When it comes to cybersecurity, prevention is the best course. Unfortunately, however, even if you have stringent security protocols in place, practice best practices, and use the latest tools, you may still succumb to an attack. If so, computer forensics could play a crucial role in discovering how the attack occurred, who carried it out, and what your ongoing vulnerabilities might be. Fortunately, organizations and individuals can partner with computer forensic businesses to conduct thorough examinations.
Forensics Starts With Preserving Evidence
As with many crime scenes, the first few hours and days are crucial. Computer forensics generally starts with preserving evidence. This may include drive imaging, setting up a chain of custody, securing storage devices, and taking steps to mitigate tampering. Backups may be made, and data could be “air-gapped,” or taken offline to make it harder to access.
Evidence Must Be Examined Carefully
During the first hours of a forensic investigation, the focus is often on gathering and protecting data and evidence. Of course, the data must be thoroughly analyzed. It may be possible to find logs of everything that happened, and cybersecurity experts can use a variety of tools to analyze data. They will also use past experience and knowledge of the field to uncover insights.
Let’s examine some specific methods security experts may use.
One of the favorite tools for cybercriminals is steganography, a process by which hackers can conceal secret information and code in seemingly benign files, like a document. It may be possible to conduct reverse steganography to uncover hidden information.
Uncovering Hidden and Deleted Files
Hackers or the software they wrote may have deleted files in an attempt to cover their tracks and destroy evidence. A cybersecurity expert may be able to dig these files up.
Examining Digital Artifacts
Often, digital activity leaves behind digital artifacts. For example, if an employee perpetuated the attack, he or she may have used a search engine to conduct research. The employee may have queried “Where can I sell stolen corporate data” or “How do you write a phishing email?” Records of the search would be a digital artifact and the artifact may be recoverable.
An investigator can attempt to reconstruct digital activity without the use of digital artifacts as well, which is called stochastic forensics.
As you can see, cybersecurity experts can leverage a variety of tools and procedures. The above list is far from exhaustive. If you believe you’ve been attacked, it’s wise to contact computer forensic businesses as soon as possible. Time is often of the essence.