.

Collection

Because the entire analysis is based on the collected data as evidence from the crime scene, data collection is the most important phase in this chain of custody. Data collection is described as the process of acquiring data while retaining the data’s transparency or integrity.

The integrity and confidentiality of the data obtained are dependent on the collecting process being completed on time. This is because vital information, such as latent data, can be lost if not acted upon quickly.

Evidence

The obtained data is evaluated in this third step using established approaches, methodologies, tools, and procedures to extract relevant information about the case.

Analysis

Because all five processes are interconnected, analysis is the step in which the inspected data is analysed. The investigator’s job is to find any evidence that can be used against the suspect. Because it aids in the creation and presentation of the report to a court of law, the procedures and tools should be legally justifiable.

Reporting

This is the last and possibly most important stage. The investigator is supposed to document the data collection, examination, and analysis procedure in a logical manner. It also includes the methods used to pick the instruments and procedures. The major goal of this stage is to report and convey the evidence-based findings.

The five phases above can be broken down into smaller chunks, with each subcategory having its own set of standard operating procedures.

Computer Forensics Team

The Forensics Team is supposed to follow a specific format while documenting their findings. It is required that the contents of their documents be saved, validated, and properly documented. Every investigation requires an in-depth understanding of the forensic team. This should be done directly at the start of the project, and it should cut across the scope, dimensions, and numerous inquiry methodologies. The procedures utilised should be lawful and legal, such as obtaining and collecting proper bit-stream “hash encrypted” copies of evidence in a legal manner. To minimise unexpected consequences from technology, the linear form of investigation should be focused primarily on proper documentation and concrete supporting evidence.

Aside from law enforcement and security firms, every corporation should have internal competence to tackle basic issues and investigations. If forming a competent investigative team within the corporation is not possible, you can employ professionals from small computer investigation firms to assist with the inquiry. In order to provide computer forensic services, a corporation might also establish its own investigation firm. To accomplish so, you’ll need the help of the folks listed below as members of your investigative team.

Investigators

This is a team of people who work together to solve the case. The size or number is entirely dependent on the company’s size. They are tasked with employing procedures and employing relevant techniques in order to uncover tangible proof against the accused burglar. They can collaborate with law enforcement agencies since they are expected to respond quickly to suspicious conduct that could lead to an assault.

Photographer

He or she is essential for documenting occurrences as they occur during the investigation. It is their responsibility to take images.

First responders or incident handlers

Event handlers’ primary responsibility is to monitor and respond to any computer security incident. They look for harmful behaviours such as network policy violations, server hijacking, RATs, malicious code installation, and code injection.



IT engineers and technicians

This group is in charge of the company’s day-to-day operations. To administer the forensics lab, they are technicians and engineers. IT support, desktop support personnel, network administrators, and security engineers should all be included.

The major responsibilities of this group are to ensure that organisational functions run smoothly, to keep required backups, to solve any problems, and to continuously monitor the system.

Attorney

The purpose of conducting investigations is to document and, eventually, submit the matter to a court of law, meaning that having an attorney on your team is a must.

The rules of computer forensics

The following is a list of some of the rules to remember when conducting an investigation.

Rule out any prospect of looking into the initial evidence

To limit the possibilities of the original being examined, make numerous exact copies of the evidence that was initially collected. Make duplicates; this is the first and most basic of all the rules, and it should be prioritised before proceeding with any additional research. To ensure the integrity of the outcome, make precise duplicates of the original.

Only go ahead if you know what you’re doing

Only proceed if you can understand the solution based on your expertise or experience if you run into a barrier while conducting inquiries. You can seek advice from other knowledgeable individuals to aid you with that particular problem. This is to keep data safe from harm. Take the assignment as an opportunity to learn and improve your level of skill rather than a struggle.

Adhere to evidence’s bounds and guidelines

For the presented facts to be admissible as evidence in court, the rule of evidence must be followed.

Create a document

Keep track of the conduct and any changes to the evidence. With the evidence, an investigator is expected to document the result, nature, and reasons for the transformation. For example, rebooting a machine may cause changes to its temporary files, which an investigator should be aware of.

Follow the rules of the law

Obtain formal consent on the contents and extent of your investigation prior to beginning any investigation activities. Several duplicates and copies must be generated during the inquiry, and this would be considered a breach of IT security policy if done without official or legally documented authority.

Get ready to testify

The evidence is taken to court after the documentation is completed. In order to avoid losing the case, you need prepare to testify in court.

Follow a tracable path

You should be able to trace your method. Avoid relying on trial and error. Methods based on trial and error are ineffective. Make a point of writing down each step and being consistent with your actions.

Be productive

Be as efficient as possible when it comes to preventing data loss. Some data, such as latent data, is extremely volatile and can vanish quickly if not acquired in a timely manner. Artificial intelligence can help speed up the process without putting you in a rush. The human workforce should be expanded as needed. As a general guideline, start with volatile data while gathering proof.

Do not give up before gathering evidence

Without data to utilise as evidence, investigations cannot move forward. As a result, you should not turn off the computer before gathering all of the evidence. Additionally, shutting down or rebooting the machine causes the loss of sensitive data, therefore avoid it at all costs.

On the attacked system, there are no operating apps

Running a different programme may cause the system to launch another programme or activity, resulting in uncontrollable results.

Different types of evidence

The primary source of support for a claim in court is evidence. Many different qualities can be used to classify it. A look at some of the four basic categories of evidence is provided here.

Real/tangible evidence: As the term implies, real evidence is made up of tangible/physical substance, such as a hard drive, flash drive, or other similar device. A human, such as an eye witness, could be genuine proof in addition to the material.

Original evidence: This is when a statement made by someone other than the testifying witness is used as evidence. It’s being supplied to show that the comment was made, not to prove that it’s true. This is usually an off-the-cuff remark.

Out-of-court statement evidence: This is also known as hearsay evidence. It is created in a courtroom to establish the truth of a statement.

Testimony: When a witness is sworn in front of a judge and gives his or her account. Evidence must be admissible, accurate, and authentic; otherwise, it will be called into question during the presentation of the case in court.

Conclusion

This is the end of the mini-course, but knowledge and skills are far from over. With the passage of time, technology evolves at a breakneck pace. As there are multiple storage media available, it is the responsibility of an individual, organisation, or institution to learn about them so that they can explore when needed. Maintain the highest level of honesty possible while doing forensics because it is critical to the success of the investigations.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.