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A day in the life: Digital Forensics Analyst

A day in the life: Digital Forensics Analyst

Curious about a career in digital forensics?

Then check out what a day in the life of a Digital Forensics Analyst looks like!

Have you ever wondered what a job in digital forensics would be like?

There are tonnes of great online resources to boost your practical skills, but you may struggle to visualise how you’d put these into practice in the real world.

Read on to find out how a Digital Forensics Analyst conducts investigations and what a job in this field could entail!

What is a Digital Forensics Analyst?

A Digital Forensics Analyst conducts an investigation after a cyber security crime or when there’s suspicion that a crime has occurred.

The purpose of their investigation is to identify and examine the digital data from a crime scene. The data gathered can be used to determine why and how the digital breach occurred. This information may then be used to find the scale of a breach or used as evidence in court.

A digital forensics analyst conducts an investigation after a cyber security crime or when there’s suspicion that a crime has occurred.

A day in the life of a Digital Forensics Analyst

The cases investigated by a Digital Forensics Analyst can vary from minor breaches to multi-million-dollar lawsuits! No matter the size of the investigation, each one must be carried out as accurately, thoroughly and responsibly as possible.

While each case is different, Digital Forensics Analysts often use a similar process to carry out their investigations successfully.

Here’s an example of the step-by-step process you may use as a Digital Forensics Investigator. During a single day, you could be focused on any part of this investigation process.

1. Preparation & Prioritisation

The first step in any investigation is to make a plan! You need to think about your approach and priorities for a particular case.

Gathering legitimate evidence for court is often the top priority, but speed can sometimes be the more critical factor, even if that means evidence will be admissible in court. Your priorities shape how you will carry out your analysis!

2. Identification & Preservation

Once you’ve planned your investigation, it’s now time to identify the evidence and preserve the information on it!

How do you preserve the data in a forensics investigation? There are a few methods to ensure you analyse the information without manipulating and invalidating the original data.

  1. Make copies of the relevant data so you can work from them rather than the original.
  2. Consider using a write blocker. A write blocker is a hardware restriction that allows forensics analysts to read data without changing it.

Once you have identified the evidence, the next crucial step is to preserve the information on it.

3. Analysis

Now that you’ve preserved the evidence, you can begin analysing it. You’ll use this information to determine how the cyber criminal breached the system and what data they stole, modified or wiped.

An example of the methods a Digital Forensics Analyst may use to conduct their analysis:

  • Steganography – find hidden messages and passwords!
  • Event logs and log files – uncover hardware and software actions and different types of logins.
  • File integrity and hashes - identify if any unauthorised changes have been made to a file and prove that you haven’t changed it.
  • Memory captures – take a snapshot of a system’s RAM to review processes that were running and data available in memory.

4. Documentation

As you document your findings, avoid assumptions and ensure your conclusions are verifiable and accurate. If you make a mistake during documentation, it could be used to prove that your evidence is untrustworthy!

Here are some precautions Digital Forensic Analyst’s take to ensure the evidence holds up in a court case!

  • Use a non-ring-bound notepad when writing conclusions to identify later if pages are ripped out.
  • Any physical evidence such as hard drives or USB sticks goes into sealable named and dated bags. Take all necessary precautions to ensure the evidence is not tampered with or affected.
  • Consider the chain of custody for each piece of evidence. When evidence is passed to other investigative bodies, the date and who it was given to should be noted. Recording the chain of custody ensures that the evidence can be accounted for.

As you document your findings, avoid assumptions and ensure your conclusions are verifiable and accurate.

As you document your findings, avoid assumptions and ensure your conclusions are verifiable and accurate.

5. Presentation

Presenting your investigation’s findings is the final step of the process.

You should present findings without bias and in chronological order. Be thorough, accurate and verify your conclusions throughout the investigation. If you are presenting in court, your evidence is more likely to hold up and crack the case!

Does the life of a Digital Forensics Analyst sound interesting? Why not try your hand at some of the skills needed to analyse a piece of evidence. From steganography to file hashes, play through real-world simulations in the CyberStart Forensics base!

All of these programmes are entirely free, and feature CyberStart!

CyberStart America

What is it?

A fun programme developed to help you discover your talent, advance your skills and win scholarships in cyber security.

Who's it for?

13-18 year old high school students in the US only.

Awesome! How can I find out more?
www.cyberstartamerica.org

Cyber FastTrack

What is it?

The fastest and most cost-effective route to a career in cyber security via free training and exclusive scholarship opportunities.

Who's it for?

College students in the US only.

Great! How can I find out more?
www.cyber-fasttrack.org