Using data collected from electronic devices, digital forensics investigators can prevent hackers and other cybercriminals from compromising an organization’s digital infrastructure. They can also help recover lost or stolen data, find out where a particular attack came from and trace it back to its source, and help create a detailed investigative report that can fix any crime. When a cyberattack has occurred, digital artifacts and evidence must be secured immediately so that an effective investigation can take place.
With this knowledge, digital forensics experts seek to recover deleted data, analyze recovered data, and conduct a full forensic examination of all computers, databases, and systems. This information is collected and used to reconstruct what actually happened, and then communicated to the parties involved. In civil or criminal cases that are tried in court, digital forensic experts are often called in to provide expert testimony. Digital forensics is a branch of forensic science that deals with digital devices and cybercrime. Through a process of identifying, securing, analyzing, and documenting digital evidence, forensic investigators recover and examine information to help convict criminals.
In civil litigation or corporate matters, digital forensic investigation is part of the e-discovery process. Forensic procedures are similar to those used in criminal investigations, although different legal requirements and limitations often apply. Outside of the courts, digital forensics can be part of internal corporate investigations. In the 1980s, there were very few specialized tools for digital forensics, so investigators often performed live analysis of disks by examining computers from the operating system and using existing system management tools to obtain evidence. This practice risks inadvertently or otherwise altering the data on the disk, which can lead to lawsuits for tampering with evidence. Since 2000, several boards and agencies have issued guidelines for digital forensics in response to the need for standardization.
Data forensics is a subset of digital forensics that examines structured data related to financial crime incidents. In addition, criminal investigations may be limited by national laws that dictate the scope of information that can be seized. For example, the seizure of evidence by law enforcement agencies is governed by the PACE Act in the United Kingdom. The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 prohibits unauthorized access to computer materials, making it difficult for civilian investigators in the United Kingdom.
The analysis is performed using a methodical approach to review factual information in civil or criminal cases. The process is based on strict adherence to ACPO guidelines to ensure data integrity in order to be admissible in court. CYFOR’s Head of Investigations explains this specialized digital forensic technique that can incident response provide important digital evidence in criminal and civil investigations. In 2018, UAlbany’s Computer Forensics class achieved a 100% job placement rate within 6 months of graduation. This degree also prepares you for further study in a master’s or doctoral program in digital forensics, cybersecurity, and related fields.