15 Industry-Leading Technology Digital Forensics Methods and Technologies

Technical Tips
2022-04-18

The primary goal of digital forensics and experts trained in this field is to gather and analyze crucial bits and pieces of evidence. Before the criminals can be prosecuted, it’s essential to find out exactly what happened and who’s guilty of the crime.

The 21st century has blessed us with so many useful gadgets and digital devices that make life more convenient, but due to their individual specifics (OS, technology, or other), can make a digital forensic analyst’s job more difficult.

To meet the goals and objectives outline above, using modern digital forensics technology goes a long way.

Today, we’ll give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what kind of technology goes into modern forensics investigations and what methodologies digital forensic examiners have to use to crack a case.

1. Digital vehicle forensics

After securing the area of the incident, it’s important to gather samples of anything and everything that could potentially end up being used as evidence that is vital to the resolution of the case. This includes fluids and dirt samples.

In general, there are many physical and digital components to vehicle forensics. For starters, a forensic examiner needs to collect fingerprints for fingerprint analysis, as well as other particles and bits and pieces of evidence to be used later on in the investigation.

But when it comes to digital vehicle forensics, in particular, this opens up a whole new window of possibilities.

Given how modern smart carts like Tesla are basically computers on wheels, data is being recorded all the time. This includes:

  • The status of the brakes
  • Temperature
  • Equipment status
  • The comfort level of passengers

Plus, that’s not even mentioning the details about the environment that are detected and collected through modern sensors built into the vehicle itself.

However, whether it’s a smart car or a regular vehicle with a dash cam, digital vehicle forensics experts can extract the footage from it and solve complex cases if they’re able to recover it.

In other words, if recorded footage of the incident exists, even if it’s damaged or corrupted, modern video and digital vehicle forensics tools such as VIP 2.0 allow the investigators to calculate complex variables pertaining to the case.

Examples include:
  • The speed and direction of travel
  • License plate information
  • Identity of the driver
  • etc.

Vehice Indentify - VIP 2.0

With the help of vehicle forensics tools, it’s possible to determine the angle, direction, speed, and velocity of the vehicle.

2. Drone forensics

Drone technology forensics involves analyzing data collected from drones. Given how easy it is to mount recording software onto one of these, a wealth of evidence can be uncovered during video retrieval, not to mention the built-in geo-tracking, EXIF data, intended flight path, flight history, timestamps, and event information pertaining to its rightful owner.

However, if the drone sustained a fall and was damaged as a result, this requires a lot of patience and the right digital forensics methodology, as the data that resides on the hard drive or SD card might be inaccessible or corrupted. Moreover, each individual piece may be scattered around which poses an additional set of challenges during the evidence acquisition and retrieval phase of the digital forensics investigation.

FACT: At the time of writing, the US has in excess of 850.000 FFA registered drones. Out of these, 40% carry a commercial use license. (Source: FFA.gov)

Given how it can be (mis)used for all sorts of criminal activity, drone technology should not be underestimated by any means.

The dangers include:
  • Unauthorized surveillance
  • Espionage
  • Voyeurism
  • Drug smuggling
  • Disrupting airports
  • Physically attacking innocent civilians

With the help of modern all-encompassing digital forensics solutions such as Digital Forensic Lab by SalvationDATA, a digital forensic data analyst can extract the data that rests inside with ease and with a few technical roadblocks as possible, all while making sure the evidence extracted is admissible in court.

drone

Drones could potentially be used for harassment, espionage, smuggling, and physical attacks.

3. Biometrics

Retina scans, facial scans, and fingerprint scans are all examples of biometric readings the analysis of which can often play a pivotal role in the outcome of a case. The objective is unmasking the identity of a suspect through comparison.

In a real-life environment, however, forensic data analysis of biometrics may not be as straightforward as you would have hoped. In practice, a forensic data analyst may be forced to work with tainted, blurred, or partial samples.

The good news is, that modern forensic data analysis tools have the technological capacity to analyze bodily fluids to determine key characteristics about the suspect, including their age, lifestyle, gender, and even what medications they are on.

eye

Due to it being unique to each individual, a retina scan can be used instead of a password.

4. Social network forensics

Out of the entire population on Earth, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t use Facebook these days. By 2025, industry experts estimate the number of social media will more than quadruple. But even the data that can be siphoned from it in its current form is nothing short of astounding.

