In today's digital age, businesses and individuals alike are increasingly reliant on technology to store, process, and transmit information. As a result, the need for digital forensic expertise has become more critical than ever. When faced with incidents involving data breaches, cyberattacks, or insider threats, many organisations turn to IT consultants for help. However, what they might not realise is that there's a significant difference between IT consultants and digital forensic analysts when it comes to handling these situations.
Throughout this blog, we'll lay out these crucial distinctions, so you have a clear understanding of the differences between an IT consultant and a digital forensic analyst so you can make the best choice to engage the appropriate experts for the needs of your business.
Here at Forensic IT, it's not uncommon for us to be called in after an IT consultant has already conducted an initial analysis of a device or account. Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword. While the intent may be to assist, the actions of IT consultants can often lead to the loss or overwriting of critical logs and forensic artefacts that are vital for our analysis. We've even encountered situations where IT consultants, influenced by personal relationships, have selectively excluded relevant information to protect persons of interest. The impact of these actions can be detrimental for forensic investigations. With this in mind, let's delve into why choosing a forensic analyst over an IT consultant truly matters:
"When it comes to preserving data, timing is everything. Engaging a forensic analyst early can secure the critical pieces of the puzzle that could make or break an investigation."
IT consultants are primarily focused on managing and maintaining an organisation's IT infrastructure and providing technical support. While some IT professionals may have basic investigative knowledge to conduct a first pass, an IT professional’s expertise typically does not extend to the specialised skills required to perform a comprehensive analysis. IT consultants are vital for managing business IT systems and endpoints, ensuring everything runs smoothly. However, digital forensic experts specialise in investigating electronic devices, managing digital evidence, and adhering to various legal requirements. Digital forensic experts have the skills to perform complex analysis that identifies key artefacts and provide reliable testimony in court.
Digital Evidence Collection
Forensic analysts are trained to collect, preserve, and analyse evidence from various sources, including computers, mobile devices, servers, cloud providers, and network devices. They understand the proper procedures for evidence handling and maintain a chain of custody, ensuring the evidence is admissible in legal proceedings. Collecting digital evidence is more than just extracting data. It involves following stringent protocols, ensuring data integrity, and meticulously documenting the actions that they have taken. Digital forensic experts have an in-depth understanding of these critical steps. They ensure that the evidence remains untainted and admissible in a court of law.
Chain of Custody
Maintaining a proper chain of custody is crucial to the integrity of digital evidence. Digital forensic experts are trained to document and maintain the chain of custody throughout the investigation process, which is essential in legal proceedings. The chain of custody is the verifiable paper trail that shows where digital evidence has been, who has accessed it, and how it's been handled. This documentation is essential in court to establish the reliability of evidence.
Digital forensic experts have specialised training and expertise in conducting forensic analysis on data, interpreting various artefacts on a range of systems, and presenting their findings in a clear and concise manner. This specialised expertise is invaluable when dealing with complex matters.
Unlike IT consultants, who may have personal or professional relationships with the organisation or individuals involved, digital forensic experts are impartial. Their sole objective is to discover the facts and present them objectively, making their findings credible and unbiased.
If the case goes to court, digital forensic experts are experienced in presenting their findings and explaining complex technical concepts to a non-technical audience. They can effectively communicate the significance of digital evidence in a legal context.
In conclusion, when facing the prospect of an investigation, the choice between an IT consultant and a digital forensic analyst is pivotal. While IT consultants are invaluable for maintaining IT infrastructure, digital forensic analysts are skilled in extracting, handling and interpreting the digital evidence needed to uncover what actions have occurred. So, when it comes to digital forensics, choose wisely. Your choice may make all the difference in the world when it comes to discovering the truth and seeking a just outcome.