Published On: Sat, Mar 14th, 2015

Tech Talk: All About Digital Forensics

When you think about forensics, you probably think about popular T.V. shows like SCI or Bones. But, an emerging forensic science shows us that the field doesn’t have to be restricted to gruesome murders or exhuming bodies from graves. Digital forensics may be able to help piece together crimes through the analysis of computers and other electronics.

Digital Forensics

What Is It?

Digital forensics refers to the discovery and analysis of data obtained from electronics. This digital forensics expert, for example, is able to do things like examine a cell phone for records of phone calls, text messages, emails, and browser history.

Even when calls have been erased on the phone through the UI, forensics experts can recover them using sophisticated tools. Data can then be analyzed and used as part of a total process of discovery to determine whether a crime has been committed, who was involved, and the nature of that crime.

Cases, like the Scott Tyree case, have been cracked almost completely using digital forensics. Tyree was a suspect in the kidnapping of 13-year old Alicia Kozakiewicz, sending an instant message of a photo of the girl to another man.

The man contacted the FBI and provided the screen name of Tyree. The FBI was then able to obtain the IP address of the person who used the screen name, and Verizon to ascertain the location of the subscriber to whom the IP address had been assigned. This led investigators to Tyree.

In another case, suspect Dennis Rader was finally caught after 30 years when Rader committed a second murder and sent police a floppy disk with a single letter on it. But, investigators were able to discover a deleted Microsoft Word file which contained the name “Dennis” as the person who last modified the deleted file.

Investigators used this information to apprehend Rader, solving a 30-year old case which had kept police from bringing the man to justice.

Why Is Digital Forensics Important?

There are very few things we do today that aren’t somehow integrated with the world wide web or computers. From composing emails to doing Internet searches to playing on Facebook, almost everyone uses the Internet in some way, shape, or form.

And, when we’re not online, we’re still sending text messages and making phone calls. And, all of those things are recorded and traceable through Internet Service Providers and telecom companies.

While this also raises certain privacy concerns, it means that forensics is about to enter a new era where digital information can help investigators reconstruct almost any scenario using phones, computers, and newer connected appliances like T.V.s, refrigerators, and the almost endless number of electronics on the horizon destined to become the new Internet of Things.

Why More Specialists Are Needed

As information technology becomes more commonplace, and as more businesses and branches of government rely on computers and related electronics, there’s an increased need for forensics experts that can unpack and unwind potential crimes involving computers or the Internet.

Jared Stern is the president of Prudential Associates, a risk management and force-protection company. He enjoys sharing his extensive knowledge on threat assessment and critical incident management on the web, the radio and on television. His articles appear on many science and technology sites.