Modern businesses use every possible way to handle crises, mitigate risks, accelerate growth, create valuable business insights, optimize emerging business opportunities, and stay on top of the competition.
The management makes critical decisions to achieve all this. These decisions are not made through gut feeling but through data. Data-driven decisions are crucial to business strategy, as they maximize business impact.
Without a doubt, data is the most valuable business asset. Unfortunately, it has become a target for criminals. Businesses are, therefore, looking for ways to protect their valuable resource, and one method that has yielded fruits is forensic data analysis.
Forensic data analytics experts use investigative tactics and advanced technology to help combat risk and improve processes, a move that facilitates businesses to make critical and informed decisions.
Forensic data analytics explained
Forensic data analysis scrutinizes large volumes of data to identify potential risk areas, detect non-standard and criminal activities, and set up internal controls and processes to minimize risks.
It is the detailed process of detecting, investigating, and documenting why and how data security incidents or violations occur. It also helps identify areas where businesses can improve performance and reduce wastage.
It involves analyzing structured data and, sometimes, statistical modeling to counter criminal activities such as cybercrime, fraud, and data theft. It gives valuable information on anomalies, suspicious activities, and incident timelines.
Forensic data analysis tracks data passing through a network and usually focuses on servers, mobile devices, computers, and other storage devices. Businesses analyze their data to collect evidence that can be used in a court of law or use the findings to enhance their internal processes.
Forensic data analytics stages
Forensic data analytics involves several stages to extract actionable insights from the data. The analysts carefully execute each phase, as any wrong move can compromise the whole process.
Stage 1: Developing procedures and policies
Forensic data analysts understand the importance of data and are very careful to ensure it is not compromised throughout the entire process. As a result, they set strict procedures and policies that ensure data is handled appropriately. They create protocols that clearly outline how evidence is retrieved, where and how retrieved data is stored, and when to authorize forensic analysts to recover evidence.
Stage 2: Identification
The identification phase involves recognizing devices and any other resource that holds data that will form part of the investigation. The devices could be computers, laptops, mobile phones, or tablets.
Once the devices are identified, they are seized and isolated to prevent evidence tampering or continued use in crime. The investigative team is given access to a server or network if they form part of the investigation, and other persons are denied access.
Stage 3: Extraction
After the devices involved in the crime are secured, the investigative team uses their forensic techniques to extract data relevant to the investigation. The team then makes a digital copy of the evidence used for analysis and evaluation.
The original data and devices are in a secure place to prevent evidence tampering and preserve the original data.
Stage 4: Analysis
After the successful identification and extraction of relevant data, forensic investigators proceed to the analysis stage. They extract valuable data through various methods and examine it thoroughly for evidence confirming that a crime happened.
The investigators usually recover hidden, deleted, damaged, or encrypted files through strategies such as file craving, which identifies and recovers deleted files, or reverse steganography, a technique that extracts hidden data. The findings are then presented to the committee in charge of the investigation.
Stage 5: Documentation
Once a thorough analysis has been done, the findings are appropriately documented, making the entire investigative process easy to understand. The documentation is also presented in an easy-to-visualize manner as it helps formulate how activities of the wrongdoing happened.
Helping businesses achieve goals through forensic data analysis
Forensic data analysis is an excellent way for analysts to help companies thrive by ensuring their safety and security. They provide information on vulnerabilities and threats and offer the most effective strategies to combat them.
Given the amount of data involved (sometimes in terabytes), analyzing and detecting crime may require a complex approach that experts can only carry out with a solid forensic analysis foundation.
Besides, data forensic evidence is held to the same standard as physical evidence in court; hence, the analysis must produce reliably obtained, authentic, and admissible evidence.
For this reason, attaining an online master’s cyber security course from a reputable university such as St. Bonaventure University Online equips you with the necessary skills to become a sought-after expert in protecting businesses and individuals from data theft and malicious cyber-attacks.
The program offers the specific technical and soft skills needed to understand and strategize the best and most effective ways to tackle the most advanced cybersecurity threats.
How businesses use forensic data analysis to make decisions
Handling business data is a resource-intensive exercise that is also time-consuming. However, the results make every effort worthwhile as businesses benefit from the process. There are several ways companies can use forensic data analysis to make the right decisions to accelerate their growth.
- Business processes automation
During data analysis, a business may discover valuable information that may have led to poorly executed business processes. The analysts may find patterns that lead to poor performance and suggest several ways to make the process efficient, for example, using automation.
Automation entails applying technology to handle tasks previously done manually by employees.
Automating the processes means higher productivity, availability, reliability, reduced operation costs, and increased performance as it eliminates repetitiveness, and employees can focus on critical tasks.
Automation also helps businesses receive customizable notifications and valuable insights. Data is sent to the relevant employees in real-time, who then act swiftly to ensure efficient workflow. Automation also helps collect and store data in an organized manner to aid in easy access and analysis. Easy-to-read data results in well-informed business decisions that help grow the bottom line.
