Why Data Security Is Important in the Forensic Industry

Data security has become an incredibly important matter in the forensics industry. In fact, a whole new branch of forensic science has emerged, Digital Forensics. Digital Forensics is a field dedicated to using digital resources to identify evidence and conduct investigations. The topics below will explain more about forensic data security and its significance.

Data Storage and Forensics

A digital forensic investigation is highly dependent on the availability of data online or on a mobile device. For example, a device’s location can determine where a suspect’s vehicle was at the time of a crime. Investigators can also determine what a person was doing on their device before, during, and after an event.

Data security is critical in many subsets of modern forensics. These include digital forensics, which is defined as the application of science in analyzing data while preserving information integrity. It also applies to the identification, collection, and examination of information. A strict chain of custody is also important. This will be explained later. Network, web, and cloud forensics are other branches that have emerged.

Forensics and Cloud Computing

The cloud has become an important asset in the forensics industry. Security of digital evidence is, therefore, a priority for cloud forensic investigators. It reduces the risk of tampering and ensures proper storage of evidence. Platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) models present challenges because cloud service providers, not users, have control over log files. For various reasons, providers’ service policies define rules regarding accessibility to these files.

Investigators must focus on data protection at every step of the cloud forensic process. The process flow includes identifying whether a crime occurred or not, collecting evidence, examining and analyzing data, and preserving information before presenting and reporting the findings. The evidence collection phase is particularly sensitive, as fast acquisition, data encryption, and means by which evidence is obtained impact the viability of any case.

Evidence Collection and Cloud Log Analysis

When stored in the cloud, evidence is distributed across different systems and geographic locations. It must be collected from servers, hosts, routers, switches, web browser data, and internal storage media. Determining whether a crime occurred often requires collecting data from these and other sources and by analyzing log files.

Cloud log analysis uses information gathered during logging, a process in which the system is constantly monitored to detect and investigate malicious attacks. Logging is useful in identifying violations, fraudulent activities, and operational issues and can find evidence generated at different time intervals. The types of log files used include:

  • Application logs: Help administrators monitor applications running on the server by tracking events that are inserted into the program by developers.
  • System logs: Include dates and times when logs were created and details such as message type, system-generated messages, and processes affected.
  • Firewall logs: Can unveil details of unsuccessful logins, rejected IP addresses, source routed packets, and activities from internal servers.
  • Web server logs: Contain entries with details on web pages, including history of page requests, dates and times of access, client IP addresses, and the amount of data transmitted/accessed.
  • Network logs: Information on events like malicious traffic, bandwidth delays, packet drops, and other evidence of suspicious activity.
  • Audit logs: Let security administrators track unauthorized system/network access and malicious activities over time via timestamps, user login details, and source/destination addresses.
  • VM logs: Information such as startup configuration, when a virtual machine instance finished executing, and the number of instances on the VM is recorded.

Collecting evidence from cloud storage helps identify illegal access to or modification of data stored on resources such as Google Drive or Dropbox. For example, attackers can alter file contents or timestamp information. Web browser histories are also sources of forensic information. One can track URLs and user browsing behavior and perform a timeline analysis or determine whether a suspect was attempting to retrieve information illegally.

Another way to analyze cloud computing usage is through physical memory analysis. Otherwise, a lack of passive monitoring can result in loss of data. A physical memory dump can be used to recover process names, initiation times, and identifiers.

As it can be seen, there are many challenges to conducting forensics in the cloud, including a lack of physical accessibility to data, accessibility of logs, data volatility, decentralization, and multitenancy, especially when malicious activities occur across different systems and service providers.

Simultaneous High-Speed Data Imaging

Managing data storage for the forensic industry has become easier with modern technologies. One of these is simultaneous high speed data imaging. The Ciphertex CX-Linux operating system enables the Ciphertex SecureNAS® to acquire data from up to four Forensic imagers. It can do so at peak performance while supporting multiple input sources with different file systems. The OS, therefore, can handle heterogeneous system configurations. This saves time and increases throughput.

What Is the Chain of Custody?

A chain of custody validates the means by which evidence has been collected, tracked, and protected before reaching a court of law. Creating a chain of custody is essential for producing admissible evidence. It requires creating documentation of the people who handled evidence, what was done to it, and when it was collected or handed over to another party.

The process also requires identifying where evidence was collected, where it was stored, how it was done so, and why it was done so. Maintaining chain of custody requires a reliable system to handle data and images while they are being investigated.

How to Ensure the Chain of Custody with Ciphertex® Products

Ensuring chain of custody requires data security solutions such as RAID and NAS systems from Ciphertex. With our portable RAID servers and NAS systems, data can be quickly collected, searched, tagged, and reviewed. Information can also be shared with all stakeholders in the e-discovery process. Our solutions are perfectly-suited for performing forensic tasks, while reducing human resource demand, storage requirements, and processing time. Each solution’s portable design makes transporting digital evidence on and off-site safer and less complex.

The Importance of Data Transportability

Our solutions make moving data easy. For example, our portable NAS systems feature military-grade durability and maintain high-level data security during transport. A versatile memory system is able to detect and correct memory errors while virtual-machine support centralizes storage, backup, and disaster recovery as well as sharing. Each unit is also physically protected against theft and removal. Data transportability enables all team members to safely access and analyze information and perform their assigned tasks during a forensic investigation.

Using the Ciphertex SecureNAS Quick-Link Cable

The SecureNAS® Quick-Link cable can connect up to 10 Windows, Mac, and/or Linux-based computers with simultaneous access to data on one SecureNAS® device. Investigators can collect and review data on multiple devices at once. This is especially useful when digital evidence may be spread across different machines. The cable provides even more versatility with support for optional 2 x 4-channel Quad Port USB 3.0 PCIe Controllers, a 4-Port PCIe SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card, and UASP. It can also provide LP/SATA power and supports charging via a PCI Express Slot.

Boost Forensic Data Security with Ciphertex

Ciphertex® has the latest data security solutions for forensics investigators, including portable NAS servers, RAID systems, and single drives, as well as the SecureNAS® Quick-Link cable. We are dedicated to protecting your data and infrastructure from data theft, terrorism, and other cybercrime. To learn more about our solutions for the forensics industry, call 818-773-8989 today!

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