Beginner’s Guide to Computer Forensics


Computer forensics is the exercise of amassing, analyzing, and reporting on digital facts, so this is legally admissible. It may be used to detect and prevent crime and in any dispute wherein evidence is saved digitally. Computer forensics has comparable examination levels to other forensic disciplines and faces similar issues.

About this guide

This guide discusses laptop forensics from a neutral angle. It is not related to a specific law or intended to sell a specific agency or product and isn’t always written in the bias of either law enforcement or business computer forensics. It is aimed at a non-technical target audience and provides a high-level view of pc forensics. This manual uses the term “pc,” but the standards follow any tool capable of storing digital records. Where methodologies had been noted, they are provided as examples only and do now not constitute guidelines or recommendations. Copying and publishing the complete or part of this article is certified solely beneath the Creative Commons’ terms – Attribution Non-Commercial 3.Zero license.

Uses of computer forensics

There are few areas of crime or dispute wherein computer forensics cannot be carried out. Law enforcement groups had been among the earliest and heaviest customers of computer forensics and have often been at the forefront of developments in the field. Computers can also represent a ‘scene of a criminal offense,’ for example, with hacking [ 1] or denial of service attacks [2], or they’ll keep evidence in the form of emails, net history, documents, or different files relevant to crimes along with homicide, kidnap, fraud and drug trafficking. It isn’t always simply the content material of emails, documents, and other files that may be of interest to investigators; however, the ‘meta-statistics’ [3] are related to the one’s documents. A pc forensic examination may monitor while a report first regarded on a pc. At the same time, it turned into closing edited, whilst it becomes remaining saved or revealed and which consumer did those movements.

More recently, business firms have used laptop forensics to their benefit in a variety of instances, which include;

Intellectual Property robbery
Industrial espionage
Employment disputes
Fraud Investigations
Matrimonial troubles
Bankruptcy investigations
Inappropriate e-mail and internet use within the paintings region
Regulatory compliance


For proof to be admissible, it must be reliable and now not prejudicial, which means that admissibility must be at the forefront of a pc forensic examiner’s mind at all levels of this process. One set of guidelines that have been extensively prevalent to help is the Association of Chief Police Officers Good Practice Guide for Computer-Based Electronic Evidence or ACPO Guide for quick. Although the ACPO Guide is aimed at United Kingdom regulation enforcement, its predominant standards are relevant to all pc forensics in anything legislature. The four primary standards from this manual were reproduced under (with references to law enforcement eliminated):

No motion ought to alternate information held on a pc or storage media, which can be subsequently relied upon in court.

On occasions in which a person reveals it essential to get entry to unique information hung on a pc or garage media, that man or woman ought to accomplish that and be capable of supply proof explaining the relevance and the results of their moves.

An audit path or different file of all tactics implemented to computer-based totally digital evidence should be created and preserved. An unbiased 1/3-birthday celebration has to be capable of looking at those methods and obtaining the same result.

The character in fee of the investigation has a normal duty for making sure that the regulation and these ideas are adhered to.
In summary, no modifications have to be made to the original, but if access/modifications are important, the examiner needs to recognize what they’re doing and file their movements.

Live acquisition

Principle 2 above can also increase the question: In what state of affairs would adjustments to a suspect’s laptop be necessary using a pc forensic examiner? Traditionally, the pc forensic examiner could make a replica (or accumulate) data from a device that’s turned off. A write-blocker[4] might be used to make a genuine bit for bit replica [5] of the unique garage medium. The examiner might work then from this reproduction, leaving the original demonstrably unchanged.

However, now and again it is not feasible or proper to replace a computer off. It might not be possible to replace a computer off if doing so could result in an extensive financial or different loss for the owner. It may not be perfect for replacing a pc off if it would imply that doubtlessly valuable evidence may be misplaced. In both those circumstances, the laptop forensic examiner would want to carry out a ‘live acquisition,’ which could involve running a small software at the suspect’s laptop, a good way to copy (or gather) the data to the examiner’s tough drive.

