Secure digital forensic imaging is an integral part of the legal process that utilizes photo-capturing devices, image-enhancing software applications, and encryption tools. These are the three primary elements of secure digital forensic imaging, allowing the investigation and legal teams to achieve accurate results.
Forensic photographers, investigators, and litigation teams collaborate to ensure everything goes smoothly after a crime, sexual assault, murder, domestic violence, or any other incident that requires forensic analysis. Most forensic teams have adopted advanced technology and moved away from traditional methods.
However, some photoshoot devices, including cell phone cameras, do not capture RAW files and viable depth of field. Because these are essential elements of a secure digital forensic image, experts do not use cell phones and other devices with low-quality cameras. The purpose is to ensure accurate image processing.
Besides, a photography expert is not a computer expert or knows the use of encryption tools. Digital forensic images are legible, secured from unauthorized access, and protected from manipulation. If the images do not meet this criterion, they won’t be legally viable. Secure digital forensic imaging uses a high-quality system, including:
- A camera
- Memory cards
- Card reader
- Foot pedal
- Handheld remotes
- Other accessories
It is almost impossible to capture legally viable photos of a crime scene without these accessories. These elements translate to a sophisticated system that streamlines investigative, forensic analysis, and litigation procedures.
Digital Forensic Imaging Methods
Forensic investigators use images to document the condition of murder, sexual assault, and other crime scenes. Sometimes, the images obtained from a hard drive are evidence, such as crime scene surveillance footage.
Forensic images are copies of electronic data or information with high-secured encryption. These images can’t be altered. An image file may contain a single file or an entire storage device, such as a hard drive or flash device.
Obtaining a forensic image is an essential step to all forensic investigations. Not correctly carrying out the process can lead to inadmissible evidence. Secure digital forensic imaging offers a wide range of advantages. These include:
Heaps of granular data: The more data accessible to law enforcement agencies, the higher chance they have to identify a criminal’s activity.
Flexible Use Cases: Experts use digital forensic imaging techniques in open and closed source crime investigations.
High-Quality Algorithms: Image analysis uses programmed AI and machine learning algorithms to achieve accurate and viable evidence.
Disk cloning is an integral component or method of secure digital forensic imaging. The technique involves creating a copy of the original hard drive. It has all the data and information, allowing the drive to boot the OS. The purpose is to access the files required for investigation.
The disk cloning process involves creating a one-to-one copy with full functionality. A computer that boots the cloned drive will run all operations and allow access to the data identical to the original hard drive.
Disk imaging is another secure digital forensic imaging method that involves copying a hard drive to create a backup image or archive. It is an advanced process that requires forensic experts to copy all the data files stored in the original drive. The data includes master boot record and allocation information.
The image or backup created is a single file a forensic expert stores in a storage device. It might not be an identical drive. The expert applies the image to the hard drive when they want to restore data.
System restoration is impossible by copying the image file on the backup drive. The expert uses a software application, also called the imaging program, to open the backup file on the hard drive. A forensic expert uses a backup device to store multiple imaging files, which is pretty different from the cloned drive technique.
Forensic Software Applications
Forensic experts or investigation teams use different software applications, such as Encase, to perform various digital forensics and security processes. The software allows for data processing and recovery in digital evidence extraction.
Encase Imager is a sophisticated component of the software, allowing the investigative team to create images of hard drives required for forensic investigations. Investigators look for the contents of a criminal’s computer to crack the case.
Besides, they look for the web browsing history and questionable photos to streamline the investigation. The purpose is to keep the original evidence intact and prevent alternations to the data using encryption methods.
Moreover, forensic imaging software allows data collection from digital storage devices to recover hidden and deleted files. It optimizes the investigation and helps forensic medical experts or the litigation team streamline a case’s progress.