A model for digital forensic readiness in organisations
Computing and Information Systems
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is currently not available from this repository
© 2014 Dr. Mohamed Elyas
Organisations are increasingly reliant upon information systems for almost every facet of their operations. As a result, there are legal, contractual, regulatory, security and operational reasons why this reliance often translates into a need to conduct digital forensic investigations. However, conducting digital forensic investigations and collecting digital evidence is a specialised and challenging task exacerbated by the increased complexity of corporate environments, diversity of computing platforms, and large-scale digitisation of businesses. There is agreement in both professional and academic literature that in order for organisations to meet this challenge, they must develop ‘digital forensic readiness’ – the proactive capability to collect, analyse and preserve digital information. Unfortunately, although digital forensic readiness is becoming a legal and regulatory requirement in many jurisdictions, studies show that most organisations have not developed a significant capability in this domain. A key issue facing organisations intending to develop a forensic readiness capability is the lack of comprehensive and coherent guidance in both the academic and professional literature on how forensic readiness can be achieved. A review of the literature conducted as part of this study found that the academic and professional discourse in forensic readiness is fragmented and dispersed in that it does not build cumulatively on prior knowledge and is not informed by empirical evidence. Further, there is a lack of maturity in the discourse that is rooted in the reliance on informal definitions of key terms and concepts. For example, there is little discussion and understanding of the key organisational factors that contribute to forensic readiness, the relationships between these factors and their precise definitions. Importantly, there is no collective agreement on the primary motivating factors for organisations to becoming forensically ready. Therefore, this research project proposes the following research questions: Research Question 1. What objectives can organisations achieve by being forensically ready? Research Question 2. How can forensic readiness be achieved by organisations? Which in turn suggests the following sub-questions: Sub-Question 2. What factors contribute to making an organisation forensically ready? Sub-Question 3. How do these factors interact to achieve forensic readiness in organisations? A systematic review approach and coding techniques have been utilised to synthesise key elements of the vast and largely fragmented body of knowledge in forensic readiness towards a more holistic and coherent understanding. This led to the development of a comprehensive model that explains how forensic readiness can be achieved and what organisations can achieve by being forensically ready. The proposed model has been extensively validated through multiple focus groups and a multi-round Delphi survey, which involved experienced computer forensic experts from twenty countries and diverse computer forensic backgrounds. The study found there to be four primary objectives for developing a forensic readiness capability: 1) to manage digital evidence; 2) to conduct internal digital forensic investigations; 3) to comply with regulations; and 4) to achieve other non-forensic related objectives (e.g. improve security management). The study also identified the factors that contribute to forensic readiness. These are: 1) a strategy that draws the map for a forensically ready system; 2) human expertise to perform forensic tasks; 3) awareness of forensics in organisational staff; 4) software and hardware to manage digital evidence; 5) system architecture that is tailored for forensics; 6) policies and procedures that outline forensic best practice; and 7) training to educate staff on their forensic responsibilities. Further, the study found three additional organisational factors external to the forensic program: 1) adequate support from senior management; 2) an organisational culture that is supportive of forensics; and 3) good governance. This study makes significant theoretical contributions by introducing a more comprehensive model for forensic readiness that is characterised by the following: 1) providing formal definitions to key concepts in forensic readiness; 2) describing the key factors that contribute to forensic readiness; 3) describing the relationships and interactions between the factors; 4) defining a set of dimensions and properties by which forensic readiness is characterised; and 5) describing the key objectives organisations can achieve by being forensically ready. The study also makes significant contributions to practice. A key attribute of the digital forensic readiness model is its depth (in terms of the various dimensions and properties of each factor), which enables its use as an instrument to assess and guide organisational forensic readiness. Furthermore, this research increases the marketability of forensic readiness by introducing a well-defined list of objectives organisations can achieve by developing a forensic capability.
Keywordsdigital forensic readiness; corporate digital forensics; organisational digital forensics; proactive digital forensics; digital forensics; computer forensics; forensic computing; forensic technology; cyber forensics; digital investigations; digital forensic model
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