To catch a thief?

    Date08 Apr 2005
    7617
    Posted ByBrittany Day
    When we turn our minds to matters of e-security, our first thoughts tend to be about defenses such as firewalls and intrusion detection. And rightly so. After all, there is much wisdom in the pursuit of prevention before cure. But, what happens when our defenses are breached? How should we respond to such an incident?

    Those investigating crime have long understood the value of evidence. In its most literal sense, evidence is "that which demonstrates that a fact is so". By acquiring evidence we build a picture of what happened, how it came to be and, hopefully, who did it. The digital world is no different to the physical world in that every event leaves a trace. This digital evidence can be gathered and pieced together to help develop our understanding of the what, how and who of an incident. Over time, this process has come to be referred to as Computer Forensics.

    The term "forensic" is associated, by definition, with legal process. That is, the methods used to gather evidence during an investigation would allow it to be used in a court of law. Therefore, the most influential factor in the Court's decision whether or not to accept evidence is the way in which it was obtained and, in particular, consideration as to whether such methods may have affected the original data or its subsequent interpretation.

    Every good incident response plan will have some form of investigative foundation. The core of computer forensic best practice can be defined by three generally accepted principles:

    I. No action taken should change the data held on a computer or other storage media which may be subsequently relied upon.

    II. Where original data must be accessed, the person doing so should be suitably qualified and able to explain the relevance and implications of their actions.

    III. An audit trail or other record of all processes should be created and preserved such that a third party might examine such processes and achieve the same result.

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