Digital Forensics: Phases and Importance

Digital forensics is a branch of forensics science that focuses on analyzing and interpreting electronically stored data so that it can be used in cybercrime investigations. It is a relatively new term, as it was first used during the 1990s and became the subject of national policies during the early 2000s.

Since its a new discipline, there is little standardization when it comes to laws and best practices across different courts and industries.

With cybercrime rising to record heights in recent years, destabilizing companies, organizations, and even governments, digital forensics will become crucial in combatting the effects of these attacks. For this reason, it is important to educate people on digital forensics and what it entails.

This article will walk you through all phases of digital forensics, so you can better understand its meaning and importance.

The Phases of Digital Forensics

Since digital forensics is gathered for use in the court of law, the gathering process needs to follow a methodological order for it to be accepted effectively. Here are the nine main phases of digital forensics:

  1. First Response – the initial reaction of the forensics team following a security incident
  2. Search and Seizure – the forensics team searches all affected devices and seizes them so that the perpetrators can’t continue to act
  3. Evidence Collection –
  4. Securing the Evidence –
  5. Data Acquisition – the forensic team carefully retrieves the electronically stored information (ESI) by following standard procedures that minimize the risk of unintentional altering of data that would damage the integrity of the evidence
  6. Data Analysis – analysts go through the ESI to identify data that is useful in court
  7. Evidence Assessment – once certain portions of the data are identified as evidence, investigators then assess its relation to the case
  8. Documentation and Reporting – once the investigation is completed, all of the findings and related data are properly documented in accordance to the law
  9. Expert Witness Testimony – an expert witness is someone who has knowledge about the field relating to the case, and can confirm that the data provided is useful as evidence in court

In short, investigators seize the affected devices, extract any useful data they may contain, and save it onto a safe drive. Once the data is secure, they analyze it and document their findings. Once all evidence is ready, they either report it to the police or present it themselves during a criminal case court hearing.

Here are some important points that investigators need to have in mind during a digital forensic investigation:

  • During this entire process, it’s important for investigators to know what type of evidence they’re looking for so they can structure their search. Cyber crimes can range from scams, website and system hacks, data theft, sharing of illegal content on the internet, and so much more. Each of these types of cases hold different types of evidence that can be collected.
  • Investigators need to choose the appropriate tool to use during the investigation. The team needs to be familiar with different tools of data extraction, depending on whether the data is deleted, encrypted or altered. These tools include include methods of investigation and software that helps with data-analysis.

Why is Digital Forensics Important?

If you or your organization operates in an online network environment, or share data electronically, it is crucial to have a good understanding of digital forensics to ensure the integrity and safety of your network infrastructure.

By ignoring digital forensics during a data breach or any sort of attack, you risk losing all evidence that you can use in court. Additionally, if you’re not following the latest legislation on data security and protection, you may be liable to a criminal case, especially if your network infrastructure contains valuable customer information that is exposed.