It is a known fact that the computer is a reliable witness that cannot lie. Furthermore, there are many unfiltered accounts of a suspect’s activity that can be recorded in his or her direct action or word. This is why Windows forensics is used for identifying all the hidden details left after or during an incident. Furthermore, data forensics techniques can be used to search, preserve, and analyze information on computer systems to discover potential evidence for a trial.
Windows forensic analysis plays an important role in both law enforcement investigations and corporate cybersecurity. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about Windows forensics for beginners if you want to kickstart your career in data forensics.
What Is Computer Forensics?
Computer forensics is also known as digital forensics or cyber forensics, and it involves the investigation of digital data collected as evidence in criminal cases. Most law enforcement agencies and private firms can fight cybercrime by using Windows forensics tools to track, discover, and extract the digital information needed for a criminal investigation.
Most computer forensics specialists look for hard drives to find deleted or hidden files through file recovery programs and encryption decoding software. Furthermore, they can also gather crucial information from databases, network servers, tablets, smartphones, and other digital devices.
Why Is Digital Forensics Important?
We live in a golden age of evidence where data forensics plays a vital role in solving cases like forgery, homicide, and so on. Furthermore, digital forensics helps to offer more credibility than other types of evidence out there. Most organizations also use Windows forensic artifacts for both incident response and internal employee investigations.
5 Phases of a Computer Forensic Investigation
With the increase in cybercrime, Windows forensics plays an important role in national security, public safety, and law enforcement. A potential criminal’s digital activities can help investigators find digitally stored information about their criminal activity. Some of the steps to follow in a computer forensic investigation are:
Policy and Procedure Development
Windows forensics plays an important role in activities associated with criminal conspiracy, cybercrimes, or any type of digital evidence against a committed crime. This data is usually delicate and highly sensitive, and computer forensics investigators need to know how important it is to handle the data under proper protection to avoid compromising it.
This is why it is imperative to create strict guidelines and procedures that concerned investigators must follow. These procedures comprise detailed instructions for computer forensic investigators about when to perform recovery operations on possible digital evidence, the steps to follow, where to store retrieved data, and ways of documenting the document to ensure the integrity and credibility of the retrieved evidence.
This is an important part of Windows forensics where the investigator can get a clear understanding of the case details. The evidence assessment phase helps to classify the cybercrime at hand. For example, finding pieces of evidence against someone with potential identity theft-related crimes, the computer forensic investigators can then examine the hard drives and other digital archives to get evidence that links him/her to the crime.
It is important for investigators to define the evidence type they are looking for, such as specific platforms and data formats.
There is a need for rigorous documentation before, during, and after the evidence acquisition phase. This is the phase where you need to document all the details like hardware and software specifications of systems needed for investigation and the system containing the potential evidence. The evidence acquisition phase must be completed carefully and legally because the documented evidence is important in court case proceedings.
A computer forensic investigator needs to investigate officially assigned archives and the recently deleted files through specific keywords. The investigators not only look for intentionally hidden encrypted files; they also analyze file names to get details like the date, time, and location that the data was created and downloaded. This then helps the Windows forensics investigator link the connection between uploading files from storage devices to the public network.
Furthermore, at this stage, the investigator works with all the other personnel involved in the case to understand the type of information that can be regarded as evidence.
This is the last phase where the investigator needs to record their activities during the complete investigation. In this step, all the guidelines, procedures, and policies will be followed. This also ensures the authenticity and integrity of the data that is received for evidential reasons.
Popular Computer Forensic Tools
Some of the most popular Windows forensic tools are stated below.
The Sleuth Kit: This is used for gathering data during incident response or from live systems.
FTK Imager: This is a tool used to create forensic images of the device without damaging the original evidence.
Xplico: This tool can be used on four key components known as IP Decoder, Visualization System, Decoder Manager, and Data Manipulators.
Why Study Computer Forensics?
Windows forensics as a career has become more popular over the years, and is predicted to grow by 17% between 2016-2026, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of higher caseloads, it is predicted that state and local governments will hire additional computer forensic science technicians to keep up with the demand. Moreover, Windows forensics is becoming more popular across all fields for identifying computer crimes or protecting data.
Skills Needed for a Career in Computer Forensics
A certified forensic examiner needs to have a wide range of skills to excel in this career. Some of the common skills that a data forensics analyst needs are:
- Knowledge of various technology like computer operating systems, malware types, digital storage devices, and computer programming.
- Ethical issues regarding data.
- Ability to learn new things.
- Legal issues regarding data.
- Critical thinking.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Communication skills.
- Analytical thinking.
How Can You Learn Forensics?
We are in an age where computers are used as weapons to commit crimes, and the crimes committed through computers are on the rise. This is why organizations need to learn the basics of Windows operating systems and digital forensics, the importance of Windows-based evidence in digital forensics, and to know more about the practical demonstrations of Windows forensics.
With CodeRed’s course (soon to be released), you will be able to identify the types of cases needed for Windows forensics artifacts analysis that can be used as digital evidence. Furthermore, you will learn how to recover, analyze and create a storyline of the way events occurred in Windows-based cyberattacks like network attacks that you can use in internal investigations, criminal or civil litigations, and so on.
At the same time, if you are looking to get certified in digital forensics, you can also take a look at the Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator certification by EC-Council. The course covers hundreds of investigative tools such as EnCase, Access Data FTK, and ProDiscover.