What is Digital Forensics in Cybersecurity?

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Digital forensics (also known as computer forensics or cyber forensics) is a branch of forensic science focused on digital evidence. Law enforcement officials use it to track criminals online, but cybersecurity professionals also use it to protect data. So, what is digital forensics in cyber security?

Computer forensics specialists in cybersecurity investigate all types of hardware and software for evidence of suspicious activity or vulnerabilities. If found, they investigate further to determine the best way to mitigate issues or prevent problems.

If this sounds interesting, read on. This article will discuss the methodology and significance of digital forensics as well as how it differs from other types of  incident response services.

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The Digital Forensics Methodology

Cyber security investigations go through 5 phases.


1. Identification

The first step is to isolate affected systems and devices. Once found, devices are quarantined and network access is restricted to investigators to prevent tampering.


2. Preservation

Once devices and networks are identified and isolated, investigators extract and preserve relevant data. Investigators copy evidential data, otherwise known as a “forensic image.” Forensic images are then kept in high-security databases to prevent data leakage or tampering.


3. Analysis

Investigators then probe their preserved forensic images to analyze the cybersecurity incident. This may involve further extraction if required.


4. Documentation

After analyzing digital evidence, investigators record their findings in a report. This report includes a timeline of the incident and findings from the forensics analysis..


5. Presentation

All documented findings are presented to the appropriate stakeholders. This may be a business owner, cybersecurity team, or court of law.


What’s The Point of Preserving Digital Evidence?

Preserving digital evidence is vital to tracing criminal activity, linking suspects to cybercrimes, and preventing data tampering. Additionally, evidence may be required in future litigation attempts against the threat actors.


5 Benefits of Digital Forensics


1. Effective Incident Response

Digital investigators gather and analyze concrete evidence to identify the root cause of security events. This provides a detailed picture of the issue which improves incident response processes.


2. Early Threat Detection

Thorough investigation leads to earlier detection. Most hackers can get everything they need to enact security breaches within the first 5 hours of access. That’s why catching them early is crucial.


3. Vulnerability Management

Cyber investigators don’t just look for threats. They also look for potential weaknesses in your IT systems. Their attention to detail means that vulnerabilities are detected and patched before an incident occurs.


4. Malware Analysis

Digital forensics experts examine malware samples to understand their behavior, functionality, and potential impact on systems. This knowledge helps them develop effective countermeasures and improve threat detection strategies.


5. Evidence Preservation

Digital forensics preserves electronic evidence in a way that maintains its integrity and admissibility. This supports legal proceedings against cybercriminals and strengthens litigation efforts.


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5 Digital Forensics Challenges


1. Rapid Technological Change

Technology is evolving at an unprecedented pace, making it difficult to keep up. To counter this, digital forensics organizations stay up to date by monitoring emerging technology advancements to ensure their efforts stay relevant.


2. Encryption & Anonymity

Advanced encryption methods can prevent investigators from accessing crucial information and anonymity networks, such as Tor, make it harder to track criminals. To tackle this, many forensics companies will have to seek out legal warrants and utilize decryption tools.


3. Data Volume

The exponential growth of data means investigators have a lot more to dig through. Luckily, data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can help cyber professionals sift through these large data sets, identify patterns, and pinpoint relevant information quickly.


4. Remote Data Storage

If evidence is stored offshore, differing laws may complicate the investigation. It’s best to seek a digital forensics agency that has experience with offshore actors and differing regulations.


5. Anti-Digital Forensics Techniques

Criminals are becoming more savvy and often employ techniques which hide or destroy digital evidence. If you partner with an MSSP or digital forensics company, make sure they perform regular backups to preserve collected evidence.


Digital Forensics vs. Incident Response

Highly regarded service providers will do what they can to prevent future data breaches.  While all forms of incident response pinpoint and analyze data, digital forensics differs in a few key ways:

Criteria Digital Forensics Incident Response Services
Primary Objective Investigates and understands the details of a cyber incident, including how it occurred, who was responsible, and what was compromised. Immediately responds to and manages the situation when a cybersecurity breach is detected.
Methods Utilizes a variety of tools and techniques to uncover digital evidence and reverse engineer attacks. Implements incident response plans, manages communications, addresses regulatory compliance issues, and conducts a security audit post-incident.
Timing Usually comes into play after an incident has been detected and there’s a need to understand the extent and source of the breach. Activated as soon as a breach is detected to minimize damage, loss, and downtime.
Required Skills Deep understanding of IT systems, networks, and cybersecurity. Also requires strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Proficiency in managing incidents, deep knowledge of cybersecurity, communication skills, and understanding of compliance standards.
Output Detailed reports that outline how the incident occurred, the extent of the damage, and recommendations for prevention. Resolved security incidents, documentation of the breach, and recommendations for future prevention.
Prevention The main focus is on understanding past incidents. However, it will also identify vulnerabilities that could lead to future breaches. Ensures rapid containment and remediation of potential threats. However, its main focus is on managing and mitigating active incidents.


Get Military-Grade Help With Your Cyber Security Investigations

If you think you need cyber security investigation services, it’s important to go with the professionals. You wouldn’t leave criminal investigations to an amateur, so why do the same for your cybersecurity?

The cyber forensics team at Redpoint has over 30 years of experience. We’ve worked with federal government agencies and large commercial enterprises, keeping them safe and preventing future attacks.

If they can trust us, so can you. Our high-caliber digital forensics tools are built for finding even the smallest threats in the biggest networks.

Get in touch to find out how Redpoint can bring that level of service to your business.

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