To give you an example, modern cyber forensics technology can comb through these online profiles to determine who knows whom and perhaps even uncover signs of illegal activity, including sales of illegal goods, harassment and bullying, publishing sensitive personal information, and similar.

Social Media

When it’s time to get social, a digital network of friends is just one tap away.

5. Geolocating

Almost every device people use on a daily basis collects and tracks variously personally identifiable and other data that can pinpoint a person’s whereabouts. Did you know that the smartphone you’re carrying around with you in your back pocket knows exactly where you’ve been and for how long? Just open the Google Maps Timeline and see for yourself.

 

map

SHOCKING FACT: Google Maps knows exactly when and where you’ve been.

Also, during mobile phone extraction, digital forensics experts often use professional digital forensics tools like SPF PRO to extract photos from the device. These may contain EXIF data that reveals plenty of interesting details, including the physical location where the photo was taken, what camera model was used, etc.

6. Cloud forensics

Industry experts estimate over 50% of people’s data is now stored in the cloud. Consequently, this creates plenty of opportunities for those who are familiar with cloud forensics technology, as there is a boatload of cloud-stored data to analyze when searching for clues.

When using iCloud data recovery for iPhone, for instance, there are various issues at play, including how to make the evidence collected admissible in court. When handling evidence of this nature, a mobile device investigator also needs to worry about chain of custody and other issues such as preserving its integrity.

7. Fingerprint forensics

When Sir Francis Galton proved how fingerprints can be used for the purposes of identification, the science of finger print analysis was born. When comparing fingerprints taken at the crime scene to a vast virtual forensic DNA database of potential matches, the perpetrator of the crime can quickly be identified.

At the same time, a digital forensics investigator faces immense pressures and challenges when sampling fingerprints at the crime scene. Not only can they be contaminated with improper handling and a lack of familiarity with the proper digital forensic acquisition process, the criminals wiping off their own fingerprints or wearing gloves is one of the classic anti-forensic measures.

fingerprint

FACT: Sir Francis Galton is the one to thank for introducing the concept of fingerprints for the purposes of identification.

8. Voiceprint forensics

Similar to fingerprints, no two voiceprints are exactly the same. With forensic analysis of voice recordings, a digital forensics investigator can compare the audio samples to determine whether the voice on two different audio recordings belongs to the same individual or not.

By analyzing distinct vibrations in one’s voice, voiceprint technology forensics can pinpoint what makes each voice unique, thus creating an audio signature of sorts.

In practice, however, several obstacles and challenges may emerge during the process, including the person having a sore throat, being exhausted, or the audio recording may be tainted with noise such as cars honking, etc.

sound

Just as is the case with fingerprints, each person’s voice is unique.

9. Database forensics

Database forensics is used to scour the inner contents of databases and extract evidence that may be stored within. A database forensics investigation often relies on using cutting-edge software like DBF by SalvationDATA to extract the data successfully and bypass the password that would prevent ordinary individuals from accessing it.

If successful, a digital forensics examiner can also analyze the timestamps to determine when a certain database entry was made. DBF also includes industry-grade features like Hierarchical Relationship Analytical Tool and Multiple Analysis Functions that allow for keyword search, filtering, statistics, SQL statement query, visual connection analysis, etc.

Functions like these can come in handy when investigating corporate manipulation, financial fraud, and other instances of criminal activity.

10. Malware forensics

Ever since consumer-grade computers became widely available, various types of malware have emerged. While do little more than annoy the user, other types of malware are potent cyber threats that can steal data, hijack your browser, delete files, and even encrypt them and demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key.

Sometimes, malware forensics goes even beyond analyzing everyday cyber security threats. For example, did you know that cyber forensics companies often play an active role in responding to a cyber security breach? Another example is discovering the origin of malicious code and tracing down the hackers behind it.

computer

Malware can cause all sorts of mischief, including encrypting your files and burying the key.

 

11. Email forensics

A forensic analysis of email goes beyond the mere inspection of its contents. Namely, it also aims to inspect the account holder’s contact list, calendar, time and date the email was sent, etc. Email forensics also seeks to uncover whether the email in question came from a legitimate source or if it’s a forgery (see email spoofing for more information on the subject).

