Aspiring hackers crack the latest digital forensic techniques

Future forensic investigators have been learning how to respond to the threat of corporate espionage by mimicking the mind-set of an employee selling company secrets.

Students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) were set the fictional scenario to solve as part of an industry-led digital forensics workshop for #DMUCyberWeek.

DMUcyberweek Joe at Airbus forensics workshop.WEB

Staff from multinational aerospace company Airbus designed the practical law enforcement exercise, and set the scene by explaining that the employee’s house had been searched under a legal warrant and computer equipment recovered.

The students from DMU’s Cyber Technology Institute then acted as forensic investigators as they hacked into two suspicious files found on the employee’s computer. To identify and overcome anti-forensic methods, the students put their forensic techniques to the test, using password-cracking software, changing the format of obscured file-types and de-coded ‘secret’ text.

As they searched the files, the clock was ticking and students had just two hours in the lab to access the files, analyse the data inside and try to crack the case.

DMUCyberWeek forensics workshop.WEB

Joe Stirland, Technical Lead for Cyber Forensics at Airbus, who ran the Airbus USB Forensics Workshop, said he was impressed with the knowledge of the 15 students.

He said: “Students had to use lots of anti-forensic techniques to find the hidden data and crack the corporate espionage scenario.

 “They had to demonstrate that they could think like a criminal, who happened to be a computer whizz.

“Forensics is an ever-changing industry so you have to know what tools are available and keep on top of the latest developments. It’s as if you are playing a game of cat and mouse with the suspect, as you have to get into their mind and stay one-step ahead.

“This was an entirely fictional scenario, but very typical of what students may have to deal with in their future careers.”

He added: “It’s great for students to have industry coming in to give them hands-on experience. It makes that link between academia and practical experience. Most importantly, it was a lot of fun.”

DMUCyberweek Emily Airbus

Final-year Computer Security student Alan Watkins said he had wanted to attend the industry workshop to better his future job prospects.

The 21-year-old, who wants to work in security architecture, said: “It’s really useful to have this practical experience to put on my CV and to mention at job interviews. This is just the kind of situation we could face in the world of work.

“I’ve found it really interesting as we’ve had to use our knowledge in a different kind of way.”

Molly Betts, who works for DMU at the Airbus Centre of Excellence in ICS Cyber Security & Forensics, said: “This exercise also showed students that forensics are just as important as cyber security. You have to dig deeper with forensics so that you can push forward with cyber security.

“Forensic investigators can be compared to forensic police officers as they also have to look at the evidence behind-the-scenes, they have to examine the fingerprints so that further investigations begin.

“Forensics is a difficult subject to teach without these types of hands-on exercises as it is so analytical.

“But there are some great forensic careers out there and I hope students have got a taste of what they can go on to do.”

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The forensics workshop was part of a full day of seminars and presentations from Airbus providing industry insights into cyber security and digital forensics. The day also included the latest threats, risks and mitigations in the security industry and for protecting critical national infrastructure.

Posted on Friday 2nd March 2018

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