Guidelines to Find Attachments in Outlook Email Chain Investigation

Find Attachments in Outlook Email Chain Via Digital Audit Tactics
author
Published By Jaspreet Singh
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh
Published On November 23rd, 2023
Reading Time 5 Minutes Reading
Category Forensics, Techniques

Digital investigation might be done to find attachments in Outlook email chain. However, conversations within email threads can be manipulated, so relying solely on manual findings is not enough. That is why, in this writeup, we have provided the best-in-class utility for email forensic analysis. However, before explaining the workings of the tool, there are a few pieces of information, like the reason for investigating email threads over regular mail.

Why Find Attachments in Outlook Email Chain Instead of Normal Mail?

Stronger Evidence: As investigators might be aware, isolated emails are a weak form of evidence. Criminals can easily change its metadata, thereby confusing the investigators regarding the timeline of events. However, when a clear conversation between suspected entities is done over multiple email threads, it becomes quite hard to manipulate the evidence. 

Chain of Custody: Any crime or conspiracy includes both victims and perpetrators. Establishing a clear distinction between the two is the responsibility of the prosecutor, in this case the investigation agent. That’s why, if one has access to email chain data, it becomes easier to provide a progression of communication.

Unearthing Criminal Network: With the help of email chains and the attachments found within them, detectives can track the collaborators easily. This is not possible with normal one-to-one emails.

Crime Pattern Recognition: Any crime, even if it is digital, has its own distinct fingerprint. This is true for the conversations found in email chains. As law enforcement agencies can audit them to get a better grasp of the situation.

There are many other minor instances where email chain analysis is preferred over the alternative. Let’s now look at what differences exist between the types of email chains themselves.

Kinds of Outlook Email Thread and Related Attachments

Email threads or chains have come in a variety of different forms. Each of these requires a different investigation strategy. 

  • The most basic form of email thread is a back-and-forth conversation between two individuals. Even here, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the conversation, as criminals can easily delete the mail. So investigators often have to search through the entire conversation multiple times. This is not practical, as these conversations can go back years. 
  • When more than two people (or email IDs) are involved, it becomes a group email chain. Tallying which mail was sent to whom and at what point in time is challenging. Moreover, investigators now need extra effort to find attachments in Outlook email chain belonging to multiple different personalities. Doing all of this manually is out of the question.
  • Cybercriminals might hijack a regular email ID and conduct their nefarious activities from there. In such a scenario, detectives might find a spoke-like thread structure. Here, scam mail originates from a single source and quickly spreads to a large number of hosts by taking advantage of unsecured auto-forwarding policies. 

This completes the discussion on the major kinds of email threads that can be encountered during cybercrime investigations. Now that we are aware of the complexities involved, let’s look at how choosing the right tool can ease up the task of finding attachments in the Outlook email chain.

How a Professional Tool Helps in Attachment Analysis of Email Threads

MailXaminer is the first choice of law enforcement agencies for any email forensic requirement. With the user-friendly interface and inbuilt advanced filtering mechanisms, any investigator can pick out the relevant details regardless of the experience they have. The tool is purpose-built to limit the technical know-how involved, unlike traditional email forensics. It does so by laying out all the tools at the click of a button.

During specific digital investigations, like when detectives want to find attachments in the Outlook email chain, the tool easily outperforms the rest of the competition. Here is a reduced version of the long list of features present in the tool.

The tool highlights the deleted emails separately in the preview section. Using it, investigators can reconstruct the entire conversation that took place between the suspects. Moreover, it also restores the deleted attachments present in those emails, which can prove quite helpful in uncovering hidden details.
 calendar preview

There are 8 different viewing options available within the tool to conduct email analysis. Each one has its own unique characteristics to give out all the information present in the source file. These are Message, Attachment, Properties, Message Header, MIME, HTML, RTF, and HEX.
 email preview

The tool has the option to automatically remove encryption and provide link analysis between the parties involved.
link analysis

With the help of an OCR scanner, investigators can find text within the file while searching images in Outlook all within a single dashboard.
evidence settings 1

Detectives can export their search results in many different formats right from the tool and generate a complementary report as well.
export options

Conclusion

Through this write-up, we established how important it is to find attachments in the Outlook email chain during email forensics. Here we found that manual searching and sorting methods often prove impractical. This is due to the inherent limitations in Outlook’s chain management. 

Moreover, editing features present in the Outlook email service can be misused by nefarious entities to manipulate the information. Apart from the obvious, investigators may miss out on analyzing the tremendous amount of metadata present in those threads.

That’s why experts across the globe trust the leading tool in the field of email forensics for all digital investigations.