Since phishing attacks and extortion have both been rising trends in the digital era, the importance of email forensics investigation is indisputable and the number of such cases is rising. According to Spanning, phishing represents 80% of all cyber security related incidents.

80% of all cyber security related incidents.

12. Mobile forensics

Mobile phone forensics deals with the subject of extracting data from smartphones and mobile devices and analyzing it. As part of the mobile forensics process, we comb through contacts, calendars, text messages, images, video files, and other multimedia files to discover potentially incriminating pieces of evidence.

digitization

Smartphones contain a wealth of data to be analyzed.

However, forensic phone analysis would not be possible without the proper mobile forensics tools. To this effect, SalvationDATA has developed a cutting-edge product called SPF PRO. With it, you can quickly perform smartphone data extraction and analysis with a built-in password and encryption bypass, which includes app data that is stored in databases.

And the best part about it? Not only is this a more powerful tool than what the competition offers, but it’s also more affordable. If you’re still not convinced, be sure to check out the free trial!

13. Network forensics

In the digital era, network information security is becoming increasingly more important. Network security forensics specializes in detecting network intrusion and illegal activity, as well as analyzing the network and gathering data from it. Compared to other aspects of digital forensics, network forensics often involves analyzing data of dynamic nature.

If communication is taking place within the network, it’s also possible to intercept and decipher it (examples include video chats, email, and other messages). Since forensics in cyber security is a relatively new sub-area of digital forensics, the field is constantly evolving and expanding with new knowledge.

14. Memory forensics

Newer variants of malware are getting increasingly more clever. Thus, they are able to mask their presence on the infected device and their preferred methodology is to leave as little traces on the hard drive as possible. In other words, they are trying to hide in the device’s RAM, which many antivirus scanners fail to take into account.

Therefore, we need volatile memory forensics to detect malicious behavior that would otherwise escape the traditional methods of detection. This is done by acquiring an image of the memory and running a thorough analysis with the proper digital forensics technology.

15. Video forensics

Thanks to forensic video analysis, it’s possible to determine many facts within the video footage recorded, including the identity of the perpetrator, the time, date, and location of where the crime has taken place, etc.

In the event of a car crash, professional forensic video analysis software such as VIP 2.0 can even determine the speed and direction the vehicles were headed in.

car-accident-g80cf46fd9_1280

It’s important to preserve the evidence while it’s still fresh.

A substantial part of audio and video forensics is to preserve the integrity of the footage and make the evidence admissible in court.

To name an example, there are certain limitations to forensic video enhancement. On one hand, the goal is to enhance the quality of the footage to make it less pixelated and clearer to see, on the other, using AI technology is often off-limits because the court might dismiss the evidence as invalid.

Techniques digital forensics investigators use

To reach a conclusion, there are several types of techniques and related technology forensics experts use to tackle the task at hand. These include:

Stochastic forensics

The goal of stochastic forensics is to reconstruct digital activity without resorting to the use of digital artifacts (this is what occurs when digital processes unintentionally alter the data on the device). This methodology is often used to go after malicious insiders inside a company or an organization.

Cross-drive analysis

Cross-drive analysis is a digital forensic acquisition process that compares data from different sources to see if there’s a match or an overlap. In essence, a cross-drive analyst tries to discover anything that might be relevant to the investigation.

Big Data Analysis system in SalvationDATA’s Digital Forensic Lab solution has fully been equipped with cross-drive analysis functionality to better integrate various digital evidence from different formats and sources!

Deleted file recovery

Forensic data recovery utilizes industry-grade solutions like DRS by SalvationDATA that have the capacity to recover deleted, corrupted, fragmented, and overwritten files from a wide range of devices. During the process, sometimes we have to use file and data carving to get to the bottom of things, and only the best digital forensics software solutions support these.

Live analysis

The live forensic analysis attempts to analyze a device while its operating system is still running. This includes volatile memory forensics that looks into the contents of its RAM.

Reverse steganography

Steganography is an anti-forensics tactic employed by criminals to hide data or a message inside another file, seemingly within plain sight. Digital forensics experts attempt to reverse their efforts by using a method called hashing.

Conclusion

Although it’s impossible to cover every digital forensics technology in existence within a single article, this should give you a brief overview of what’s possible and where the science of digital forensics is headed.

At the end of the day, having the right know-how and tools is what can ultimately tip the scale of a digital forensics investigation.

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