One of the most terrifying threats faced by businesses and internet companies today include cyber-attacks and network’s system hacking which can give access to the most secretive sections of information and personal users’ data. If the attack is commenced on a large scale, then it can also be ruled as an act of cyber terrorism, which is a lot to take in for the company/business which sustained the attack and the users dependent on that dedicated company for its services.
In the event of a cyber-attack, usually, two questions appear in one's mind, such as, “How did it happen? And what can be done to make sure this doesn't happen in the future?” While these two questions hold equal importance, still, the first one is crucial and often critical to answer. This is where the esteemed knowledge and application of forensics can be applied.
What is Computer Forensics?
Forensics, in general terms, is the use of an established scientific procedure for the collection, interpretation, and presentation of the evidence which was initially collected.
While computer forensics is a different concept which states “A discipline that incorporates elements of law and the applications of computer science such as to collect and analyze data from any computer source such as network systems, web interfaces or other storage devices to make it admissible in a court of law.”
When a cyber-attack has occurred, and the targeted company has sustained severe damage to their systems, the need to answer the questions outlined above becomes paramount. Therefore, the collection of data from these systems is initiated, however a computer forensics expert, while examining clusters of data and differentiating them as evidence or not, is more interested in one particular type of data known as "latent data."
A latent data is a specific type that might not be looked at or brought into consideration at first glance after a cyber attack, or it isn’t accessible that easily. Latent data has multiple benefits when it comes to determining the origin of the attack, and that is why it requires excellent investigative skills by the computer forensic expert to unveil the hidden truths in the data.
Using Interconnected Approach with Computer Forensics
From a forensics point of view, it can't be just acceptable that by implementing deeper layers of cybersecurity, including firewalls, antivirus systems, and other essentials will keep the cyber hackers or criminals at bay. Given the sophistication, in modern-day cyber breaches, a more conventional and sophisticated system is needed as the hardware only presents with a smaller fraction of data that can be made possible in a court of law. This is why there is a need for a more interconnected security system that transpires the various disciplines of computer forensics to ensure in-depth security and safety of the data.
The dedicated systems on their own can’t clarify what happened during a cyber anomaly due to the presence of latent data that can only be cracked using fundamentals of computer forensics, thus the need for interconnected security system.
Using such sophisticated systems, a computer forensics expert can parse the underlying data and make it possible in a court of law so that the criminals behind the attack can be brought to imminent justice. Although on the bright side, incorporation of such systems also wins the organization's immense support from various compliances such as HIPAA and other computer security Acts.
Conducting Computer Forensics: Steps involved
There is a specific sequence holding onto which a computer forensics case can be handled, such as performing an investigative approach within the personnel in charge of the underlying data for that particular facility. By getting to know the potential elements of suspicion within the faculty, the investigation can be conducted further. As there are multiple types of cyber-attacks and hacking methodologies, that is why the overall approach to computer forensics might change a little, however, the specific steps might remain the same.
Readiness involves the imminent preparation of the computer forensics expert and their team to conduct analysis and take on an investigation at merely a moment notice. This expression further includes;
- Making sure that all members of the team are professionally trained with the latest aspects of computer forensics.
- Know specific legal ramifications that come to notice when entering the compromised site where the cyber-attack took place.
- Planning for various eventualities such as any technical or non-technical aspect over the place of the attack.
- Ensure that all the equipment to be used for the collection and sampling of the data is tested and ready to go.
Further down the road, the computer forensic professionals engage in the assessment of the data they received as evidence. This includes the assigning of roles to the various members of the teams or duties which they will have to execute. Any related information, details, or facts about the cyber attack, which just happened and last but not least, the emergence of any risk in investigating the current attack.
It is divided into 2 steps; the first is the Acquisition stage. Here all the latest data from the security infrastructure of the organization is captured involving other sections or areas of the company which sustained the attack. Collection of any kind of additional devices apart from those which store latent data that were affected by the attack and classified interviews with the personnel of the organization.
The actual collection takes place when the devices contain latent data that are labeled and put aside within a sealed and tamper resistance bag and are then transported to the forensic laboratory for further analysis.
Analysis & presentation
The analysis is the most crucial part of the investigation because here, various truths come to light, such as how the attack happened? What tools were used? How severe the impact of the attack was for the company. The analysis should be;
- Must be accurate
- Every step needs to be documented and recorded
- Should be unbiased
- Should be completed within dedicated time frames
- Justification of the tools and the equipment for analysis by the forensics team
Once the analysis is completed, a radical summary of the findings is presented to the IT sector of the compromised organization. The presentation also involves various suggestions and recommendations that should be otherwise commenced to make sure specific attacks don’t repeat themselves in the future.