Digital forensics is a branch of forensic science encompassing the recovery and analysis of digital data found on any device capable of storing digital data such as a cell phone, a computer system, memory module, or gaming system, often in relation to a digital crime or security breach.
Digital forensics investigations have a variety of applications. The most common is to support or refute a hypothesis before criminal or civil courts. Forensics may also be useful in the private sector; such as during internal corporate investigations or intrusion investigation (a specialist probes into the nature and extent of an unauthorized network intrusion). The technical aspect of an investigation is divided into several sub-branches, relating to the type of digital devices involved; computer forensics, network forensics, database forensics and mobile device forensics. The typical forensic process encompasses the seizure, forensic imaging acquisition and analysis of digital media and the production of a report into collected evidence. As well as identifying direct evidence of a crime, digital forensics can be used to attribute evidence to specific suspects, confirm alibis or statements, determine intent, identify sources (for example, in copyright cases), or authenticate documents.
The Advanced Digital Forensics Institute was created to address:
- The existing shortage of qualified experienced digital forensics technicians;
- The lack of a seamless affordable, accredited educational path from an Associate degree in Digital Forensics at a community college to a Bachelor of Science degree in Digital Forensics at a university, in order to reduce the time and cost of degree completion. And the lack of train the trainer programs to facilitate development of a stronger pool of high school seniors interested in digital forensics;
- The translation of research findings and facilitate forensics tools development through rapid field testing, independent product certification, creation of training materials for these tools. This reduces the forensics tools’ deployment cycle and lowers the development cost while integrating student experiential learning in the process.
- The lack of qualified affordable ongoing training both online and onsite to law enforcement and private industry professionals, whose departments lack the budgets necessary to absorb the prohibitive increasing cost of equipment and time demands that required to develop their ongoing professional training programs. The lack of the much-needed life-long learning opportunities for employees renders their skills outdated with a short time after graduation;
- The disconnect between the classroom education and on-the job student experience. Creating an advanced digital forensics institute will allow for integration of work experience into the academic program from student entry to graduation, with well-designed increased student work responsibilities as they progress through the academic degree program.
- The lack of a full-scale forensics facility that is accredited, maintained and equipped with state-of-the art digital forensics laboratories that law enforcement and private companies’ security personnel may use to conduct their investigations, relieving their budgets from the financially prohibitive requirement to continually update, calibrate and certify the equipment and the software. Among other benefits, the forensics laboratory bridges the gaps between education and industry and integrates them to enhance the students’ experiential learning, reduce on-the-job training requirements once students are hired, be used to develop and test new forensics tools, and expose students to entrepreneurship. Students may design, develop and promote their digital forensics tools. This model allows for immediate industry feedback to drive curriculum changes in the rapidly changing digital forensics industry. It also provides students with entrepreneurial skills.
- The lack of minority representation in the field of digital forensics including women, Hispanics, African Americans and the physically disabled, to reflect the percentage of population in the northeast region and particularly in North East Ohio.