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Book Review: Digital Forensics For Handheld Devices 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes "Today's handheld device is the mainframe of years past. An iPhone 5 with 64 GB of storage and the Apple A6 system-on-a-chip processor has more raw computing power entire data centers had some years ago. With billions of handheld devices in use worldwide, it is imperative that digital forensics investigators and others know how to ensure that the information contained in them, can be legally preserved if needed." Read on for the rest of Ben's review.
Digital Forensics for Handheld Devices
author Dr. Eamon P. Doherty
pages 336
publisher CRC Press
rating 8/10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-1439898772
summary Valuable reference for digital forensics
In Digital Forensics for Handheld Devices, author Eamon Doherty provides an invaluable resource on how one can obtain data, examine it and prepare it as evidence for court. One of the reasons many computer crime cases fail to be prosecuted is that the evidence was not properly handled and could therefore not be admitted into court.

Once of the first things a defense attorney will do in a computer crime case is to attack how the digital evidence was obtained and preserved. In far too many cases, it was done incorrectly and the evidence, no matter that it may be a smoking gun, can't be admitted into court. The case then is dismissed, to the chagrin of the victim.

The books 8 chapters of nearly 300 pages are densely packed text, where Doherty brings significant real-world experience to every chapter. As the cybercrime training lab director at Fairleigh Dickinson University, he brings both an academic formality in additional to real-world experience in this highly tactical guide.

Chapter 1 details cell phone forensics. After a brief introduction to the history of the cell phone, it details the entire inner workings of a cell phone. The chapter also details differences in cell phones worldwide. An important fact is that many Asian countries have cell phones available 12-18 months before they appear in the US. With that, American forensic investigators need to be cognizant of this when entering into an investigation.

The chapter includes an overview of the Susteen Secure View application which is an extremely powerful tool for the mobile phone forensic investigator. Besides that tool, in each chapter, Doherty lists many tools that provide specific assistance to the topic at hand. The book is worth it for those listings alone.

Chapter 2 is similar to the previous chapter except this is about digital camera forensics. The chapter provides a detailed overview of how digital cameras operate and how the underlying hardware works. The chapter includes an extremely comprehensive overview of seemingly every tool available to investigate images on a digital camera.

The chapter also includes a number of fascinating case studies on how to effectively perform a forensics analysis of a digital camera. It concludes with an observation that when considering a career in forensics, as fascinating as it is; it may not be for everyone.

Doherty notes that as a forensics investigator, the examiner is often exposed to disturbing material. He quotes a report that studied investigators from over 500 agencies who had been exposed to child pornography during investigation of crime involving child exportation. The report noted an alarming 35% of the participants had problems arising from work exposure to child pornography.

Chapter 5 provides an extremely detailed look at forensics investigation on a corporate network. Throughout the book, Doherty stresses the need for effective chain of custody and other issues to preserve digital evidence. It is imperative to preserve the integrity of the digital evidence obtained from the time it was seized until it is presented in court.

To facilitate this, the book states a best practice to use checklists to ensure nothing is forgotten. The importance of checklists has been detailed in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right where author Atul Gawande makes a compelling case for the use of checklists.

As to evidence and checklists, Doherty writes that once the evidence is obtained, a chain of custody form should be filled out. Each time the evidence is copied, processed, or transported, it should be documented on the chain of custody form. If others receive a copy of the evidence for prosecution or defense purposes, they too should sign for it. This is an imperative if it expected that the evidence would end up in court or be used for human resources purposes. But at the corporate setting detailed in chapter 5, that same level of diligence is not necessarily required.

Chapter 5 also has overviews of nearly 50 different forensic tools for every imaginable purpose.

While the book has exploratory and technical overviews on many tools and numerous case studies, this is not an introductory text on the subject. It is meant for someone with a technical background that is looking for a technical reference to gain competence on the topic of digital forensics.

The only lacking of the book is that while the author is an expert on the topic and the tools, the writing style is one that screams out for an editor. The text suffers from run on sentences and repetition of defining the same acronym, in addition to other readability issues. The book is pervasive its use of passive voice that can be annoying to many readers. It is hoped that the second edition of this book will be updated with the current tools of the time and a good re-editing of the text to ensure its readability doesn't suffer.

Aside from the grammatical issues, for those looking for a very hands-on guide to gain proficiency on the topic, Digital Forensics for Handheld Devices is a valuable reference. Dr. Eamon Doherty has a unique perspective in that he has academic, law enforcement and very practical experience, which is manifest in every chapter.

