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Instructions:

Read the following document. Infosecurity Europe (attached file).

Submission Instructions:

Using at least 500 words – summarize the article. (The author discusses six reasons why proper forensics protocols must be followed when collecting computer evidence – can you think of any other reasons?) You will be graded on Content/Subject Knowledge, Critical Thinking Skills, Organization of Ideas, and Writing Conventions.

Maintaining The Digital Chain of Custody
By John Patzakis
[email?protected]

Employing proper computer forensic processes is the foundation of computer
investigations. Even the best corporate policies for incident response and computer data
preservation can mistakenly allow the mishandling of potentially key computer evidence.
Once compromised, either during the collection or analysis process, the evidentiary
integrity of the data is lost.
Computer investigators must follow four basic steps in order to correctly maintain
a digital chain of custody. These include:

? Physically control the scene, or if conducting a remote network investigation, log
all access and connectivity through an integrated and secure reporting function

? Create a binary, forensic duplication of original data in a non-invasive manner
? Create a digital fingerprint (hash) that continually verifies data authenticity
? Log all investigation details in a thorough report generated by an integrated

computer forensics software application

The Problem of Improper Computer Evidence Handling

Maintaining the integrity of computer evidence during an internal investigation or
incident response is important, especially when computer evidence may be presented in
court. This is true whether human resource personnel suspect that an employee?s
violation of company policies may warrant termination, if IT staff are responding to a
network intrusion, or outside consultants suspect criminal activity that may need to be
reported to authorities. However, the ability to maintain and precisely document digital
contents, including its exact location on the subject media should stand as the
cornerstone of any computer investigation. By not taking steps to preserve the digital
chain of custody, a company is leading itself into an investigation that is compromised
from the beginning.
Such a lax investigation also can make it difficult to later map out the exact
location of electronic evidence on a drive, or to prove who manipulated or created data,
as it is no longer clear if it was the suspect or the investigator who was the last to access
it. In fact, this is the reason that worldwide agencies regulating financial institutions have
mandated incident response plans.
Recent policies, standards, and court decisions strongly establish a compelling
obligation for all types of businesses to preserve electronic data that may be relevant to
a legal matter, audit, etc. On the U.S. legislative front, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which
passed in response to the Enron/Arthur Anderson debacle, imposes severe penalties for
the destruction of records, including electronic data. The act expressly prohibits the
destroying records in ?contemplation? of an investigation or proceeding. Securities
Exchange Commission rules require retention for six years of all business-related email
and Internet communications sent and received by brokers, dealers and exchange
members. Additionally, the data must be preserved and maintained in a manner that
verifies its authenticity.1

The Process of Computer Forensics ? Duplication of Original Data

Electronic evidence is fragile by nature and can easily be altered or erased
without proper handing. Merely booting a subject computer to a Windows? environment

will alter critical date stamps, erase data contained in temporary files and create new
files. Specialized computer forensic software employs boot processes or utilizes
hardware write-blocking devices that ensure the data on the subject computer is not
altered in any way. After initiating these measures, the examiner uses the forensic
software to create a complete mirror image copy or ?exact snapshot? of the target hard
drive and all other external media, such as floppy or zip disks that are subject to the
investigation. This evidentiary image must be a complete, but non-invasive sector-by-
sector copy of all data contained on the target media in order to recover all active,
?deleted? and otherwise unallocated data, including often critical file slack, clipboards,
printer spooler information, swap files and data contained or even hidden in bad sectors
or clusters. This process allows the examiner to ?freeze time? by having a complete
snapshot of the subject drive at the time of acquisition. This snapshot can also be stored
and kept for reference or future use.

