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The Future of Digital Forensics: Challenges & Opportunities

Posted on November 16th, 2022

With the rise in cybercrime, including malware and ransomware attacks, digital forensics has become vital for many organizations. Digital forensics is the science of recovering, investigating, and analyzing digital records, often called digital artifacts, or in legal language forensic artifacts. This can be to find evidence of a crime, but is more often used to identify activity occurring on a computer and to understand how a cyberattack or breach may have occurred. Ultimately, digital forensic analysis is fundamental to understanding what occurred in order to prevent it in the future, while supporting containment and eradication of the threat actor.

Here we describe key trends, challenges, and opportunities that digital forensics presents and why incorporating a digital forensics platform helps organizations optimize network security.

Current challenges of digital forensics

Just like the technology it investigates, digital forensics is an exciting and fast-paced field. As such, it comes with several challenges. These include dealing with user privacy, digging through complex systems, and everything in between.

Complexity

Modern computer systems and networks have evolved considerably. They no longer consist of a self-contained, on-premises system, but instead are dispersed in the cloud and across other sites and devices. This means digital evidence is also scattered and spread among numerous locations. It also means that the tools and techniques needed to track down evidence must be more complex.

Advanced technology

As cyber criminals come up with new ways to initiate undetected attacks and leverage anti-forensic technology, the digital forensics experts must also find new ways to seek out, preserve, and analyze digital evidence. Advanced technology has ushered in an era of extremely large volumes of data that are often generated and stored at extremely high speeds and volumes. As a result, this makes digital forensics very difficult without proper tools that can ingest and sort these large volumes, while preserving the metadata in forensically sound format.

Developing forensics techniques

To keep pace with modern technology, digital forensics techniques must be rapidly developed and evolved as well. Modern digital forensics tools support investigations without compromising privacy. Moreover, they are scalable in order to meet rapidly changing demands.

Quality

There is no commonly agreed-upon file format, storage, and classification method for user created documents, despite these being the most commonly investigated digital objects. This makes it challenging to develop standardized digital forensics methods that offer consistent quality.

User’s privacy

User privacy regulations are global, numerous and constantly evolving. When conducting digital investigations, investigators must stay within the lines of the legal juridiction they are working within. This can be particularly difficult when protected personal information is entangled within the evidence being sought.

Credibility

It’s not uncommon for a network to not only be offsite and dispersed, but for certain functions to be handled via a third party (think platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, cloud storage and managed offerings). Conducting a complete and thorough investigation requires pursuing all avenues, though this can lead to roadblocks when encountering third parties. Lack of visibility into the entire business ecosystem and reliance on third-party trust can jeopardize the credibility and usability of digital evidence and analysis.

Future of digital forensics

As digital forensics evolves to meet the challenges described above, it must also keep its eye on the future and stay one step ahead. Looking forward, we see methods for improving security as well as the ability to scale investigations with the help of artificial intelligence.

Reenvisioning the past

Current methods in digital forensics were built up over time. In some ways, this is a good thing; we learn as we build. But as anyone who’s worked in programming knows all too well, sometimes when you rely on incorporating previous solutions you end up with large pieces that are no longer functional or efficient, which can throw a wrench in the whole process.

To address this, modern digital forensics seeks to re-envision the field from a fresh perspective to identify big ideas that will yield more benefits. This includes developing a robust peer review culture as well as improving the scientific approaches utilized in the field of digital forensics.

Scaling artificial intelligence solutions

Artificial intelligence has come a long way in recent years and has proven to be a great enabler when it comes to scaling solutions. Expect to see more use of AI in digital forensics soon. It not only makes it much easier to handle larger volumes of artifacts, but can also help identify gaps and previously undetected patterns.

Analysis of online platform artifacts

Because so much digital evidence exists in the cloud and online, a big focus is now on analyzing online platform artifacts. This means going beyond simply looking at evidence hosted by standard cloud providers, and into temporary and anonymous online file storage and transfer services. A recent paper in Science & Justice describes the types of digital trace evidence left behind on 16 anonymous file transfer services as a step in this direction.

Improving physical security

Digital forensics doesn’t take place in a vacuum, but rather in a physical laboratory. To ensure the integrity of the evidence discovered, there must be a certain degree of physical security at such sites. At present, there are pre-existing guidelines, but they are minimal and inefficient. Future digital forensics should take place in much more secure environments. Physical security measures should include surveillance cameras, biometric entry, fire control systems, and methods for blocking external network signals, such as Faraday cages.

SecurityScorecard’s Digital Forensics Services

To offer even more comprehensive security services, SecurityScorecard acquired LIFARS, a global leader in digital forensics and cyber resiliency. SecurityScorecard offers digital forensics services, including data breach forensics, court-admissible evidence, mobile forensics, memory forensics, and network forensics. If you’d like to learn more about partnering with SecurityScorecard for digital forensics and incident response (DFIR) capabilities, submit a request to speak with an expert today.


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