What is Digital Forensics and Why is it Used?

Digital forensics is a branch of forensic science. Instead of brushing for fingerprints and examining blood stains, examiners take digital devices and examine the data within. They don’t have access to the device, so they have to employ a number of techniques to break through any security walls and retrieve the data without damaging it.



A career in digital forensics requires a great deal of technical expertise and a logical mind. It’s a complex yet rewarding career as salaries are high but you have to keep educating yourself on the latest techniques, such as through Microsoft certified IT professional training, to stay ahead of the game.

Define It

Digital forensics is the act of investigating digital devices and recovering the data therein. This is the general definition of the field. Practitioners tend to specialize in four of the fields which make up digital forensics. These four fields are:

  • Computer forensics.
  • Network forensics.
  • Forensic data analysis.
  • Mobile device forensics.

Most people will only have an advanced knowledge of one or two of these fields. It’s rare to find someone who is an expert in all four.

Why is it Necessary?

This form of forensics will become the most important type. The growth of cybercrime and the mass usage of digital devices make a mobile phone a highly useful cache of information. Often, a forensics expert can get more from a person’s mobile phone than they ever could by investigating the scene where a crime took place.

Use in Court

By far the most common use of digital forensics is in the courtroom. Since practically everyone owns at least one mobile device, these devices can hold evidence which can control the outcome of a case.

The information gathered from devices must have been retrieved in a way which is legally sound. If it isn’t, the court can’t take it into account. This is why the person getting the information must be qualified and have clearance; otherwise, it’s an illegal invasion of privacy.


Suspected terrorists and dissidents stopped at airports, particularly in the US, will have their electronic items searched. If they give access by giving them the password, this isn’t considered digital forensics. If they refuse to provide access, these items will be passed to the relevant security forces.

Digital forensics experts will go through the devices to ascertain whether they’re hiding any information which is illegal or potentially dangerous. The role of forensics plays a part in whether someone poses a potential threat and if they’re entitled to enter the country.

Private Investigation

The private investigation industry is increasingly turning to digital forensics in their cases. It’s a highly controversial issue as they have to gain possession of the device in order to see what’s inside.

Corporations have no such problems where employees are concerned. If they’re conducting an internal investigation, they can use mobile devices, many of which are company owned, to gain evidence for their investigation. Digital forensics is regularly used to uncover corporate corruption.

Private investigations can be conducted by criminals as well. If someone steals a phone, they can unlock it and remove the security barriers in place. It’s how a lot of identity theft cases occur.

Michelle Patterson is familiar with digital forensics as she attended IT classes at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute, where she underwent Microsoft certified IT professional training.

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