Digital Forensics Readiness: Essential for Modern Organizations

In today’s world, where almost every organization depends heavily on technology for their day-to-day operations, it is essential to have a plan in place to deal with unwanted incidents that lead to a standstill. A solid digital forensics readiness plan can help an organization minimize the impact of such incidents and present them with the ability to collect, preserve, protect, and analyze digital evidence in a forensically sound manner.

A digital forensics readiness plan enables an organization to reduce downtime by properly investigating the incident and potentially presenting evidence in court if necessary. By having an established plan, your employees are more likely to avoid violating company policies and engaging in illegal activity as they understand that they may get caught.

There are significant advantages to having a forensic readiness plan in place. The organization’s ability to detect cyber attacks against its IT infrastructure is increased, and its ability to respond and resolve them quickly is boosted. This can save it costs associated with prolonged digital forensics investigations.

Plus, many governments across the globe require organizations to have a Forensic Readiness plan to assure the ability to acquire digital evidence in forensically sound manners when and where it is required.

There are ten steps to creating a forensic readiness plan for your organization. These include:

  • defining business scenarios, 
  • identifying sources and types of evidence, 
  • determining collection requirements, 
  • establishing a capability to gather legally admissible evidence securely, 
  • implementing policies for secure storage and handling, 
  • monitoring targeted incidents, 
  • specifying when escalation to a full formal investigation should occur, 
  • training employees in incident awareness and their role in the process, 
  • documenting the incident and its impact, 
  • and ensuring any legal processes are followed.

Takeaway: A digital forensics readiness plan is essential for all organizations today. It provides a systematic approach to evidence gathering and storage. This approach can improve compliance with regulations, reduce the costs of digital forensics investigations, and enable an efficient and rapid investigation when an incident happens. It allows organizations to demonstrate due diligence and good corporate governance and helps to prevent and detect major cyber incidents and cyber crimes.

Good Forensic Practices

To be successful in digital forensics, it is crucial to uphold good forensic practices. These best practices ensure that evidence is not only admissible in court but also leads to a conclusive investigation. 

1. Preserve the Evidence

Preserving evidence is essential to ensure that the integrity of the evidence is maintained, thus making it admissible in court. The first step in doing so is to create a read-only master copy as soon as you recover it and check it into a digital vault. Always work on copies of the evidence since some forensic tools can alter the data being processed. Also, as using the device can modify the evidence, avoid running any applications on the device until after evidence recovery. Only perform necessary tasks, and keep your intrusion into the system minimal.

2. Document the Evidence

Documentation is crucial in all forensic investigations when helping provide a clear audit trail for the investigation. When creating a master copy, use a cryptographic digest to guarantee that the evidence has not been altered. Store the digest separately from the data itself. Keep detailed notes of all the methods you used to collect and extract the evidence; this will make it easier for another examiner to reproduce your work in case your evidence is challenged.

3. Document All Changes

Forensic examiners must document every change they make during the examination process. By doing this, it is easy to know when and how the alterations were made, minimizing the risk of accusations of evidence tampering. Keep track of the modifications you make when you restart the device, connect it to a desktop case-evidence account, or run an app.

4. Establish an Investigation Checklist

Every investigation is unique, but establishing a set of basic recovery and examination practices can help ensure that the evidence recovered is admissible in court. Hence, creating a checklist is crucial when conducting any forensic investigation. The main benefit of creating a checklist is that it ensures all important details are addressed, and everyone on the team is conducting examinations in the same fashion.

5. Be Detailed

Essentially, you are detailed when conducting forensic investigations. In the courtroom, you may face opposition from opposing attorneys who may try to cast doubt on your evidence. So it’s necessary to be thorough and detailed when documenting your examination process. This not just ensures that your evidence is admissible in court but reduces the chances of errors and omissions from the forensic investigation. Remember, the goal of the notes is to provide enough detail for someone else to reproduce your work, so be as thorough as possible.

Related Questions

1. What is cybercrime? 

It’s any crime involving a computer and a network to harm individuals, groups, a nation’s security, or financial health. Includes hacking, copyright infringement, and child grooming.

2. What is a computer-based crime? 

Crimes conducted purely on computers, such as spam, cyberbullying, and child pornography.

3. What is a computer-facilitated crime? 

They’re crimes in the real world facilitated by computers, like fraud, usually through communication with other criminals, recording/ planning activities, or creating fraudulent documents.

4. What are recent case studies related?

Thousands of digital devices seized for alleged crimes are awaiting examination due to a lack of efficient resources. The backlog is affecting prosecutors in criminal cases.

Due to insufficient resources for analyzing evidence, the PA news agency has discovered a backlog of 12,122 devices (including phones, tablets, and computers) awaiting examination across 32 different forces. Sadly, this backlog has not decreased from the previous year, impeding prosecutors in criminal cases. In a similar instance, a Times investigation revealed that 12,667 devices from 33 police forces were also awaiting examination. The sheer amount of digital evidence collected has overwhelmed digital forensic teams, resulting in prolonged investigations.

5. What are the top skills required for cybersecurity jobs?

Problem-solving, fundamental computer forensics, a desire to learn, understanding hacking, technical aptitude, knowledge of security, attention to detail, and communication skills.

Final Thoughts

We presented the term “digital forensics” here and detailed its classifications and related concepts. While there is no standard operating procedure for performing digital forensic investigations, we discussed the basic stages that compose any digital investigation and the tasks that must be executed in each. 

The demand for digital forensics investigators cuts across all business sectors. And most organizations have established digital forensics readiness policies to conform to public regulatory dictates and boost their preparedness for events that could disrupt their business operations.