Even experienced administrators and advanced cyber-defenses fail to catch an attacker occasionally. When this happens, digital forensics professionals are needed to collect, process, document and analyze evidence critical to an investigation. Digital forensics professionals can also help organizations identify vulnerabilities both proactively and retroactively after a successful data breach.
Network administrators can usually perform digital forensics with basic data collection, but experienced digital forensics investigators have extensive knowledge of computer technology, network infrastructure and coding. They have the analytical skills to work with a broad range of data and use it to make decisions and test potential vulnerabilities. They’re also aware of common evasion techniques used by attackers.
Digital forensics involves several different cyber security aspects. The first one is the preservation and collection of data that could be used in an investigation into cyber crime. WIth the right forensics team on your side, several hidden files can be found that would otherwise be missed by automation software or an untrained administrator. Encrypted files can be possibly unlocked to help identify the attack techniques and expose other exploited vulnerabilities on the network. All collected data and relevant information must then be safely stored and handed over to law enforcement for further review. The right digital forensics will help bolster an ongoing lawsuit. A proper investigation is also a requirement for some cyber insurance claims before a payout is issued.
The next factor in digital forensics is keeping sensitive data protected. Storage devices should have all private data wiped before discarding them. Magnetic storage such as hard disk drives (HDD) or backup tapes should have all information cleared before dispensing with them. Digital forensics devices also provides management software that will track and audit changes to files including when they are destroyed for cyber security reasons.
During an investigation, digital forensics deals with more than just stored files. Collection of data (often called artifacts) must be stored safely, but then incident response takes over to ensure containment and eradication of the threat. A full investigation will help with incident response to ensure that all exploitation vectors are discovered and later patched. Without the right team of investigators, it’s not uncommon for attackers to leave backdoors to ensure persistent access to an internal system. If these backdoors are not found, the attack is not fully contained and consistent data breaches will remain. It’s the responsibility of investigators to work with incident response teams to ensure that a breach is completely eradicated from the corporate system.
Uncovering files also tells the organization the type of attack that was used to exploit vulnerabilities. It could be malware, a misconfigured device, physical access to infrastructure, or disclosed credentials that could be used to access the network under the context of the user. Digital forensics is the start of discovering the many ways an attacker can steal data and persist on a corporate system without detection. Together with investigators, this discovery can strengthen cyber security resilience.