Digital forensics investigation is one of the leading disciplines developing from the extensive field of forensic science. Every organization with a working computer system needs the services of a qualified digital forensics analyst. However, in spite of the remarkable development in the digital world and the increase in cybersecurity attacks through digital tools and techniques, most forensic investigators lack the appropriate credentials to perform digital forensic investigations.
Moreover, owing to the upsurge of computer-related crimes, computer investigation techniques are applied by law enforcement agencies, government, and other corporate organizations across the globe. A large number of whom turn to EC-Council for our Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) certification program.
What is digital forensics?
Digital forensics, or otherwise called digital forensic science, covers the investigation of materials detected in digital technologies and the recovery of these items, usually in relation to computer crime. Digital forensics investigation is the process of identifying, extracting, preserving, and documenting computer evidence through digital tools to produce evidence that can be used in the court of law.
Similarly, digital forensics provides the forensic analyst and forensics team with the greatest strategies and technologies for unraveling complicated digital-based criminal cases. Digital forensics investigations have several applications, but the most widespread use is to disprove or support a supposition before the civil or criminal court of law.
Digital forensics investigations may also be applied in the corporate sector, including during computer hacking investigations or internal corporate investigations. Here, the digital forensics analysts investigate the environment and degree of an unlawful network intrusion or system hack. The rapidly expanding field of digital forensics includes numerous branches related to databases, malware, firewalls, mobile devices, cloud, and network forensics.
To find out more about digital forensics, read our in-depth article on what digital forensics is.
What is the difference between Digital Forensics and Computer Forensics?
Although the term ‘digital forensics’ is used interchangeably with computer forensics, the two concepts are slightly different. Digital forensics investigation goes beyond computer forensics. It includes all technologies capable of gathering digital data during a digital-related investigation such as cell phones, digital networks, flash drives, hard drives, CDs, digital cameras, electronic files such as JPEGs, and email.
Whereas, computer forensics is basically the use of computer analysis techniques and computer investigations to help find probable legal evidence. Both computer forensics and digital forensics have the same purpose which is to determine if a tool was applied for unlawful activities, ranging from storing illegal activities to computer hacking.
More devices are designed daily to help the CHFI conduct computer investigations, whether it’s for digital forensics, computer investigations, computer crimes, or the basic computer data recovery.
How do you become a Digital Forensic Investigator?
The role of a digital forensic analyst is intricately linked with the incidence response process of the company. The experts who specialize in digital forensics, cyber forensics, or computer forensics are typically called digital forensics analysts, cyber forensics experts, computer forensic specialists, computer forensics investigators, computer forensics technicians, or computer forensics examiner.
To become any of these, you need a bachelor’s degree in digital forensics or other related fields. You can also obtain a vendor-neutral credential or you can take a digital forensics online course to become a certified digital forensic analyst. However, the degree level required for this task will largely depend on the job description. At times, you may need other similar experiences to complement an educational requirement.
Your computer forensics analyst profile can be improved with certifications and experience by completing an online forensics training courses and programs conducted by a certified forensic computer examiner. While a certificate may not be mandatory to land a job as a digital forensic analyst, it is advised that is you take a certification course before you apply for a job. This will definitely give you an edge over other applicants.
Simply put, the following are the steps required to become a digital forensic expert:
- Bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree
- Work experience in related fields
- Become certified as an EC-Council’s Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
- Get relevant soft and hard skills
- Apply for a digital forensic position
- Meet the expectations of the certified forensic interviewer
- Land the job position
- Receive other necessary pieces of training on-the-job
How is digital forensics used in investigations?
For your digital evidence to be valid in a civil or criminal court, it is necessary that the materials gathered are handled in certain manners so the evidence will not be tampered with. Most people think the criticality of actions demanded in sectors such as digital forensics and incidence response, are only applicable for companies that function in the most security-conscious fields.
However, this is not true. An awareness of the best cybersecurity practices is always worthwhile. Regardless of the type or size of your organization, it is always important that your IT security team or those responsible for handling your security always follow an informed, structured, and effective process if/when a security incident happens.
While there are several ways digital forensics can be used in an investigation, the following are the general steps required.
The first phase of any successful endeavor is planning. In the digital world, where events occur quickly, you need to plan your approach. Pinpoint and prioritize your targets so you can obtain relevant and useful evidence. Make plans to follow every relevant regulatory guidelines and policy. In a bid to gather your evidence in a timely manner, you may flout some legal requirements which will render your evidence void in the courts of law. So always keep it legal.
Do you have the right people to assist you with the investigation? You’ll need professionals for the configuration of your hardware and software. You also need strong contacts with external agents who can offer impartial alternatives. Furthermore, since no investigation is without its cost. Ensure you strike a balance between relational effort and risk to the organization.
2. Identification and Preservation
The next step is to identify the evidence, observing where it is stored. Ensure that all the data gathered are not tampered with. Don’t work on the original copies, make other copies so the integrity of the original data is preserved. In essence, isolate, safeguard, and preserve the master copy. This involves stopping people from manipulating or interfering with the evidence.
The next step is to reconstruct fragments of the data and make inferences based on the evidence discovered. The first step is to make a timeline of events to ensure orderliness. Since you are going to get your data from several sources, their timestamps may be different. By gathering your data based on their timeframes, you can build a comprehensive picture of events and pinpoint supporting evidence.
The next step is to analyze all the evidence-based on the timeframe of their occurrence. You’ll need to be systematic about your analysis. Make a hypothesis and run tests to refute or support all the theories.
You need to generate a record of all the data gathered to reinvent the crime scene. This record must be detailed, understandable, factual, and must include only defensible data. Make sure that everything you captured is recorded just as they are, dated, and signed. Ensure that your record is not littered with technical jargon. This way, even non-technical audiences can understand the results.
The final step of any investigation is to present a report of your findings. Your findings must be presented without any bias or partiality. Include dates and present events in chronological order. Create an additional appendix where additional information, data, or evidence are included.
While your report summarizes your findings, you still need to ensure that the report is detailed. In a more critical case, other certified forensic interviewers may be called upon to validate your findings.
What is the first rule of digital forensics?
The first rule of digital forensics is to preserve the original evidence. During the analysis phase, the digital forensics analyst or computer hacking forensics investigator (CHFI) recovers evidence material using a variety of different tools and strategies.
Why CHFI is Your Go-To For All Things Digital Forensics
There is an increasing demand for exclusive digital forensic experts owing to the increasing significance of digital forensics. while there is a substantial amount of obtainable, first-rate accreditation courses, and certified forensics interviewers that concentrate on digital forensics and investigations. nevertheless, there are other credentials and programs in the field of digital forensics science that are not as transparent or commonly known.
EC-Council is a globally recognized certification and training company that specializes in the fields of digital forensics, ethical hacking or anti-hacking, and penetration testing. The aim of the EC-Council’s CHFI certification program is to authenticate the candidate’s competences and abilities to pinpoint a perpetrator’s footprints and to accurately assemble all the relevant evidence needed to take legal actions against the intruder.
EC-Council’s CHFI program is a vendor-neutral certification that endorses individuals in the particular security field of computer forensics. several topics are covered, including comprehensive coverage of the computer forensics investigation practice, anti-forensics, an overview of digital forensics, applying digital evidence, database, and cloud forensics, complying with related policies and regulations, inspecting network traffic, email and mobile forensics, and ethical hacking. For more details on our CHFI course, visit our course page.
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