By running this sort of application and attaching a destination force to the suspect pc, the examiner will make changes and/or additions to the laptop’s state, which has been now not gifted earlier than his moves. Such moves could stay admissible so long as the examiner recorded their moves, turned into privy to their impact, and explained their movements.

Stages of an exam

For this newsletter, the computer forensic examination method has been divided into six ranges. Although they may be provided in their common chronological order, it is important to be bendy through an exam. For instance, for the evaluation degree duration, the examiner may also discover a new lead, which could warrant similar computers being examined and imply a return to the assessment stage.


Forensic readiness is an important and now and again not noted degree in the exam manner. In industrial pc forensics, it could include instructing clients approximately machine preparedness; as an example, forensic examinations will provide stronger evidence if a server or PC’s built-in auditing and logging systems are switched on. For examiners, there are numerous areas wherein prior organization can assist, together with schooling, normal trying out and verification of software program and gadget, familiarity with rules, dealing with sudden problems (e.G., what to do if toddler pornography is present at some stage in business activity) and ensuring that your on-website acquisition package is complete and in operating order.


The assessment stage consists of receiving clear instructions, risk evaluation, and allocation of roles and resources. Risk analysis for regulation enforcement may also include assessing the probability of bodily danger coming into a suspect’s assets and the way first-rate to address it. Commercial establishments also need to be aware of health and safety troubles, while their assessment might additionally cover reputational and economic risks on accepting a selected venture.


The important part of the collection level, acquisition, has been introduced above. If the acquisition is to be carried out on-site in preference to in a computer forensic laboratory, then this stage could consist of figuring out, securing, and documenting the scene. Interviews or conferences with employees who can also keep facts which might apply to the exam (that could include the cease customers of the computer, and the supervisor and man or woman chargeable for presenting computer offerings) would typically be finished to this degree. The ‘bagging and tagging’ audit trail might start right here via sealing any substances in unique tamper-evident luggage. Consideration additionally wishes to accept to safely and safely transporting the cloth to the examiner’s laboratory.


The analysis depends on the specifics of every process. The examiner usually affords remarks to the customer in the course of analysis. From this talk, the evaluation might also take a different direction or be narrowed to specific areas. Analysis needs to be accurate, thorough, independent, recorded, repeatable, and completed inside the time-scales available and assets allocated. There is myriad gear available for laptop forensics analysis. It is our opinion that the examiner must use any tool they experience security with so long as they can justify their desire. The predominant necessities of a laptop forensic device are that it does what it is meant to do. The simplest manner for examiners to make certain of this is to frequently check and calibrate the tools they use before analysis takes vicinity. Dual-device verification can affirm result integrity all through analysis (if with the tool ‘A,’ the examiner unearths artifact ‘X’ at location ‘Y,’ then tool ‘B’ should mirror these outcomes.)


This degree typically entails the examiner producing a based file on their findings, addressing the preliminary commands’ points at the side of any subsequent commands. It might additionally cowl some other records which the examiner deems applicable to the research. The document has to be written with the quiet reader in thoughts; in many cases, the file reader could be non-technical, so the terminology should be renowned for this. The examiner must also be organized to participate in meetings or smartphone meetings to speak about and be problematic in the report.


Along with the readiness degree, the overview stage is often unnoticed or neglected. This may be due to the perceived costs of doing paintings that aren’t always billable or the want ‘to get on with the subsequent job.’ However, an overview degree integrated into each exam can help store money and raise the extent of great by making destiny examinations extra green and time powerful. A review of an examination may be easy, short, and may begin all through any above degrees. It may also encompass a simple ‘what went incorrect, and how can this be advanced’ and a ‘what went nicely and how can it’s integrated into future examinations.’ Feedback from the instructing celebration must also be sought. Any classes learned from this stage should be carried out to the next examination and fed into the readiness stage.

Issues dealing with pc forensics

The trouble dealing with laptop forensics examiners may be damaged into 3 huge categories: technical, prison, and administrative.

