The Wide Variety of Uses For Computer Forensics

Digital Detective Work: The Growing Use Of Computer Forensics

Digital devices are now standard for transmitting, storing and handling sensitive information. The result? Governments and private organizations need a way to track computer use, discover critical data and make copies of information that will stand up in court. It’s all covered under the growing field of computer forensics, which helps both government agencies and private enterprises limit their risk and increase total security. Here’s a look at the practical impact of computer forensics.

Adaptive Agencies

Government agencies are slow to adopt digital technologies, mostly for fear of potential data breaches or network compromise. Yet the increasing use of always-connected mobile devices, coupled with staff tech-savvy, has changed the landscape. Now, governmental organizations need a way to effectively track, audit and secure digital devices. The developing field of computer forensics offers multiple use cases:

  • Federated Testing Tools — As noted by, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a set of forensic tools that help investigators make copies of evidence from seized electronic devices. This is critical because if data reveals the need for federal prosecution or civil litigation, government agencies must be able to show the data was copied accurately and without impacting original integrity. NIST’s testing tools act as trial runs for copying software to ensure it won’t fail.
  • Damage Remediation — Computer forensics can also be used to discover the extent and severity of a data breach or network attack. In North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County, for example, forensic investigations discovered that 48 of 500 servers had been infected by malware, but also determined that hackers weren’t able to access citizens’ personal information.
  • Data Discovery — Forensics can also be used to help law enforcement discover critical data on seized devices (like cellphones), which is then used in litigation. The right tools enable trained police officers and civilians to uncover files that criminals thought were deleted or even encrypted on their devices.

Private Cyber Problems

Private industry is also making use of computer forensics to boost security and enable potential prosecution. These include:

  • Hacker Tracking — As noted by The Spec, a Russian-speaking hacker cell was able to steal more than $10 million from U.S. and Russian banks over the last 18 months using a form of fileless malware — which is extremely hard to detect because it leverages approved processes within computer networks. A private forensics company was able to track the hacker attacks and shed some light on their origins and composition, jump-starting the process to help protect networks and potentially identify perpetrators.
  • Network Security — Digital forensics can also be used to help secure private servers from outside attack. By leveraging forensic tools to inspect packet data, companies gain critical knowledge about preferred hacker methods, quarantine suspicious activities and design proactive responses to emerging threats.

Both government agencies and private industry benefit from computer forensics — expect significant growth in this field as more powerful computing technologies allow companies to discover data in real time, and specialized tools let organizations quickly address emerging issues.