A Day in the Life of a Digital Forensics Analyst

Eric Watts

Table of content


Did you know that digital forensics experts work to extract data in a way that preserves the integrity of the evidence and adheres to legal standards?


They are required to analyze everything from simple email scams to complex corporate espionage and even national security cases.


Indeed, digital forensics analysts are essential in the cybersecurity ecosystem. That’s because they prevent data breaches and solve crimes in case a breach occurs. It’s their duty to dive deep into digital footprints and uncover the sequences of a cyber attack. They identify the perpetrators and help to patch vulnerabilities in a system. We can say that their work directly supports the enforcement of laws and the protection of privacy.


Let’s find out what a day in the life of a digital forensics analyst looks like.



Strategic Review of Digital Threats and Prioritization


The very first thing that a digital forensics expert does is “have a cup of coffee”. Everything comes later.


So—once the digital forensic analysts are fresh enough to focus—they set the agenda and prioritize tasks based on the severity and impact of each threat.


Basically, they analyze recent security alerts, updates from cybersecurity feeds, and insights from automated monitoring systems. All just to identify patterns or anomalies that may indicate a breach or malicious activity.


Let’s take an example.


For instance—you are a digital forensics expert and all set to start your day at work. You review the latest alerts and updates regarding potential cybersecurity threats. Unfortunately, you notice an unusual spike in network traffic from a rarely used server within the company’s infrastructure. This server handles only minor internal requests. However, now it is showing signs of outbound communications to a foreign IP address known for previous cyber-attacks.


Here’s what you do in a flow:


After recognizing the potential threat, you prioritize this issue as high on your list for the day. You understand that this could be an active breach attempt or a malware communication.


With the priority set, you plan your approach. You decide to isolate the server to prevent any potential data exfiltration or further compromise. For this, you schedule a forensic capture of the server's current state. All while ensuring that you obtain a snapshot of all files, logs, and in-memory data without altering the data.


You brief your team of digital forensics masters about the situation in the morning meeting. If required, you assign specific roles, including network analysis to trace the full communication path, malware analysis on the server’s data, and continuous monitoring of related systems to detect any further anomalies.


Following the meeting, the team begins their respective digital forensics processes. You focus on forensic analysis. For this, you leverage specialized software to look deeper into the server’s logs and file changes that occurred around the time the anomaly was detected. Your goal is to identify any installed malware, unauthorized access points, or data that was potentially compromised or extracted.



Leveraging Advanced Forensic Tools for a Deeper Analysis


As the mid-morning unfolds—you need to dive deeper into the technical aspects of your investigation. See the server is now isolated and a snapshot has been taken. It's time to utilize advanced forensic tools to dissect the data in an error-free manner.


Here’s what you’d do:


You choose a set of digital forensics software tools that are best suited for this particular investigation. You use EnCase for a thorough examination of the server’s hard drive, allowing you to uncover deleted or hidden files and retrieve remnants of potential malware. For live data analysis, you employ Volatility to analyze the server's memory snapshot. All while searching for active processes and network connections that were present before the isolation.


You begin the extraction process with the help of these tools. You carefully extract logs, recently modified files, and any anomalies in system registry settings. This extraction helps you identify how the intrusion occurred and determine what actions the intruder carried out on the server.


Once the data is extracted, your focus shifts to detailed analysis. You scrutinize the timestamps of modified files to establish a timeline of events. This helps you correlate the timeline with the network traffic logs to trace back to the origins of the suspicious activities. Ultimately, you discover a series of unauthorized login attempts that succeeded. You link this to a phishing email received by a company employee earlier that week.


As you gather this information, you begin to compile evidence for a potential legal case. You secure detailed logs, authenticated copies of compromised files, and a documented chain of custody for all digital evidence.


You maintain detailed records of your findings and prepare an interim report that outlines your preliminary conclusions about the breach’s nature, its scope, and the data potentially affected.



It’s Time to Have a Lunch Break


You must take a break from all the workload and stress of digital forensic analysis. Remember that lunch break is not just a time for physical nourishment. In fact, it offers you an opportunity for mental rejuvenation and professional networking.


So—here’s what you, as a digital forensics service provider, do during the lunch break:


Enjoy a tasty meal while refreshing your mind and preparing for the afternoon’s tasks.


You may engage in a conversation with a software developer who reveals a new tool that could automate some of your digital data analysis tasks.


If required, you may offer solutions to fellow digital forensics investigators facing encryption challenges. All while enhancing inter-departmental support and cooperation.



Team Collaboration and Documentation


So—afternoon comes and your focus shifts to collaborative projects. This is where you work closely with both law enforcement and internal teams. This teamwork pieces together digital evidence and help solve complex cybersecurity cases.


Gradually—as the day progresses into the late afternoon, you work on documenting your findings and preparing detailed reports.


Here’s what you do in a flow:


You convene with law enforcement officers and internal cybersecurity teams to review digital evidence related to a high-profile case. Together, you analyze data, compare notes, and hypothesize potential leads.


During these discussions, you integrate insights from the morning's data analysis. All while gaining crucial information that helps to refine the team's understanding and direction of the investigation.


As the team reaches preliminary conclusions, you begin the meticulous process of documenting every step and finding. You need to capture the methodologies used, tools employed, and the evidence chain of custody.


You compile all the documented findings into detailed reports. These reports are important, as they will be used in legal proceedings. Also, they’ll inform decision-makers within your organization about the risks identified and the actions recommended.


You present your findings to senior cybersecurity staff and legal advisors for feedback. This review ensures accuracy and completeness.



Data Security and Preparation Tomorrow


Now, finally, your workday draws to a close. So, you ensure that all digital forensic activities and data are securely wrapped up.


Here’s what you do:


You conduct a thorough check of all systems to ensure that data collected and analyzed during the day is securely stored. Basically, you encrypt sensitive files, back up important data to secure servers, and log every digital forensics process in secure audit trails. All just to maintain a clear and defensible chain of custody.


Moving forward, you update forensic software and systems. This is done to ensure that all tools are ready and equipped with the latest security patches and functionalities.


Next, you review the status of ongoing investigations. All while noting any critical updates or changes needed for the following day’s activities.


You also prepare the lab for the next day. For this, you organize workstations, replenish supplies, and set out key documents or tools.


Finally, you perform a last round of security checks. Just to make sure that all data is locked down and the lab is secure. This includes physical security measures like securing access to the lab and ensuring all sensitive information is locked away.





Digital forensic experts need to allocate time for professional development as well. This is important for enhancing their expertise in digital forensics.


So—you may participate in online courses, attend industry webinars, connect with multiple digital forensics company professionals, and pursue relevant certifications. You should also experiment with new forensic tools to stay adept with evolving technologies.


Digital forensics experts can use reliable surveillance software. SpyX mobile phone tracker is supported by many people. This can help in obtaining critical data from the target device such as call logs, text messages, social media activities, etc.



Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What is digital forensics?

Digital forensics involves the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices—for legal purposes or to uncover evidence of cybercrime. It includes the analysis of data from computers, mobile devices, and networks.


2.  What does a digital forensics analyst do on a daily basis?

A digital forensics expert systematically examines digital data to help solve crimes, handle data breaches, or secure network systems from potential threats. Their daily tasks include data recovery, analysis, and preparing reports for legal proceedings.


3.  What are some common digital forensics tools?

Common digital forensics tools include EnCase, FTK (Forensic Toolkit), Autopsy, and Cellebrite. These tools help in data recovery, analysis, and reporting during digital investigations.

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