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The Digital Forensics Lab: Requirements & Design

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brandon Bass

Brandon has a MS in systems engineering & a PhD in Cyber Security. He has taught at several universities and possesses 12 industry certifications.

The creation of a digital forensics lab is a simple affair. With a modicum of equipment, software, and a bit of knowledge, a serviceable lab can be created at home. Updated: 12/02/2022

What is Digital Forensics?

Digital forensics are used to carry out checks on computer systems to investigate inappropriate workplace behavior on computers, to assist in disciplining individuals responsible for such behavior, or to analyze cyber incidents and provide assessments of damage. There is also a law enforcement aspect in digital forensics, that is specifically to enable the prosecution of computer crimes and digital criminal activity.

The goal of cyber forensics is to obtain information on unlawful security breaches. This includes obtaining investigative information on worms, viruses, hacking of secure networks (civilian, government, and military), and privatized networks. The examinations process can include classified information, digital espionage, and even cyber terrorism.

The act of cyber forensics will also seek to uncover persons involved in child pornography, financial or internet fraud, narcotics transactions, and other activities of an illegal nature that cross over into the cyber realm. As such, it is necessary to have the tools and processes to obtain digital information as it becomes available on various hardware, software, and mobile devices.

Let's discuss the building of a personal design facility that will allow the testing of systems for forensic tool sets at home.

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  • 0:04 What is Digital Forensics?
  • 1:24 Researching Materials
  • 2:10 Workstation Materials
  • 3:19 Using Paladin
  • 4:34 Paladin's Features
  • 5:49 Lesson Summary
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Researching Materials

First, it is important to take stock of what you actually need. Researching trends within the industry will assist in showcasing what other agencies, companies, and individuals are doing. There is quite an array of information and materials out there. The various standards are easy to locate, and the information security community is quite open. Check out some of these sources of information:

  • The European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • The Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE)

Gathering information from these sites will provide details on how forensic testing is being carried out, and what is going on in the world of forensics.

Workstation Materials

Next, a workstation of some kind is required. Any computer that is secure, has adequate power, and has an internet connection will be able to be used for this type of work. Here is a high-level overview of what your workstation should contain to appropriately handle doing forensic work.

  • RAM – as much as possible (at least 4 gigabytes for virtualization)
  • CPU – dual-core processor at minimum (quad-core or higher is optimal)
  • Onboard sound and graphics
  • USB 1 and 2
  • Large monitor or dual monitors
  • Printer
  • Network equipment (switch, router, etc.)

The SANS Investigative Forensic Tool Kit, or PALADIN by Sumuri, will provide an operating system in Linux that contains the necessary software to begin forensic tests. If you don't have a Linux computer, this can be accomplished using a virtual system on a Windows PC. There are a few virtual machine managers (hypervisors) on the market that can be used for free. VirtualBox by Oracle and VMWare Player are two such pieces of virtualization software.

Using Paladin

Let's concentrate on PALADIN, because it is a LINUX forensics suite that is a simple, affordable, all-in-one home solution for a digital forensics lab, though others may work for you as well.

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