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Digital Forensics vs Cyber Forensics: "The Battle For Data Security”

May 28, 2023

When we talk about the world of forensics, there are times when industry experts would talk in industry-related terms and use certain terms interchangeably. For instance, cyber security and cyber forensics are two different terms that are used interchangeably but are different. There are times when people also think that computer forensics is no different and can be used in place of digital forensics, which is certainly not correct. Each term in the industry holds its significance and relevance.

Understanding Digital Forensics

Digital forensics, also known as cyber forensics, encompasses a wide range of activities related to investigating cyber-attacks and incidents involving digital assets such as computers, mobile phones, servers, and other devices. The goal of digital forensics is to collect and analyze as much digital information as possible from various sources, regardless of the device or the origin of the data. This type of forensic investigation is considered reactive because it focuses on studying the incident that has already occurred rather than preventing it from happening.

It majorly involves three key functions:

  1. Retrieving and collecting data from a source system for investigative purposes.
  2. Analyzing the extent of damages that occurred and understanding the incident that occurred.
  3. Identifying the source of the attack including how it was executed, the tools used, the individuals responsible, etc.

Understanding Cyber Security

Cyber security is a term that focuses on safeguarding devices, systems, and data against any type of cyberattack. This is done by using various types of security controls, tools, and policies. This process focuses on safeguarding an organization from all possible threats that might occur by placing all possible defenses in place. This is what makes it different from digital forensics as cyber security focuses on preventing attacks instead of investigating the one. 

Goals for Cyber Forensics and Cyber Security 

While many might feel that both these departments are the same, they vary hugely in their operations and goals. Apart from being focused on fighting against hackers and scammers, both these professions have different objectives and goals.  

Some of the main objectives of cyber security professionals are:

  • Ensuring the encryption of the latest technology in every piece of data.
  • Protecting systems from unauthorized access.
  • Fixing vulnerabilities post-detection of threat.
  • Preventing hacking, data breaches, and data leaks.
  • Ensuring that the client complies with the relevant security- and privacy-related regulations.

The goal of cyber security professionals can be categorized under two main heads:

  • They aim to uncover the “who, what, and how” behind security incidents. 
  • Aiding criminal investigations by collecting proof to be presented in a court of law. 

Digital Forensics & Cyber Security Go Hand-In-Hand

There is no doubt that the ultimate goal of both professionals is to protect the company’s data. The company might hire a third-party vendor who provides digital forensics services to the companies and help them assess the attack on their data. These vendors collaborate closely with the internal security team to identify and resolve issues while also identifying vulnerabilities and eliminating malware. Thus, both departments share the same goal of maintaining system security and minimizing any potential harm.

Responsibilities of Digital Forensics & Cyber Security Professionals

Cybersecurity professionals are responsible to safeguard the company’s data and ensure that it remains protected. On the other hand, digital forensics professionals are active only when a data breach or theft has occurred. 

To elaborate further, the role and responsibilities of a cyber security professional are:

  • Building and maintaining secure and safe systems and databases.
  • Fixing bugs, weaknesses, and misconfigurations.
  • Updating the systems regularly.
  • Setting up policies for password and user permission.
  • Dealing with paperwork related to security and allied terms.
  • Training the staff in security

On the other hand, digital forensics professional begins working based on the clues left by the attackers. This can include anything from how they attacked the organization to the tools used by them, etc. 

Some of the common responsibilities handled by these professionals are:

  • Using techniques used by penetration testers to identify vulnerabilities, loopholes, and bugs.
  • Examining the system against each requirement mentioned by a law enforcement agency.
  • Preparing a checklist to examine the system.
  • Finding evidence of the crime committed.
  • Retrieving data as prescribed by the law.
  • Ensuring that the data collection is in sync with the defendant’s rights. 


The tools used in both professions are also different. For instance, cybersecurity professionals use tools like Web Application Firewall, Website Malware Detector, Penetration Testing Tools, Network Mapping and Security Tools, and others. On the other hand, digital forensic professionals use Redline, Helix3, COFEE, Autopsy, and others. 

Although small and mid-sized companies depend on their software developers and IT professionals for cyber security, large-sized firms generally hire professionals for such tasks. It is important to remember that the role of cyber security professionals is crucial as it begins from the very beginning and aims at stopping attackers. Whereas, the role of digital forensics only begins later and when the cyber security professionals have already done their part of the job.

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