The notion of digital forensics is seize it, examine it and then prepare it for evidence in court. In Digital Forensics for Handheld Devices, you found out how to do just that.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Book Review: Digital Forensics For Handheld Devices

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  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:04PM (#41441025) Journal

    I would say it depends who is the 'victim'. Yes, protect your handheld data. Encrypt the hell out of it and/or find a good way to wipe it clean before the wrong people get to it..

  • My ass (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clam666 (1178429) on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:14PM (#41441159)

    If I want it preserved, I'll copy it to local storage or upload it to the cloud if I so choose. Other than that, if I hit the wipe button there better be smoke coming from it.

    If I wanted it "preserved" I wouldn't be wiping it out in the first place.

    • Not all 'wipe' apps work,. some do not actually completely overwrite data. So make sure to test and verify.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      If I want it preserved, I'll copy it to local storage or upload it to the cloud if I so choose.

      I think in some instances, it may be safer on the phone as it isits than in the cloud.

      Take an iPhone, say. It's got some very strong protections and all that. But you could get at the same data by looking at the user's iTunes folder if they backed up there and didn't encrypt it. Or subpoena Apple who can dig it out (while the actual disks may be encrypted, the data is not when accessed).

      Just knowing there's anothe

    • store important files on the smallest, fastest flash device you can get away with, encrypted (I use a 2GB drive for transient secure filing, archive secure filing is in a secret and secure location that is recorded nowhere but my brain). The wipe button should trigger a military-grade sector-by-sector overwrite, which on a solid state drive will be permanent, instant and unrecoverable.

      Truecrypt does this.

    • by EnempE (709151)
      Some of us still read the Subject lines.
      So that read:
      On the Subject of my ass: If I want it preserved, I'll copy it to local storage or upload it to the cloud if I so choose. Other than that, if I hit the wipe button there better be smoke coming from it.

      Which was a little disturbing, but it was followed by the eminently sensible:

      If I wanted it "preserved" I wouldn't be wiping it out in the first place.

      Which I will now unfortunately have pop into my mind every time I throw used paper into the bowl.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    How exactly is the datacenter class raw computing power on the Apple A6 system-on-a-chip processor relevant to crime, forensics and the checklists?
    • Easier to commit a crime, start a DDOS attack, etc. when you have more computing power. Ever try doing a port scan on a 286? Aint’ fun.
    • Back in the Day to do a "live report" in %remote location% you had to

      1 fly a dozen support folks to %remote location%
      2 with Trucks of equipment
      3 and a sat uplink truck

      and then hope and pray that something did not go wrong

      Today (ignoring 3 for a bit)

      1 fly your reporter to %remote location% WITH HIS iPhone (or Android device)

      or

      2 Airdrop your reporter with a Big BackPack (and his personal Mobile Computing Device)

      and all you are praying for is that he gets Close Enough (but not To Close) to The Action

      The Elder

  • On one hand, dumping the contacts, text messages, and other items from a phone would be a vast boon for exposing a crime ring for investigators. However, on the other hand, any forensic device that can be used by LEOs can be used by criminals for gain as well.

    If one separates a corporate officer from their phone and is able to completely dump the contents, it would mean a gold mine. Competitors would buy contact lists, spreadsheets (accounts payable/receivable), unannounced product sheets, etc. Employee

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Computationally speaking, device-level encryption is probably sufficient, assuming there aren't any serious flaws found in AES-128. The weakness, if any exists, is in the choice of passphrase, and that won't be helped by adding more encryption tied to the same passphrase....

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        The trick with cellphones is less encryption than authentication. With the very small keyspace most people chose for a PIN, a device maker wants to have the PIN checking done on a hardened chip before the true 128 or 256 bit key is released. That way an intruder either has to guess through the chip (and be stopped/slowed down after a number of tries), or has to physically uncap the chip and go at it with an electron microscope (good luck.)

        Of course, with a chip being the gatekeeper, it can easily be backd

      • Computationally speaking, device-level encryption is probably sufficient, assuming there aren't any serious flaws found in AES-128.

        And assuming you have a magic UI that is both convenient yet also somehow lets people enter keys of sufficient entropy. If the user is entering 4-digit-PINs or stuff like that for a key, then it doesn't matter how excellent the cipher is.

  • Apple ad? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    iPhone and Apple are trademarks..a generic "smartphone" terminology would have done the job pretty well

    • by boristdog (133725)

      Yeah, and people still see my tiny $40 32GB Sandisk Sansa MP3 player and call it an "iPod".

