As technology continues to innovate and the digital space evolves, criminal activity becomes harder to trace, track and target. This is why computer forensics experts are an important part of a company or individual’s defense against crime and vulnerability. Knowing how the basics of computer forensics work and what steps should be taken when preparing for possible investigations into digital crimes helps prepare anyone who works with or uses technology regularly.

Why is computer forensics important and how does it work?

By analyzing latent, archival and active data on a computer or network of computer systems, a computer forensic investigation can determine if criminal activity has occurred and when. Other identifying information can also be determined that links evidence to suspects or involved individuals. Then, the specialist can collect and retain the data as evidence, even if files are hidden, invisible, deleted or password-protected and generate a report based on their findings.

How do computer forensics efforts prevent liability, loss and litigation?

Legal situations that arise from the mishandling or misrepresentation of Electronically Stored Information (also known as ESI) depend on computer forensic specialists for retrieving or establishing relevant evidence. Protecting and providing this information can become an integral part of the legal process. Whether that information is used to prepare for a case or prove innocence, it is an essential tool in any case that involves digital vulnerabilities.

What procedural mistake is the most common for a computer forensics investigation?

Many internal corporate professionals are unaware of how to handle the sensitive circumstances early on in a computer forensics investigation. Often, the most important step the IT staff should take when criminal activity is suspected or possible is absolutely nothing. If the computer in question is on, it should be left on; if the computer is off, it should remain off. This gives a computer forensics expert the best chance at recovering important data for evidence.

What kind of professional should be handling a computer forensics investigation?

In order to turn information into evidence, there should be a clear collection and chain-of-custody process, which means specifically trained individuals need to be handling the data from start to finish. A certified computer forensics specialist should be trained and familiar with all of these details and have the documentation to prove their credentials.