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Computer forensics is the science of busting cybercriminals. It can be defined more pedantically as the "investigation of digital evidence for use in criminal or civil courts of law." Forensics is most commonly used after a suspected hack attempt, in order to analyze a computer or network for evidence of intrusion. For example, in its simplest form, a forensic computer analysis consists of reading audit trail logs on a hacked machine. Forensics can also be used for cloning and dissecting seized hard drives . Such investigation is performed with tools ranging from simple software that performs binary searches to complex electron microscopes that read the surface of damaged disk platters.
This chapter gives a brief introduction to the vast field of computer forensics. We discuss where data hides on your drive, and we show you how to erase it. In addition, we review some advanced tools that experts use in a typical forensic analysis. Finally, we discuss countermeasures such as drive-cleaning software and read-only systems. We begin with a simple review of computer architecture, then move up to Windows forensics, and wrap up with a real-world case study on Linux. Overall, we will try to maintain a dual attacker/defender focus.
As with any technology, the material in this chapter can be used for ethical or unethical purposes. It is not the purpose of this chapter to teach you to how hide traces of your misdeeds; in fact, by the end of this chapter, you should realize it is nearly impossible to thwart determined forensic analysis. Instead, we give a general overview of this challenging and rewarding field of study. This material barely scratches the surface; forensics is a rich and complex science that you can continue to study throughout your entire career.
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