The world these days relies more on technology than ever. The Internet is accessible to 64.4% of the global population, and the number of Internet users is projected to reach 5.3 billion by 2023. 

Unfortunately, the increase in digital connectivity has also led to a surge in cybercrime. In fact, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime damages will reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. As such, digital forensics – the process of collecting and analyzing digital data to identify and catch cyber-criminals – is becoming an essential practice. Here, we delve into the basics of digital forensics.

What is Digital Forensics?

Digital forensics refers to the process of investigating crimes that involve the use of electronic devices like computers, servers, laptops, cell phones, and data storage devices. Criminals have become increasingly sophisticated in their methods of committing crimes over the internet. This makes digital forensics an essential tool for identifying, acquiring, preserving, and documenting digital evidence needed to prosecute them in a court of law.

It’s worth mentioning that this process plays an integral role in various industries and organizations, including law enforcement agencies, private investigators, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, and government agencies. Digital forensics is used to investigate a wide range of cybercrime, including cyberattacks like ransomware, phishing, SQL injection attacks, DDoS attacks, data breaches, and internal policy violations. It is critical to modern organizations when providing the means to conduct a thorough investigation and recover any lost data.

Its History

The history of digital forensics is rich and interesting. Here are some important landmarks from its beginning:

  • Hans Gross (1847 -1915): Hans Gross was the first to apply the scientific study to criminal investigations. He wrote the book “Criminal Investigation: A Practical Handbook for Magistrates, Police Officers, and Lawyers,” which became a standard reference for forensic investigation.
  • FBI (1932): The FBI set up a lab to offer forensic services to law enforcement authorities across the United States. The lab was the first official forensic laboratory.
  • Francis Galton (1982 – 1911): Francis Galton conducted the first recorded study of fingerprints, which would later become an essential tool in digital forensics.
  • In 1978, the Florida Computer Crime Act recognized the first computer crime. This was a significant milestone in the history of digital forensics, as it recognized that computers and computerized data were vulnerable to criminal activity.
  • 1992 saw the term “computer forensics” adopted in academic literature. This marked the beginning of the modern era of digital forensics.
  • The International Organization on Computer Evidence (IOCE) was formed in 1995. The organization brought together forensic experts from around the world to share knowledge and best practices.
  • In 2000, the first FBI Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory was established. This marked a significant development in the field, as it expanded the FBI’s capabilities to investigate and solve crimes involving digital evidence.
  • In 2002, the Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE) published the first book about digital forensics called “Best Practices for Computer Forensics.” The book was an important resource for forensic practitioners, as it laid out guidelines for handling digital evidence and conducting digital investigations.
  • In 2006, the U.S. implemented a mandatory regime for electronic discovery in its Rules for Civil Procedure. The regulation required parties to disclose electronically stored information during the discovery process, highlighting the importance of digital evidence in legal proceedings.
  • In 2010, Simson Garfinkel determined challenges arising from digital investigations. In his book “Digital Forensics Research: The Next 10 Years,” he highlighted the challenges facing the field and called for increased research and development in the area.

Takeaway: The history of digital forensics is a testament to the evolution of technology and its impact on criminal activity. As technology continues to advance, digital forensics will likely play an even greater role in solving crimes and holding criminals accountable.

What Makes Digital Forensics Crucial?

Combating cybercrime requires the efforts of cybersecurity experts who can identify hackers and crackers through forensic investigations. One of the significant challenges that cyber forensic professionals face is remotely evaluating any crime scene for digital traces. However, with the use of cyber forensics, they can analyze things such as surfing history and email correspondence to piece together a digital crime scene.

Forensic science and technology work together to speed up investigations and produce dependable evidence. For example, cyber forensics helps gather crucial digital evidence to track down the offender. Electronic devices are a treasure trove of valuable information that can be invisible to the naked eye. Smart home gadgets, for instance, constantly generate enormous amounts of data that are essential to cyber forensics.

The gathering of digital evidence online can also be used to prove the innocence of an individual who is wrongly accused of a crime. This highlights the importance of the reliability of data for both potential offenders and those who have been falsely accused.

Takeaway: Cyber forensics is crucial in the fight against cybercrime, and the increasing use of technology means that this field will only continue to grow. With the continued expansion of smart devices, the need for cyber forensic specialists will only increase, and the reliability of digital evidence will become more important than ever.