The Ultimate Guide to Computer Forensics

October 17, 2022

What Exactly is Computer Forensics?

Computer forensics involves in-depth investigation and analysis. Also dubbed Computer Forensic Science, computer forensics aims to gather and preserve invaluable evidence from computer systems that can be presented in a court of law. 

An integral part of computer forensics is data integrity. Forensics analysts such as ours at DFI, analyze computer system data to determine if and when it was changed, how and by whom. 

Computer crime isn’t the only tie to computer forensics, however. Data recovery processes - such as step 5 in an incident response plan - rely on computer forensics to retrieve valuable information from a failed drive, server or reformatted operating system (OS).  

Why is the Practice of Computer Forensics important?

Having a strong foundation of digital forensic evidence strengthens court cases. 

In our modern age of technology, computers and mobile devices affect our everyday lives. People who normally use these devices don’t witness the amount of data being collected firsthand. Imagine a computer console in modern vehicles. These consoles can track the rate of speed the driver is going along with braking patterns, gear shifting, mobile messages, location history and more without the driver being aware. 

You can imagine the amount of data collected and how it could be useful in computer forensics. This is why digital forensics isn’t just important to combat cyber criminals, but also tangible crimes such as automobile theft, hit and runs, burglary, murder, and much more. 

The Different Types of Computer Forensics

There are many different sub-domains of digital forensics. Below are some main elements of a computer forensic investigation.

  • Database Forensics: The process of analyzing, investigating and examining information discovered in databases.
  • Email Forensics: Schedules, contacts, history, and recovery of emails found on such platforms. 
  • Malware Forensics: Investigating code to find malicious programs that may exist in a system, such as harmful ransomware. See our article on types of cyber attacks for more information. 
  • Memory Forensics: Gathering and examining information in a computer’s random access memory (RAM) and cache.  
  • Mobile Forensics: Sifting through information on mobile devices which store valuable data such as contacts, message history, pictures, app data and video files. 
  • Network Forensics: Checking network traffic for legal evidence and uncovering suspicious traffic sources or any possible network intrusion. 

How Computer Forensics all Comes Together

At DFI, we undergo a strict process with every investigation we execute. Computer Forensics is no outlier to this norm. However, the process varies slightly depending on the type of forensic investigation at play and the devices being analyzed. Generally speaking, the process can be broken down into 3 primary phases. 

Phase 1: Data Collection

Data must be collected by forensic investigators while maintaining data integrity. This translates to having complete control over the devices and/or servers involved in the Computer Forensics investigation.

A team of examiners creates what’s called a Forensic Image, which is a digital copy of the data. The original device is then locked away to ensure the data isn’t compromised. Afterwards, the investigation is carried out on the Forensic Image by the team. Other information found publicly, such as on social media accounts like Facebook or Instagram, is also analyzed. 

Phase 2: Analysis

The next step for investigators is to riffle through data for a legal case. This involves hard work analyzing a large volume of information on digital copies and storage media in a controlled environment. 

Several tools are used to assist investigators in the analysis phase and they vary depending on the type of device or server being analyzed. 

Phase 3: Presentation of Findings

Finally, after integral data has been gathered and analyzed, computer forensic investigators can present their findings. This is done in a legal proceeding in front of a judge or jury. 

Computer Forensics findings can be the deciding factor in the result of a crushing lawsuit. In terms of a data recovery case, an investigation team would present findings they were able to recover in a compromised data system. 

Did you need a qualified Computer Forensics team?

We understand the arduous process of computer forensics. Gathering forensic evidence for court cases is stressful and complicated.

If you need a team to gather digital evidence in any situation, we have the forensic tools to assist you. Contact us today so we can support your case.