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Richland College’s Digital Forensics ProgramBy Zoltan Szabo, Digital Forensics Program Director, Richland College
What Are Digital Forensics and Information Assurance?
What Is Digital Forensics?
Digital forensics is a branch of forensic science focusing on digitized information capture, protection and analysis. It encompasses forensics for computers, networks and mobile devices. Even though it focuses mostly on “post-mortem” analysis of data storage devices, it has also moved into the capture and analysis of volatile data and eDiscovery-related data collection. Digital forensics is the process of acquiring, analyzing and presenting relevant and admissible digital data from different data states in a forensically sound manner suitable for litigation support.
The practice of digital forensics is based on three basic premises:
• “A digital investigation is a process to answer questions about digital states and events. A digital forensic investigation is a special case of a digital investigation where the procedures and techniques that are used will allow the results to be entered into a court of law. The digital investigation process involves formulating and testing hypotheses about the state of a computer. Digital evidence is data that supports or refutes a hypothesis that was formulated during the investigation. This is a general notion of evidence and may include data that may not be court admissible because it was not properly or legally acquired.” 
• Tools and procedures generally follow the Daubert standard and the process of analysis based on the scientific method. Daubert v. Merrell, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), established the basis for the admissibility of expert witnesses’ testimony in federal legal proceedings. Texas is one of the states accepting Daubert as a rule of admissibility. 
• The scientific method  establishes procedures to aid the methodology of determining events that occurred and testing hypotheses in analyzing digital evidence. Key aspects of digital forensics are reliability, repeatability and verifiable results.
• Procedures involving digital evidence are used in many type of crime scenes where digital evidence must be preserved and protected, since it is easily altered and can never be assumed to be destroyed. 
References:1. Brian D. Carrier, “Basic Digital Forensic Investigation Concepts,” June 7, 2006, Accessed: Jan. 20, 2009 2. “Admissibility of Scientific Evidence Under Daubert,” Accessed: Jan. 20, 2009 3. Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation, “Steps of the Scientific Method,” Accessed: Jan. 20, 2009 4. U.S. Department of Justice, “Digital Evidence Field Guide Version 1.1,” Accessed: Jan. 20, 2009
What Is Information Assurance?
Information assurance (IA) focuses on the proper processing of stored and transmitted electronic data by identifying, detecting and applying the corrective measures in a timely manner to prevent data loss, unauthorized modification and destruction.
IA encompasses not just digital forms of data protection but also considers the people and operations since security is defined as technology + people + operations. IA is interdisciplinary and uses skills from multiple fields including accounting, forensic science, management, system engineering, security engineering, criminology and computer science.
IA’s main focus is to identify and manage risk to assets while maintaining confidentiality, integrity and availability to those assets.
Vision for Richland College’s Digital Forensics Program
The Digital Forensics program will be the leader in quality and up-to-date learning of data analysis based on methodological analysis.
The Digital Forensics program will be the best place for student success in information assurance and data analysis. Our goal is to bring the latest technology as a vendor neutral education where we break away from traditional information technology (IT) training methods. We encourage and require independent thinking and problem-solving to explore the scientific approach that is the basis of reliable investigations.
Our graduates will be the best prepared to enter the workforce where inculpatory and exculpatory data analysis will be weighed equally without prejudice. Our goal is to reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in information assurance (IA) and producing a growing number of professionals with this expertise in various disciplines.
Code of Ethics
Respect for the Public
Respect for the Digital Forensics Program
Respect for My Employer
Respect for Myself
Adopted from: Global Information Assurance Certification overview