Using Digital Forensics to Combat Cyber Attacks

Daniel Tobok
E: [email protected]
Posted on: March 20, 2019

What is digital forensics, why you need it, and how a proactive approach can keep your business safe.

Hacking. DDoS attacks. Botnets. Malware. White hat vs black hat tactics. Social engineering… The list of ways that outside forces can access, steal, or corrupt your company’s digital network and data assets is as long as it is confusing. It’s seems like no sooner does a new security patch come through than someone out there has found a way to exploit it. According to a 2017 report from Bay Dynamics:

  • The average company has 10 security vulnerabilities per system
  • 79% of organizations’ security technicians feel overwhelmed by threat alerts

The threat level to organizations of any size and in any industry is significant, and growing exponentially as both people and companies become more interconnected and increasingly dependent on devices, networks and systems. In past years the amount of successful automated security exploits has been increasing by more than 440% annually, which proves that a company doesn’t need to be high profile in order to be vulnerable to attack. Small and medium businesses may lack the budget and the staff to appropriately safeguard against vulnerabilities, while larger companies can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data and systems that they must continually test and monitor – with digital access being easier than ever, no one is truly safe from risk.

It’s easy to see how this can all get very overwhelming, very fast. So how can a company hope to stay on top of this constantly shifting digital security landscape, all while effectively safeguarding their data?

The answer is: they can’t do it alone. That’s when partnering with cybersecurity experts becomes an integral part of an organizational strategy to both prevent and if necessary investigate any attacks on their networks, systems, or data. A skilled
digital forensics team is both the best offense
and defense against any digital attacks.

What is Digital Forensics Anyways?

When people hear the term digital forensics, most often their minds go to some sort of a brightly lit CSI lab, combing through security camera footage that they need to “enhance!” to read a license plate or catch a killer. While that is certainly one aspect of digital forensics, the term has come to encompass so much more in today’s digital age – a lot of it much more mundane, but no less critical to a business than security footage would be to the police.

Due to the fact that the field of digital forensics is constantly changing and expanding, there is no one set, agreed upon, definition for the term. As new devices are invented, coding languages are updated, and software is patched, new subcategories and fields within digital forensics are added at a rapid pace.

At its most basic, Techworld defines digital forensics as “the process of uncovering and interpreting electronic data,” but the more important question is –
how does it relate to my organization? Depending on the nature of the data and systems a company uses it could be many different ways. Proactively, a digital forensics firm can evaluate, identify, and correct vulnerabilities and weak spots in your networks, data, and systems before they are exploited by a cyber security threat.

If the worst case scenario comes to pass and a security breach does occur, a digital forensics team is a critically important part of a reactive strategy, needed for locating the point of attack, recovering your data, and even protecting your company when it comes to legal matters. Depending on the content and sensitivity of the network breached or data stolen, companies can be financially liable for court settlements and negligence fees. The information gathered via digital forensics is the most vital data for use in these cases, topped perhaps only by strong records of regular digital security checks and tests (if you take a proactive approach).

How Does Digital Forensics Work for Your Company?

Whether an organization is seeking a firm to aid with proactive or reactive planning (or both), they must first understand which subdiscipline (or disciplines) need to be applied to their unique use case. A retail company that uses a mobile application to sell products and process payments will need a different evaluation than an insurance company that keeps sensitive data on their own internal servers.

There are four main subsections of digital forensics that can apply to the average organization:

Computer Forensics involves the investigation, recovery, reconstruction, and preservation of data found on computers, laptops, and storage devices, like external hard drives, servers, or USB keys. These findings are commonly requested during the discovery phase of any legal proceedings, or during the termination of any employees who had access to sensitive data to be sure that information remains secure.

Network Forensics is the ongoing monitoring, recording, and analysis of network activity and events within an organization. It is used to identify security risks, patch any vulnerabilities, and find the source of any malicious activity, like worms or malware. In addition, in the unfortunate occurrence of an attack, network data can be used to try and find the perpetrator.

Mobile Forensics is the fastest growing segment of digital forensics, and with good reason. This subdiscipline includes the recovery of information from smartphones, tablets, GPS, SIM cards, game consoles, and even IoT devices. The more devices that can access the internet or a company’s network, the more vulnerabilities are present, causing the category to grow exponentially.

Memory Forensics, also referred to as live acquisition, is most commonly used in advanced attacks that don’t leave a trace on a computer’s hard drive. In these cases, the computer’s RAM memory dump must be retrieved and analyzed for clues.

What It All Means

However a company uses data and technology for their operations, the threats to organizational digital security are growing and diversifying too rapidly to be handled alone. By partnering with a firm that specializes in digital forensic services, organizations can effectively work to minimize risk while being ready for immediate response should the worst ever happen. Creating a partnership with a cybersecurity company allows an organization to focus on their business while they focus on the security of the digital tools and data needed to function in today’s digital-first age. For more information on preventative digital forensics or the disaster recovery process, contact us at CONTACT for a consultation.