      You gotta hand it to those folks in Cupertino, they are marketing geniuses.

  • Since the iPhone is locked down so much, and all you all data is backed up to their cloud. What have you got to worry about?
  • Unlike other physical and tangle forms of evidence, digital evidence is both nothing and something at the same time. It's too easy to both plant evidence (by either the defendant or the prosecution) and sometimes impossible to deny the evidence.

    Furthermore, digital evidence doesn't necessary mean that I am the author. I don't have my phone on me at all times. I let friends use it.

    This being said, I'm not discounting the importance of forensics. I just think more needs to happen before we can say somethi

    • by dave562 (969951)

      The decision about what is or is not evidence is not addressed at the time of the collection. The collection takes place, and then the lawyers sort through what they have to determine what is or is not relevant to the particular dispute or litigation taking place. Of course they will exclude those pictures of your cat, but you can bet that someone will have to look at that picture of your cat to determine that it truly is a picture of your cat.

  • someone is out there helping the French Su^rete' tighten up their evidence chains. What? Don't you hate the terrorists?
  • Forensics and BYOD (Score:4, Informative)

    by dave562 (969951) on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:49PM (#41441685) Journal

    BYOD deserves mention in this context. While a lot of people are in love with the idea of bringing their own devices to work, they have not fully considered the legal implications of doing that. If an employer is involved in a dispute and there is any potential that any relevant information could be on the device, the device will be subjected to collection activities. Personal contacts, emails, photos, passwords (potentially) will be collected. The device owner will be without the device for hours, or potentially even days or weeks while the forensics are done.

    I have seen it happen. I work with a company that has an established presence in the eDiscovery / EDRM space. Our teams are out doing forensic collections all the time, and it is more and more common to see employees end up in pissing matches with their internal legal and HR departments over who "owns" a device that has been used for work purposes. The employee always loses. Having paid for a device does not exclude them from the collection process.

    • by swb (14022)

      And when the employee decides to just quit, what do you do then? Or if they decide to just not provide it to you, smash it or otherwise wreck it (how long does an iPhone have to be submerged in water to render the electronics inoperable)?

      • by dave562 (969951)

        Then that employee gets to explain to the judge why they destroyed evidence. There is zero lag time between the employee being notified that they need to preserve their data and the requirement that they preserve their data. Once the employee is given notice, they are legally bound by a court order to cooperate. If they decide not to, they can have fun hanging out in jail.

        If the employee has problems with their device being subject to litigation, they should not use their device for work related activiti

    • by mlwmohawk (801821)

      common to see employees end up in pissing matches with their internal legal and HR departments over who "owns" a device that has been used for work purposes.

      Wrong, absolutely wrong. "Ownership" is not ambiguous. I have a true story. About 30 years ago I worked at a bank. One teller would put a stack of $20bills in his pocket every day. ($2000). Every night, he would take it out of his pocket and put it in his cash draw and settle. I asked him why he did this, he said, "in case I am robbed, I get to keep it."

      Back to the phone. If the employee buys the phone and pays the bills, the company has no "rights" to that device. In fact "sarbanes oxley" says that compani

  • I am presently working on a degree in digital forensics. Courses include how to work with mobile devices.
  • Step 1 NEVER use any cloud systems for backups. all they have to do is supeona Apple to get your iphone data, or Google to get your android data.
    step 2 set the encryption. They cant read the contents if you have strong encryption.
    step 3 Live paranoid. If you are near a river and a cop is trying to steal your phone, Throw it hard into the river. They will never recover it. Be ready to destroy it, I mean really destroy it like wrapped in Det cord, thermite, drill press through the flash chip kind of

  • it is imperative that users install and use the highest level crypto they can lay their hands on in order to thwart the police state from seizing their data without a court order.
  • "The book is pervasive its use of passive voice that can be annoying to many readers. It is hoped that the second edition of this book will be updated with the current tools of the time and a good re-editing of the text to ensure its readability doesn't suffer."

    It is to be hoped that critiques of the use of the passive voice are not self conciously ironic.
  • "Today's handheld device is the mainframe of years past."

    Isn't it more like today's handheld is the supercomputer of decades past? A mainfarme excels in crunching databases, while a supercomputer excels at doing "tasks" faster than even the typical liquid nitrogen-cooled desktop.

    Note that I'm using "task" in not in the computer sense of "multitasking", but int the human sense of an activity that a single user might want a computer to perform, like solving a complex equation or modeling a hurricane. While th

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