Cyber forensics can be described as the science of crime scene investigation for data devices and services. It is a well-defined and strictly regulated (by law) applied science that collects data as proof of an unlawful activity that involves electronic devices and services, using established investigation standards to capture the culprit by presenting the evidence to the court or the board of directors.
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What is cyber forensics?
Cyber forensics, sometimes known as computer forensics, conducts a methodical inquiry and keeps a traceable chain of evidence to identify what occurred on a computing device and who was responsible for it.
Cyber forensics has grown in popularity over the last two decades because computer and portable media devices, such as smartphones, have been increasingly utilized in criminal behavior. As a result, these gadgets are frequently packed with critical evidence, including usernames, phone logs, location data, text messages, emails, images, and recordings. Cyber forensics experts can recover deleted logs such as files, calls, and messages; get audio records of phone conversations, and identify detailed system user actions to present them in a court of law or internal investigations.
The terms digital forensics and cyber forensics are sometimes used interchangeably with computer forensics.
The cyber forensics process simplified
The first stage of digital forensics is collecting digital data in a way that retains its integrity. Next, investigators evaluate the data or system to see if it was altered, how it was modified, and who made the changes. Computer forensics isn’t always used in the context of a crime. The forensic process is also utilized in data recovery procedures to recover data from a malfunctioning server, destroyed drive, reformatted OS, or other cause of system failure.
Why is cyber forensics important?
Integrating technology and forensics allows for more efficient investigations and precise findings. Cyber forensics is a specialized field that aids in collecting critical digital evidence to trace criminals.
Electronic equipment collects a large amount of data that the average person would overlook. For example, smart homes generate data over every word we say; cars know when we hit the brakes. These are very valuable for cyber forensics to present tangible proofs. Many people’s innocence is proven with cyber forensics nowadays.
Cyber forensics is used to solve digital and real-world issues like theft, murder, etc. Businesses profit from cyber forensics by tracking system breaches and identifying the attackers.
How do businesses utilize cyber forensics?
Businesses employ cyber forensics to investigate a system or network breach, which might be used to identify and prosecute cyber attackers. In the event of a system or network failure caused by natural or other disasters, businesses utilize digital forensic specialists and procedures to assist them with data recovery.
How does cyber forensics work?
The first stage of cyber forensics is determining what the evidence is, where it’s being kept, and how it is stored. The next step is to keep the data secure so that no one else can tamper with it.
After collecting the data, the next step is to evaluate it. After obtaining them back, a specialist recuperates the erased files and checks for evidence of a criminal’s attempt to erase secret files. This procedure might require many stages before concluding.
After this, data is collected, and a record is generated. This record contains all of the recovered and available information, which aids in reconstructing the crime scene and reviewing it. The last step involves analyzing the data presented before a court or committee to solve cases.
Cyber forensics techniques
A forensics investigator makes a copy of a compromised device and examines it using a variety of approaches and unique forensic tools. For instance, they look for copies of deleted, encrypted, or damaged files in hidden directories and unallocated disk space. In preparation for legal proceedings that include discovery, depositions, or genuine litigation, any evidence discovered on the digital copy is meticulously recorded in a finding report and verified with the actual device.
A cyber forensics investigation might employ a variety of methods and specialist expertise. One of them is reverse steganography. Steganography is the covert embedding of information within any form of a digital file, communication, or data stream. When analyzing the data hashing in a file to try and find reverse steganography, computer forensics specialists can undo it. Suppose a cybercriminal hides critical information within an image or other digital file. In that case, it may appear the same before and after to the uneducated eye, but the underlying hash or string of data will prove otherwise.
Cyber forensics has been used as evidence by law enforcement agencies and in criminal and civil law since the 1980s
Stochastic forensics is a computer science technique that extracts and analyzes data without using digital artifacts. Digital processes result in unintended changes to data, which are known as artifacts. Clues related to a digital crime, such as modifications to file attributes during data theft, are included in the term artifact. Stochastic forensics is frequently used in data breach investigations to determine the perpetrator’s identity when it’s believed that the intruder is an insider.
The cross-drive analysis technique combines and cross-references data discovered on multiple computer drives to look for, evaluate, and archive data relevant to an inquiry. Events that arouse suspicion are compared with information from other drives to find similarities and provide context. Anomaly detection is another name for this process.
The live analysis approach examines a computer while operating using system tools on the machine. The examination looks at volatile data, usually kept in cache or RAM. To maintain the integrity of a chain of evidence, many instruments for extracting volatile data need the computer to be sent to a forensics lab.
When a file is deleted from a computer system, its information remains in certain areas of the machine’s memory. The deleted file recovery technique involves searching for fragments of files that were partially erased in one location but still leave traces elsewhere on the system. This is also known as file carving or data carving.
Types of cyber forensics
Cyber forensics investigates IT infrastructures, devices, and software to find the clues and evidence it seeks. Using network forensics, investigators monitor and evaluate the criminal’s network traffic. Network intrusion detection systems and other automated tools are used here. In email forensics, experts examine the criminal’s emails and recover deleted email threads, allowing them to extract critical information regarding the case.
Hacking-related offenses are the focus of malware forensics. The malware is examined by a forensic expert, in this case, looking for trojans to figure out who was behind it. Memory forensics is the practice of analyzing data stored in memory (such as cache, RAM, and so on) and extracting information from it.
Mobile forensics is typically focused on mobile devices. This branch examines and analyzes the data from mobile data devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and GPS units. The data recovered from hard drives and cloud platforms by disk forensics are examined and analyzed in detail. Disk forensics extracts data from storage media by searching changed, active, or deleted files.
Cyber forensics prevents trade secret theft
Cyber forensics has been used as evidence by law enforcement agencies and in criminal and civil law since the 1980s. But lately, it has resolved some notable trade secret theft cases.
Apple’s autonomous car division announced the retirement of a software engineer named Xiaolang Zhang, who said he would be returning to China to look after his ailing mother. He informed his superiors he intended to work for an electronic automobile manufacturer in China, which aroused curiosity. According to an FBI statement, Apple’s security staff reviewed Zhang’s activity on the company network and discovered he had taken trade secrets from local company databases to which he had access in the weeks before his resignation. In 2018, he was indicted by the FBI.
In another case, cyber forensics proved a man’s innocence. Anthony Scott Levandowski, formerly an executive of both Uber and Google, was indicted in 2019 with 33 counts of trade secret theft. From 2009 to 2016, he worked for Google’s self-driving car project, where he downloaded thousands of files from a password-protected corporate server. Otto is a self-driving truck startup started by him after he left Google. Uber bought the company In 2016.
Levandowski was arrested in late 2017 and charged with theft of trade secrets as part of the FBI’s widening investigation into Uber. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 28, 2018, for one count of trade secrets theft and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison and $851,499 in fines and restitutionHowever, after a cyber forensics investigation, Levandowski was proven innocent and received a presidential pardon in 2021.
Another famous case that cyber forensics solved was investigating a death, not a trade secret theft. Metadata and medical data from Michael Jackson’s doctor’s iPhone showed that Conrad Murray had given lethal dosages of drugs to the King of Pop, who died in 2009.