Digital Forensics Triage Explanation Along With CFFTPM Tutorial

Digital Forensics Triage
author
Published By Mohit
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh
Published On May 3rd, 2024
Reading Time 6 Minutes Reading
Category Forensics

Digital forensics triage means intelligent segregation of electronic data at its source. Investigators can use this practice to filter out critical or volatile e-evidence from the rest of the pile. Thereby reducing the time it takes to analyze the vast volumes of information that are usually collected during a raid. However, if not done correctly, this can transform into one of the most difficult challenges in digital forensics. That’s why, in this write-up, we aim to provide not only the definition but also the practices that make an e-triage successful. First, let us take a deeper dive into the term itself.

Table of Contents

Understand the Digital Forensics Triage Definition

The phrase itself can be split into three terms. Let’s go through them one by one.
Digital means information is from an electronic medium. This includes computers, emails, file formats, cloud portals, etc.
Forensics, as a discipline, refers to the collection + analysis + preservation of data from a crime scene.
Triage is the practice of priority-based sorting. Together, these three words paint a clear picture of what DFT is. Detectives can apply it in real-life situations to make the best use of time and resources to pull the most relevant evidence for further study. Moreover, at the core of electronic triaging lies an industry-standard model, so let us see what it is.

Computer Forensics Field Triage Process Model Explained

The model is made to focus on these five tenants.
1. Find useable evidence immediately;
2. Identify victims at acute risk;
3. Guide the ongoing investigation;
4. Identify potential charges; and
5. Accurately assess the offender’s danger to society.

Let us understand them one by one
Any device is considered usable by investigators if our perpetrators have used it during their criminal activities. These can be the computer/laptop/server/mobile or other electronic devices.
No matter how smart a criminal is, there is always a chance that detectives will find the breadcrumb within the electronics they seize from the field. The faster the device is found, the quicker the rest of the investigation becomes. Moreover, the triage concept also comes into play here, meaning investigators have to tag the evidence based on priority. The authenticity of digital files can only be confirmed if they are given a mark using a forensics hash function algorithm like SHA.

Next is victim identification, especially for those who are in the direct crosshairs of nefarious entities. This not only helps the currently affected but also paves a path to prevent any future damage.

Although triage is on the first steps it does not mean that it occurs in isolation. As the findings from the rapid digital forensics can help crack an ongoing investigation.

Even in cybercrime scenarios, there are numerous categories. Ranging from a phishing attempt to CEM (Child Exploitation Material). So to ensure that the right charges are filed in a court of law, prior identification of the exact crime is a must.

It is only after that that a correct assessment of the danger posed by the offender can be made.
So now that the basics of CFFTPM are out of the way let’s take a look at the triaging process.

Steps to Conduct Digital Forensics Triage Successfully

Here is an overview of the tasks that are done during a raid.

  • Start a chain of custody for the evidence.
  • Break the connection between the network and the device.
  • Shut down any on-device security options.
  • Pull out all the surface-level data.
  • Check the data that is extracted and assign a priority to the evidence.
  • Use visualizers to see any external media.

The chain of custody ensures the integrity of evidence. It also minimizes the chances of tampering. So there is no problem in either analysis or submission.

Some cybercriminals may have deep technical know-how. Therefore, to eliminate the chance of remote evidence damage, investigators should put the seized devices in air-gapped containment.

The default security features may prove to be a hindrance during the examination. As a result, a crucial step in evidence management is to turn off all native security settings.

As time is of the essence, data extraction should start without much delay. To speed up the task, use renowned digital forensics software.
Conduct a preliminary examination to segregate the evidence into batches based on the likelihood of them containing the evidence.
If possible try to highlight the media type (audio, video) present inside other files. Like, for example, attachments inside emails.
However, investigators should know that every crime scene is different, so the exact steps for digital forensics triage may vary.

Limits of Triaging in Computer Forensics

Up until now, we told readers the ins and outs of digital forensics triage. However, the fact of the matter is that this is not a foolproof practice. The human element is always present and can cause errors unknowingly. Some of the key points that investigators should watch out for are as follows.
There can be a mismatch between the technical requirements to perform triage and the skillset possessed by investigators. This is especially true for manual-only attempts at data extraction.
Sometimes speed may lead to overlooking critical evidence. Therefore, investigators must take a balanced approach.
Due to the sheer volume of data, a key part of triage i.e. an on-site examination, may not be possible. In such a case, consider a post-mortem digital triage for better results.

Take Professional Help to Combat Triage Trials

While discussing the computer forensics field triage process model, we found that there is a chance that, in a rush to accumulate evidence, something may be left behind. To avoid such a situation in your investigations, choose the one and only MailXaminer forensics software. It combines the speed of a digital forensics triage with the accuracy of a full examination.
Moreover, with its ability to quickly digest evidence from various sources, it has the potential to speed up your evidence analysis manifold.
Whether you want to find credit card numbers in files or perform full Microsoft Teams forensics, the tool is there to assist you every step of the way. So don’t let old-school troubles like Gmail exact keyword search not working stop you from analyzing the evidence.

Conclusion

Here, we made readers realize that digital forensics triage is nothing but filtering out useful electronic evidence from the rest of the pile. On top of that, we gave them easy-to-digest information on the computer forensics field triage process model and how to implement it. After discussing the limits of DFT, we introduced the utility that investigators can use to avoid them.

author

By Mohit

He has over 4 years of experience as a professional content writer. He is a tech enthusiast who specializes in explaining complicated technical concepts.