Introduction to Digital Forensics

Below is an introduction to Digital Forensics.  This may be useful if you are new to recruiting in this area. We recruit for all the Forensic areas in the below diagram and this is similar to the left side of the EDRM in e-Discovery:

 

 

Digital evidence can come in a number of forms.


Digital evidence
When used in a court of law digital evidence falls under the same legal guidelines as other forms of evidence; courts do not usually require more stringent guidelines.[6][30] In the United States the Federal Rules of Evidence are used to evaluate the admissibility of digital evidence, the United Kingdom PACE and Civil Evidence acts have similar guidelines and many other countries have their own laws. US federal laws restrict seizures to items with only obvious evidential value. This is acknowledged as not always being possible to establish with digital media prior to an examination.


Laws dealing with digital evidence are concerned with two issues: integrity and authenticity. Integrity is ensuring that the act of seizing and acquiring digital media does not modify the evidence (either the original or the copy). Authenticity refers to the ability to confirm the integrity of information; for example that the imaged media matches the original evidence. The ease with which digital media can be modified means that documenting the chain of custodyfrom the crime scene, through analysis and, ultimately, to the court, (a form of audit trail) is important to establish the authenticity of evidence.


Lawyers have argued that because digital evidence can theoretically be altered it undermines the reliability of the evidence. In the US judges are beginning to reject this theory, in the case US v. Bonallo the court ruled that "the fact that it is possible to alter data contained in a computer is plainly insufficient to establish untrustworthiness.  In the United Kingdom guidelines such as those issued by ACPO are followed to help document the authenticity and integrity of evidence.


Digital investigators, particularly in criminal investigations, have to ensure that conclusions are based upon factual evidence and their own expert knowledge. In the US, for example, Federal Rules of Evidence state that a qualified expert may testify “in the form of an opinion or otherwise” so long as:
(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data

(2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods

(3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.


The sub-branches of digital forensics may each have their own specific guidelines for the conduct of investigations and the handling of evidence. For example, mobile phones may be required to be placed in a Faraday shield during seizure or acquisition to prevent further radio traffic to the device. In the UK forensic examination of computers in criminal matters is subject to ACPO guidelines. There are also international approaches to providing guidance on how to handle electronic evidence. The "Electronic Evidence Guide" by the Council of Europe offers a framework for law enforcement and judicial authorities in countries who seek to set up or enhance their own guidelines for the identification and handling of electronic evidence.

Investigative tools
The admissibility of digital evidence relies on the tools used to extract it. In the US, forensic tools are subjected to the Daubert standard, where the judge is responsible for ensuring that the processes and software used were acceptable. In a 2003 paper Brian Carrier argued that the Daubert guidelines required the code of forensic tools to be published and peer reviewed. He concluded that "open source tools may more clearly and comprehensively meet the guideline requirements than would closed source tools.

Branches
Digital forensics includes several sub-branches relating to the investigation of various types of devices, media or artifacts.

Computer forensics
The goal of computer forensics is to explain the current state of a digital artifact; such as a computer system, storage medium or electronic document. The discipline usually covers computers, embedded systems (digital devices with rudimentary computing power and onboard memory) and static memory (such as USB pen drives).
Computer forensics can deal with a broad range of information; from logs (such as internet history) through to the actual files on the drive. In 2007 prosecutors used a spreadsheet recovered from the computer of Joseph E. Duncan III to show premeditation and secure the death penalty. Sharon Lopatka's killer was identified in 2006 after email messages from him detailing torture and death fantasies were found on her computer.

Forensics can be carried out on various devices Computers, Mobile Devices, Sat Navs depending on the information recquired.  Salaries in the UK for mobile forensics have dropped oner the last few years due to cut backs from the Police Forces and training them to undertake mobile forensics at siezure. The Computer Forenis salaries have faired better but an increasing number of candidates are seeking to use their forensics skills to launch a career in e-Discovery which is growing faster and offers better remuneration.  One problen for experience canadidates coming from a law enforcement background wanting to enter industry, consultancy in DF or e-Discovery is their lack of experience with large enterprise systems.