Any organization, whether it is part of the Fortune 500 or a small clothing store, is a target for a cyberattack. Any system that is connected to the Internet is a target for a data breach. The notion that no system or organization is completely safe from hacking has increased the need and urgency to strengthen cybersecurity as a whole. You need a highly reliable, no-nonsense IT defense solution along with a skillful cybersecurity team to protect your organization's network and data from malicious actors.

When it comes to tracking suspicious activities across your network, log data holds an enormous amount of importance. When something goes wrong, or when you spot an on-going cyberattack, conducting investigations and forensic analysis is an immediate need. Forensic analysis also helps you assess the post-breach damage. Logs are the first thing to look at to determine the root cause of an issue, or detect a potential vulnerability. Evaluating logs is the starting point for the investigation process.

What is forensic analysis?

During a criminal investigation, where do crime scene analysts begin? The forensic team collects and analyzes the evidence present, and uses it to reconstruct the events surrounding the crime. Investigating the crumbs of evidence and creating a story of what might have happened provides sufficient clues for crime analysts to continue their examination. Each piece of evidence supports a part of their theory, and points to the culprit and their criminal intentions. cause the team needs time to become proficient with the new tool and configure it effectively to ensure that your organization is better equipped against cybersecurity threats and possible attacks.

How can we better understand IT forensic analysis by applying this line of action to a cyberattack?

Similar to a criminal investigation, cybersecurity analysts investigate the cybercrime scene to collect and analyze digital evidence. During a cyberattack, threat actors leave behind digital footprints that can lead to key findings, accelerating the investigation process. Forensic analysis helps understand the origin of the attack, the vulnerable weak points that were exploited, and the methods in which the breach was carried out. The purpose of forensic analysis is to discover what happened before, during, and after the cyberattack, and to understand the extent of the damage caused. That way, we can create a theory about the possible events surrounding the crime scene, as well as identify the weak points to defend against a future attack.

Finding the digital footprints

Log data is a precious resource in forensic analysis. It helps organizations detect and mitigate attacks while enabling cybersecurity analysts to learn from past attacks. Unlike a real criminal investigation that has to be conducted manually, forensic analysis on log data can be carried out through a SIEM solution.

The first step is continuous surveillance. Massive amounts of generated log data require a solution that can monitor events occurring across the network. Imagine having a 360-degree view into your network, as through a circular guard sentry station. No event will go unnoticed, and you'll increase the observations of suspicious activities.

The second step is building search queries where users do not have to depend on a log search mechanism. Some effective log search methods are Elasticsearch and Lucene, which are fast, scalable, and also support a wide range of data types from different sources. While performing forensic analysis, it is important that you are not confined to predefined search queries. A good SIEM solution enables you to perform search queries using event IDs, severity, source, username, IP address, etc., or a combination. Using this search strategy makes the incident resolution process easier. For example, if you identify the IP addresses behind a cyberattack, you can blacklist those IP addresses and prevent the attacker from breaching your network again.

An ideal SIEM solution enables you to conduct a root cause analysis by correlating multiple events and attributes using advanced search capabilities. Multiple searches against different criteria can be conducted simultaneously, ensuring accurate results and insights about the security event and its impact on the organization.

Creating an effective defense strategy using forensic analysis

With insightful information, you can implement processes that help solidify your network defense from cyberattacks. Consider these best practices:

  • Conduct regular analysis that address weak endpoints in your network as soon as they are uncovered.
  • Analyze digital footprints to discover attack patterns, and help you prepare for similar attacks in the future.
  • Try to answer these key questions: what time was the security incident initiated, who initiated it, what was the sequence of the actions, and what was its impact?
  • Integrate a cybersecurity solution that automates alerts triggered by security events.
  • Educate employees on cybersecurity efforts to protect endpoints that a attacker might target, including phishing emails, social engineering tactics, etc.

As humans, we learn as we experience things in life. Forensic investigation involves that too. By investigating the methods of past attacks and using the data to improve your cybersecurity defense, you can thwart future attacks, ensuring that your network is more secure than the day before.

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