Have you ever found yourself wondering, “what is computer forensics?” Maybe you’ve wondered “what is a typical computer forensics salary?” If either of those questions have ever crossed your mind, or the many others related to computer forensics, you have come to the right place. Computer forensics is applying a structured digital investigation to gather and maintain evidence that determines exactly what happened on a device and who was responsible for it.
Digital forensics begins with the collection of data. This information is then analyzed to determine if the data was changed, exactly what was altered, and who made the changes. While it is most commonly used in criminal cases, it has other applications. For instance, it may also be used to recover data after a crashed server, reformatted operating system, failed drive, or another situation where a system stops working.
Why Is It Important?
Most people don’t realize their devices collect incredible amounts of data. The computer in your car collects information about your driving habits by recording when you brake, shift, or change speeds. Additionally, businesses use data and other network statistics to track their customers’ habits, optimize their operations, and keep their information secure.
While you aren’t always aware that this information is being collected, it can be critical in solving court cases. As expected, computer forensics common in digital-world crimes, such as data theft, illicit online transactions, and network breaches. Additionally, it can be used to solve in-person crimes, such as burglaries, hit-and-runs, assaults, and murders. Digital forensics is important in court cases because it can help ensure the integrity of digital evidence presented. Since devices have become an integral part of daily lives, the information they collect and the process used to validate it are increasingly important for solving crimes and resolving other legal issues.
Are There Different Types of Computer Forensics?
There are different types of forensic examinations that can be used on a computer or other device. Each type deals with a different aspect of the technology. The primary types used include database, email, malware, memory, mobile, and network forensics.
For example, email forensics entails source of the email, as well as the content, to determine where it came from. Mobile forensics requires acquisition of data from a mobile device to be used as evidence. Analysis of malware aids in finding a culprit and goal of the attack.
What Techniques Do Investigators Use?
When a compromised device has been recovered, a computer forensic investigator will use a blend of many different techniques to gather the information they need from a digital copy. While the exact process will vary from case to case, there is a standard procedure that all investigators will follow. This includes data collection, analysis, and presentation. The most prominent techniques rely on expert knowledge and technology. Some of these techniques include reverse steganography, stochastic forensics, cross-drive analysis, live analysis, and deleted file recovery. These allow investigators to search hidden folders and other disk space for copies of encrypted, deleted, or damaged files. Any evidence they uncover is meticulously documented, verified with the original device, and compiled for use in any legal proceedings.
When Has It Served as Evidence?
Digital forensics has been used by many law enforcement agencies investigating everything from major corporate IT departments to individuals since the 1980s. A few of the most prominent cases where digital forensics has been used include the Apple trade secret theft, Enron fraud, Google trade secret theft, and more.
How Do You Get Into This Field?
Since this has become its own area of forensic science, it is encouraged to pursue additional education and certification preparation to get into this field. You may also be asked to have a certification from INE, CyberSecurity Institute, International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, EC-Council, or International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners. Once you have these, you can become a forensic engineer, forensic accountant, or cyber security analyst.
This type of forensics involves gathering, documenting, and presenting evidence about what happened on a device and who took these actions. While it is more commonly known for its use in major court cases, it has various applications and job opportunities.