Forensic Software: Everything You Need to Know About Computer Forensics When the average person hears the phrase “computer forensics” or “forensic computing”, an image of a shadowy figure wearing mirrored glasses immediately comes to mind. But is it an accurate representation of what computer and digital forensics are really all about? It’s not, as you’ll soon find out in this article. Even though the same tools used by a real computer forensic specialist are used by his or her underground counterpart, the essence of digital forensics is data recovery and preservation. If you ever used a computer data recovery tool, such as Disk Drill, to recover lost files from your computer, you already have a rough idea about one aspect of the forensic computer science and the life of a computer forensic investigator.
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In this article, you are going to learn the rest. Computer Forensics Definition defines computer forensics as “the process of uncovering and interpreting electronic data”. The main goal of this process is to “preserve any evidence in its most original form while performing a structured investigation by collecting, identifying and validating the digital information for the purpose of reconstructing past events”. In other words, digital forensics is a branch of the same old forensic science that you know from old crime TV shows. You know how they usually go: a horrendous murder is committed.
Police officers arrive at the scene with the chief investigator leading the pack in his Ford Galaxie 500. As soon as they step out their vehicles, somebody yells “Don’t touch anything! We need every piece of evidence we can find”. Back in the day, such evidence would often be someone’s diary or a fingerprint on a glass of water.
These days, it’s digital metadata, log files, IP addresses, and leftover chunks of ones and zeros. Some of the very first digital crimes can be traced back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. In those days, computer security and privacy were the subjects of interest to only a very small group of geeks and innovators. A major turning point occurred in 1978, with the 1978 Florida Computer Crimes Act, which recognized the first computer crimes in the United States and included legislation against unauthorized deletion or modification of computer data. Other acts, such as the US Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the British Computer Misuse Act of 1990, followed soon after that.
Before the arrival of the new millennium, the discussion still revolved mostly around recognizing computer crimes as serious threats to personal, organizational, and national security. Since 2000, a new need for standardization arose, leading to the production of “Best practices for Computer Forensics” and the publication of ISO 17025 by the Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE).
These standards and guides helped established a set of best practices for computer forensic specialists to follow and ignited computer forensics companies to produce capable forensic data recovery software solutions that would be able to meet the complex demands of the modern age. The typical forensic process has several distinct stages: the seizure, forensic acquisition, analysis, and the production of a report based on the collected data.
There are special free forensic software tools as well as paid forensic tools for each stage. A list of digital forensics tools can be found later in this article.
Sub-Branches of Computer Forensics Computer forensic specialists either deal with the private or the public sector. With the public sector, their work is usually to support or refute a hypothesis before criminal or civil courts. The bread and butter of private sector forensic investigators are corporate investigations and intrusion investigations. As the complexity of modern technology increases, computer forensic specialists often focus on one or a number of sub-branches of digital forensics, to gain expert-level knowledge. Digital forensics is typically divided according to the type of devices involved. The major branches are computer forensics, mobile device forensics, network forensics, forensic data analysis, and database forensics. The one branch that has seen the most growth over the past few years is mobile device forensics.