Protecting your company against cyber attacks is no longer an option; it is necessary. If you don’t believe us, take a quick look at the numbers:
- Cybercrimes increased by 72% in our country compared to the pre-pandemic data recorded in 2019.
- 44 % of Spanish SMEs have already been victims of a cyber attack, and the economic consequences can be disastrous.
- The average cost of a cyber attack for the company exceeds 100,000 euros, which far exceeds the world average, which does not reach 80,000 euros ( Cyber Preparedness Report 2022 ).
Faced with this bleak panorama, companies have only one way: protect themselves. As? Adopting effective cybersecurity solutions to safeguard your IT systems and keep data safe.
But what happens if, despite all efforts, we are subject to a cyber attack? In these situations, companies can rely on a cybersecurity forensic analysis that will allow them to identify the source of the breach and obtain recommendations to implement measures to prevent future incidents.
In this article, we want to talk to you precisely about this discipline that has become key in a digital environment like the current one in which cyber threats become increasingly complex and challenging to confront.
What is forensic analysis in cybersecurity? How is it performed? What is its importance? There are the answers.
Table of Contents
What is computer forensics?
Cybersecurity forensics can be defined as a detailed process to detect, collect and document digital evidence following a cybersecurity-related incident.
This forensic analysis aims to determine the nature of the attack, identify those responsible, recover lost or stolen data, and prepare to prevent future cyberattacks.
And yes, indeed, the term forensic analysis sounds like a police movie because the reality is that this process follows the same logic as a forensic investigation in criminology.
Forensic cybersecurity analysts act just like detectives, analyzing clues, evidence, and patterns to solve crimes. In this case, they are restricted to the digital sphere and do not use guns or scalpels.
This type of forensic analysis in cybersecurity is applied in a multitude of scenarios, such as data manipulation or theft, intrusion into computer networks, computer fraud, embezzlement, extortion or copyright violation.
It may even be necessary to collect evidence and evidence for legal or judicial proceedings in the context of a criminal investigation.
How is forensic analysis performed in cybersecurity?
As we have seen, cybersecurity forensics tries to find answers to critical questions after a cyber attack:
- What happened.
- How did it happen (methods, routes, etc.)?
- Who did it (identifying digital signatures or attack patterns)?
- How to avoid this type of malicious attack in the future is something fundamental.
This entire process involves considerable complexity. You must think that cybercrimes are not easy to investigate because crime scenes exist in the digital world. In the case of robberies or offline attacks, physical damage is obviously observed.
On a digital level, detecting this evidence is not so obvious, even more so if we consider that if advanced hackers carried out the attack, they probably tried to hide their tracks, complicating the investigation.
For all these reasons, a forensic analysis of this type should always be carried out by cybersecurity experts who have a high level of specialization and use appropriate computer security tools.
Additionally, they must have in-depth knowledge of computing, networks, communication protocols, security frameworks (such as those developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology ( NIST )), programming and cryptography, and privacy and data protection legislation.
Let’s look at the general phases that a professional forensic analysis in the cybersecurity environment must follow to be effective.
The first step in a cybersecurity forensic analysis is to identify all those devices and resources that contain the data that will be part of the investigation.
In this sense, starting the forensic analysis as soon as possible is essential to prevent older data from being overwritten and input records from changing. As with a crime scene, the more recent the evidence collected, the more accurate the image of the event will be.
Analysts extract data from a variety of sources, in fact, any technology that an end user can use. These include mobile devices, computers, tablets, cloud computing services, IT networks or software applications.
Once these devices are identified, all digital evidence of the affected system is collected, such as files, event logs, malicious programs, emails, affected operating systems or any other data related to the incident.
The next step is to isolate, secure and preserve as much digital evidence as possible on the affected network and prevent any alteration or destruction of the evidence found.
The objective is to store the information safe from access by anyone outside the investigation so that the victim of the cyberattack can use it in a legal case if they so consider.
Different techniques are used to guarantee the integrity and authenticity of the digital data collected, such as backup copies (which must be preserved on secure media outside the original system) or hash algorithms that allow the information to be encrypted.
In fact, the backup copy is what is used to analyze and evaluate the malicious attack, while the original data and devices are stored in a secure location.
Once the devices involved have been identified and isolated, and the data has been duplicated and stored securely, it is time to extract relevant data and examine the evidence closely, looking for clues or evidence that points to irregularities.
This process may involve recovering and examining deleted, damaged or encrypted files.
The analysis work will provide information about the entry point through which the attacker entered the network, what user accounts he used, the geolocation of logins or the identification of the duration of unauthorized access to the network, among other crucial data.
Thanks to this forensic analysis, experts can understand the cause, the sequence of events and how the cyberattack was executed.
Documentation and presentation
The last phase consists of recording all the data that has been collected so far to reach a precise conclusion and capture it in the forensic report.
Proper documentation helps formulate a timeline of irregular activities, such as embezzlement, data breaches, or network breaches.
Once all the research has been documented, it is presented to interested parties, such as the company’s Executive Committee or any other body.
In this way, forensic analysis will make it possible to understand the attack, take appropriate security measures and even be key to facing judicial processes in which a company is immersed due to the cyberattack.