- Preventing hackers and malware
When hackers use malicious software to gain access to a business network, it causes havoc to the processes. The abrupt halt in operations can cause losses in hundreds to thousands of dollars, not to mention valuable data.
Cybercriminals can also modify crucial data, prevent a business from serving their customers, and acquire classified information regarding proprietary processes and sell it to competitors. Malicious software infections can also be used to erase business research and development data.
Fortunately, organizations develop ways to stop hackers from accessing a network or device through forensic data analysis. The analysts help businesses understand patterns of how cybercrime happens and how structured data is stolen or exploited.
They help businesses protect themselves from online threats and enable the management to spot trends and anticipate upcoming attacks quickly. Preventing hackers and malware allows companies to stay secure online as it safeguards their digital security.
They can utilize the 24/7 online marketing platforms to make sales, meet customer needs, and collect valuable customer feedback by streamlining their service delivery.
- Identifying vulnerabilities
Identifying vulnerabilities is crucial in business as it helps organizations understand their weaknesses and provides direction on reducing the threats and risks due to those weaknesses. It helps reduce an attacker’s ability to break into an organization’s system and cause havoc.
A business reduces its security risk through forensic data analysis as it thoroughly assesses its websites, applications, and infrastructure, identifying vulnerabilities and providing an intuitive risk score.
The move helps companies to stay alert and fix vulnerable areas, thus not being caught unprepared by attackers.
- Retrieving deleted information
Suppose there has been a critical data breach, identity theft, or a cyberattack and valuable business data is lost. It is essential to recover that data as failure to retrieve it can cripple business operations.
Forensic data analysis offers a helping hand when data recovery is critical. Forensic data analysts use advanced data recovery software to recover data hidden or permanently deleted by suspects and restore it for analysis.
For instance, when cybercriminals access business systems and delete valuable customer data, forensic analysts come into the picture, retrieve the data, identify the loopholes that led to the unfortunate event, and suggest appropriate measures to prevent such occurrences in future.
Retaining crucial information gives businesses peace of mind and is a valuable asset, enabling them to make meaningful decisions.
- Increased efficiency
Businesses identify inefficient internal processes through data analysis and develop strategies to streamline workflows. Forensic data analysts assess the performance and effectiveness of current workflows.
They also identify processes that are wasteful of resources and difficult to use. Through their skills and expertise, the analysts conduct complicated tests to identify areas where human error results in poor processes. They also automate processes or refine them over time to ensure efficient workflow.
- Monitor trends
Forensic data analysis looks at historical and current data and extensively reviews occurrences and trends. Through trend analysis, businesses predict what will happen based on past events.
For instance, a business may look at the trends to understand the current market threats and how they affect its peers. The analyst uses statistical techniques to look at the characteristics of the data set and observe the patterns of activities.
Based on the information collected, the business gains insight into its data safety and security and makes strategic decisions to protect itself from potential risks.
It can also look at the trends and identify business processes that are performing poorly in the market or resulting in resource wastage. Based on the data, they can benchmark to look for ways to upgrade or replace the processes for optimal performance.
- Data protection
One of the most vital roles of forensic data analysis is helping businesses manage data protection. From the customer’s perspective, privacy is critical to building trust. Consumers want to associate with brands that value and secure their data.
If customers get word that their data has been exposed and accessed by cybercriminals, they may feel that their rights have been infringed, which can damage the brand’s reputation.
Protecting customer privacy and upholding their rights helps businesses unlock hidden brand value and reputation. As a result, customers willingly offer feedback that helps brands formulate better strategies to improve and increase performance.
For instance, if customers rate a product highly but are not willing to return for more, a forensic data analyst can help review their feedback to determine why there are no or little return sales. Combining the data and looking for customer opinion and observation is critical in ensuring businesses formulate ways to improve customer quoting processes and satisfaction.
- Revised policies
Forensic data analysts use advanced techniques to verify the capability of organizational devices to download, copy, and store data. They also check on who has access to which data and how trained they are on how to handle it with utmost privacy.
The move aims to check how well data is stored, how easy it is to access by unauthorized employees, and which data should be accessed by whom in the organizational hierarchy. The findings illustrate how consumer data privacy has been protected and how access rights are granted or revoked.
As a result, the organization develops or tightens available policies to minimize potential data breaches and security risks. Strict security protocols are also implemented to manage employee access rights and ensure they do not fall victim to the numerous security risks that poor policies expose them to.
Businesses are taking advantage of technological advancement to improve productivity and meet customer needs The online space has an ugly side—cybercrimes. Criminals target business data and cause malice, which affects business operations.
Fortunately, forensic data analysis helps businesses improve systems, develop strict security measures, and enhance regulatory compliance.
Analysts use analytical tools and techniques to help companies investigate large datasets for behavioral patterns and develop strong measures that guarantee data security and improve and enhance business processes.