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Investigating Data Theft with Stochastic Forensics

Written by DFM Team


Investigating Data Theft with Stochastic Forensics

A new approach to forensics lets you reconstruct activity, even if it leaves no artifacts.


You must find out if Roger walked off with our data.” This mandate, handed to me by my (very nervous) client, was all I had to work with as I walked into my office Monday morning. My client, a large company headquartered in Manhattan, was very concerned about Roger (not his real name), a high level employee who had recently been forced to leave the company. Days after Roger’s ousting, rumors began to circulate that, before leaving, he walked off with data which was potentially very, very damaging to them; damaging enough to put them into a fit of panic. My task was to find out of if these rumors were true.

Insider data theft is much harder to forensically investigate than external penetrations. External penetrations leave the digital equivalent of broken windows, which all good forensics experts know how to identify. Insider data theft, however, often leaves no traces: the insider is authorized to use the data, routinely using it every day. Whether they’re stealing it or just using it to do their job, their access is, from the computer’s perspective, technically indistinguishable. Copying a file is a routine operation, forensically similar to simply reading it. Indeed, as I did my background research for this case, I saw that all experts had agreed: copying files on a standard Windows system leaves no artifacts. I was faced with one question: Is forensics possible when no artifacts are left behind?



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Scott C. Zimmerman is a CISSP qualified Information Security consultant and presenter

 

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