Encryption – Encrypted files or difficult drives can be impossible for investigators to view without the best key or password. Examiners should recollect that the important thing or password can be saved some other place on the computer or on some other pc which the suspect has had to get right to entry. It could also live within the risky memory of a computer (known as RAM [6] that’s normally misplaced on pc shut-down; every other cause to don’t forget using live acquisition techniques mentioned above.

Increasing garage space – Storage media holds more amounts of statistics ever. For the examiner, their analysis computers need to have enough processing electricity and available garage to search and analyze tremendous quantities of information effectively.

New technology – Computing is an ever-converting location, with new hardware, software program, and running systems being constantly produced. No unmarried laptop forensic examiner can be a professional in all regions, though they will regularly be expected to examine something they haven’t handled earlier. To cope with this example, the examiner should be organized and capable of checking and testing the latest technology’s behavior. Networking and sharing knowledge with different laptop forensic examiners is likewise very beneficial on this appreciate because it’s probably a person else may have already encountered the identical issue.

Anti-forensics – Anti-forensics is the practice of trying to thwart computer forensic evaluation. This may encompass encryption, the over-writing of information to make it unrecoverable, the change of files’ meta-statistics, and record obfuscation (disguising documents). As with encryption above, the evidence that such strategies had been used can be stored somewhere else on the laptop or on every other computer which the suspect has had to get right to entry too. In our enjoy, it is very uncommon to look anti-forensics gear used effectively and frequently sufficient to totally obscure either their presence or the presence of the proof they had been used to cover.

Legal troubles

Legal arguments might also confuse or distract from a pc examiner’s findings. An example right here will be the ‘Trojan Defence.’ A Trojan is a piece of pc code disguised as benign, which has a hidden and malicious motive. Trojans have many uses and include key-logging [7], importing and downloading of documents, and set up of viruses. A lawyer can be capable of arguing that movements on a laptop have been now not done by way of a consumer, however, have been automatic using a Trojan without the user’s knowledge; the sort of Trojan Defence has been successfully used even if no hint of a Trojan or different malicious code becomes located at the suspect’s pc. In such cases, an equipped opposing lawyer, provided with proof from an equipped computer forensic analyst, must be able to brush aside such a controversy.

Accepted standards – There are many standards and hints in pc forensics, few of which appear universally common. This is due to some of the reasons inclusive of fashionable-setting bodies being tied to precise legislations, requirements being aimed either at law enforcement or business forensics however now not at both, the authors of such standards not being established through their friends, or excessive joining charges dissuading practitioners from taking part.

Fitness to practice – In many jurisdictions, there is no qualifying frame to check computer forensics experts’ competence and integrity. In such instances, anybody might also present themselves as a laptop forensic professional, which may bring about laptop forensic examinations of questionable best and a poor view of the career as a whole.

Resources and further studying

There does not appear like a super amount of fabric protecting computer forensics geared toward a non-technical readership. However, the subsequent links at the lowest of this web page can also prove to be of interest shown to be of the hobby:


1. Hacking: editing a pc in a manner which turned into no longer at the start supposed as a way to gain the hacker’s dreams.
2. Denial of Service attack: an attempt to prevent a computer machine’s valid users from getting access to that system’s statistics or services.
3. Meta-data: at a basic level, meta-records is recorded approximately information. It may be embedded within files or saved externally in a separate document and can comprise facts approximately the document’s author, layout, creation date, and so on.
Four. Write blocker: a hardware device or software program application that prevents any statistics from being modified or added to the garage medium being examined.
5. But reproduction: bit is a contraction of the term ‘binary digit’ and is the fundamental computing unit. A bit reproduction refers to a sequential copy of each bit on a storage medium, which incorporates regions of the medium ‘invisible’ to the person.
6. RAM: Random Access Memory. RAM is a computer‘s transient workspace and is unstable, which means that its contents are lost when the computer is powered off.
7. Key-logging: the recording of keyboard input giving the capacity to examine a person’s typed passwords, emails, and other private facts.

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