digital forensics

What Is Digital Forensics and When Do You Need It?

By ERMProtect Staff

Digital forensics is the process of extracting and analyzing data contained within digital systems to find evidence that can help resolve cyberattacks, disputes, litigation, and criminal cases. Using methods of electronic discovery, trained computer forensic analysts examine computers, cell phones, hard drives, networks, systems, and digital components for digital forensics investigative purposes.

Digital forensics is often a critical component of criminal cases, civil fraud cases, whistleblower complaints, internal investigations, and other matters that require analysis to understand when, how, and who used technology to perpetrate misdeeds.

Digital forensic investigations can unearth a great deal of information after cyberattacks, including:

  • Identifying the cause and implications of cyberattacks
  • Containing and remediating attacks
  • Safeguarding digital evidence before it becomes obsolete
  • Retracing hacker steps, and finding hacker tools
  • Identifying whether data was accessed or exfiltrated
  • Identifying the duration of unauthorized access to the network
  • Geolocating the hacker logins and mapping them

When Can Digital Forensic Investigations Help?

Examples of common scenarios where digital forensics investigations might be needed include:

Accidental or deliberate company data disclosure

When corporate information is disclosed without permission, either by accident or by design.

Intellectual property theft

When an employee steals intellectual property from an employer and passes it to a competitor or uses it to set up a competing company.

Employee internet abuse or misuse

When an employee violates a computer policy, such as Internet use. If the systems in the office are used for any illegal activity, computer forensics can help determine when and how these illegalities happened.

Incident or breach investigations

When a cyberattack occurs, digital forensics can help identify exactly what happened and attempt to identify who or what was responsible, whether that’s for prosecution or just internal knowledge.

White-collar crimes

When insiders or scamsters commit financially motivated crimes, such as identity theft, Ponzi schemes, embezzlement, and other fraud schemes.

Industrial espionage

When a competitor steals trade secrets by recording or copying confidential documents that contain secret formulas, product specifications, or business plans. Industrial espionage is an illegal activity, and computer forensics can help during investigations.


When people deliberately provide false or misleading information to gain something unfairly, the Internet or technology is frequently involved.

Online harassment

When people use digital technologies such as social media platforms, email, messaging services, gaming platforms, or cell phone communications to sexually harass or defame people. Digital forensic investigations can help identify the perpetrator and halt these harmful activities.

Human resources investigations

When human resource professionals need to collect data to determine the veracity of allegations or alleged misbehavior.

Criminal and civil cases

When police or lawyers need evidence unearthed by digital forensic investigators to serve as the backbone of criminal or civil cases.

How Can Digital Forensic Investigations Help?

In all of these cases, the evidence must be acquired and handled properly to be admissible in court. This is the only way the acquired information can serve as evidence and used to support allegations or defend a person from accusations.   A computer forensic investigator is instructed to acquire, examine, analyze, and report on all the digital evidence collected from various computer-related devices in a scientifically sound way. The results of the examination will then be used in deciding a criminal or civil case.

Digital forensics can be useful to corporations as well as law firms. For example, if a company has reason to believe that an employee is distributing trade secrets or storing illegal material, a company might employ a digital forensic investigator to help build a case against that employee. While employees might erase their local data, digital forensics investigators can restore it for examination. The digital forensic investigator can also discover whether employees downloaded information from the server.

In cyberattacks, digital forensic investigators can help identify what information was accessed, stolen, copied, or distributed. They can identify whether attackers remain in the systems with continued access to an organization’s data. Digital forensics can determine if there is still suspicious activity and alert you if steps need to be taken to mitigate them.

Can ERMProtect Conduct Digital Forensics Investigations?

ERMProtect has been handling complex digital forensic cases for nearly 25 years.  Our team can unearth evidence of all types including texts, images, calendar files, emails, databases, spreadsheets, audio files, animation, visited websites, chat logs, and computer programs.  We have resolved cases for large government clients, sports leagues, financial institutions, universities, healthcare providers, and retailers. We specialize in ransomware investigations, bringing to bear our expertise in cybersecurity and cryptocurrency.

For information about how ERMProtect's digital forensics investigators can help, email [email protected].

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