Verifying Data Authenticity

Gathering computer evidence by employing proper forensic tools and techniques
is the best means to establish the integrity of the recovered data. Computer forensic
examiners rely on software that utilizes a standard algorithm to generate a ?hash? value,
which calculates a unique numerical value based upon the exact contents contained in
the evidentiary ?mirror image? copy. If one bit of data on the acquired evidentiary bit-
stream image changes, even by adding a single space of text or changing the case of a
single character, this value changes. The standard ?hashing? process is the MD5, which
is based on a publicly available algorithm developed by RSA Security. The MD5
(Message Digest number 5) value for a file is a 128-bit value similar to a checksum. The
MD5 hash function allows the examiner to effectively and confidently stand by the
integrity of the data in court.
Using digital signatures such as checksums and the MD5 hash concurrent to the
acquisition of data, allows the examiner to effectively establish a digital chain of custody.
This is because an integrated verification process, which is another important feature of
computer forensic software, establishes that the examiner did not corrupt or tamper with
the subject evidence at any time in the course of the investigation. This is a particularly
important step, as courts will only accept duplicated computer data if the data is
demonstrated to be an accurate copy of the ?original? computer data. In one recent
appellate decision, the court specifically upheld the admission of key computer evidence
in court on finding that proper computer forensic software was employed.2
After the mirror image copy is created, authenticated and verified, computer
forensic software will ?mount? the mirror image as a read-only drive, thus allowing the
examiner to conduct the examination on the mirror image of the target drive without ever
altering the contents of the original. This process is essentially the only practical means
to search and analyze computer files without altering date stamps or other information.
Often times, a file date stamp is a critical piece of evidence in litigation matters.
An IT administrator should approach every computer investigation, systems audit
or incident response with the assumption that the mirror images of the targeted
computers will ultimately either be turned over to company lawyers or law enforcement
for civil litigation or criminal prosecution purposes. The creation of a mirror image that is
verified and authenticated pursuant to proper computer forensic protocol is essential to
ensure a smooth transition from the response stage of the investigation to the
enforcement or litigation process.
Maintaining a proper digital chain of custody also can turn out to be just as
significant even months after the employee has left the organization. Routine image

back-ups are becoming more common, as they help protect individuals and companies
from liability and claims of evidence spoliation (did you mean tampering? Spoliation is
robbing or plundering). Because imaging is now non-invasive and non-disruptive to the
work environment, many companies simply image drives whenever an employee is
terminated or leaves voluntarily. This standard imaging also serves as a critical tool to
fully investigate cases involving intellectual property theft ? a claim that is often difficult
to investigate once a terminated employee?s computer is recycled and put back into use.
Often times an employer will not learn of possible trouble until long after an employee
has left. Since employees engaged in illegal activities or internal misconduct typically
delete files to cover their tracks, traditional back up techniques are of little help because
they lack the ability to retrieve data and do not adhere to even basic forensic standards.

Report of investigation details and findings

In any type of computer forensic investigation, it is the chain of custody that is
used to not only verify but also illustrate the existence and use of data. Investigations
and searches on a piece of computer media can find endless amounts of evidence, but it
is the chain of custody that maps its placement within the media and its use in relation to
criminal or unauthorized actions. For this reason, a report is critical to prove and
maintain a chain of custody. Forensic software now can clearly depict where every file
on a piece of media is located, while also listing its many properties, including creation
date, date last accessed, and date deleted. In fact, without a thorough report, despite the
use of proper forensics techniques, it is extremely difficult to illustrate the exact location
of evidence. Frequently admitted as key evidence in trials, these hard copy reports are
the print out of the electronic crime scene, indicating even at what specific second a file
was deleted or manipulated in some way.

Despite the investigator?s level of in-depth forensic experience, following these
four basic steps helps ensure that electronic evidence is not altered or manipulated in
any way: Require physical control, data duplication, authenticity verification and
reporting.

Conclusion

There are six reasons to employ proper forensics protocols when collecting computer
evidence:

? Enables simpler referral of computer crimes to law enforcement
? Allows corporations to defend their interests in civil litigation
? Eliminates evidence spoliation (destruction) claims
? Limits corporate liability
? Better controls corporate assets and infrastructure
? Helps comply with worldwide privacy, data, and information integrity standards

and regulations
John Patzakis is President of Guidance Software. Recognized as a leading authority on the
admissibility and authentication of computer evidence, he is the author of the EnCase Legal
Journal, a publication that focuses on legal issues relating to computer forensics and electronic
evidence.

1 17 C.F.R. ? 240.17a-4(f)(1).
2 State v. Cook, 777 N.E.2d 882, 2002 WL 31045293 (Ohio App. 2 Dist.)

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