With the rise in technology, the increase in digital crimes is inevitable. Just like in real life, people who use electronic devices leave behind different footprints, traces and markings. These virtual or digital traces could be file fragments, activity logs, timestamps, metadata, and so on.
Digital forensics is a new science that involves finding evidence from digital media, such as computers, mobile phones, or networks. Forensic teams analyze, inspect, identify, and preserve the digital evidence, and use it to help them investigate crimes related to technology. Whether data has been compromised by a cyberattack or files encrypted by ransomware, data forensic experts can help determine how the attack took place, what the damages were, and in many cases, who perpetrated it.
Why is digital forensics important? There is a great deal digital forensics can do, including:
- Identifying the cause and possible intent of a cyberattack
- Safeguarding digital evidence used in the attack before it becomes obsolete
- Increasing security hygiene, retracing hacker steps, and finding hacker tools
- Searching for data access/exfiltration
- Identifying the duration of unauthorized access on the network
- Geolocating the logins and mapping them
All of these are helpful not only in dealing with an attack but the aftermath and the consequences of one. If your company was recently a victim of a cyberattack, it may be difficult to decide what the next course of action should be. A digital forensics investigation can lead you in the direction to understand what information was compromised. Businesses that have experienced a cyberattack must understand the attack in full context to see what data was breached.
Consequences of not paying attention to Digital forensics
Continued access and damage
Organizations that don’t use digital forensics run the risk of attackers remaining in their systems or having continued access to their data. There can be dire consequences to outside forces gaining access to an organization’s data, both legally and from a business perspective. The most obvious factor is these bad actors stealing sensitive information, including credit card numbers, names, phone numbers, which constitutes Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
Loss of competitive advantage and legal consequences
Losing business information to thieves or hackers can mean a loss of competitive advantage for a company. It can also bring legal consequences, if the data is protected information that belongs to a third party, such as a client. Any organization with access to this information has a legal and ethical duty to protect it, and in most countries, they are obligated to report it, if this data has been compromised.
How can digital forensics help?
Digital forensics can help identify what was stolen, and help trace whether the information was copied or distributed. Some hackers may intentionally destroy data in order to harm their targets. In other cases, valuable data may be accidentally damaged due to interference from hackers or the software that hackers use. Data may also be encrypted and held for ransom and rendered unusably. The recent attack on the oil pipelines in the United States of America is an example of an attack for ransom. The attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which carries almost half of the gasoline, diesel and other fuels used on the East Coast, underscores the potential vulnerability of industrial sectors to the expanding threat of ransomware strikes.
Digital forensic experts might be able to recover data that was lost or damaged, although this is not a guarantee. After the breach, the cyber attackers can easily and almost immediately sell or misuse that information. However, a digital forensics expert can determine what has been exfiltrated from the network, hence digital forensics is an important field. Threat intelligence data from previous cases can be used to determine the likelihood that your data is leaked.
Why should businesses who need digital forensics act quickly?
For businesses that hold customer data, digital forensics is important. If there has been a cyberattack, the digital artifacts and evidence should be preserved immediately for an effective investigation to take place. An important point to note is that a digital forensic investigation will not do much to prevent an attack. It’s meant for after an attack has already occurred. This doesn’t mean that the information gathered during the investigation can’t be used by the business to prevent attacks in the future. It can help identify weaknesses in the current security system that can be fixed or replaced. Digital forensics can determine if there is still suspicious activity and alert you if steps need to be taken to mitigate those possible cyber threats.
The job of catching an attacker is usually delegated to the police or different authorities, with digital forensics providing evidence. This is crucial to finding the perpetrator, and more importantly, prosecuting them. The faster and more thorough a digital forensics investigation is, the better the chances of the hacker being caught and any damages being repaired and that is why digital forensics is important and why the field has gained a lot of prominence over the years. This is also why choosing the right vendor to conduct the investigation is essential. Have questions about digital forensics? Contact us.