Join Us!

Digital Forensics -...
 
Notifications
Clear all

Digital Forensics - The Big 4  

Page 1 / 2
  RSS
s1lang
(@s1lang)
Member

Just to clarify as I see the words Big 4 thrown around a lot in our area of expertise.

Who exactly are the Big 4 Digital Forensics Companies in question?

Is this an ever changing "dynamic" list or set in stone?
Is it bought about by personal opinions, reputation, size or skills?

Thanks
Si D

Quote
Posted : 02/07/2010 8:25 pm
Patrick4n6
(@patrick4n6)
Senior Member

Big4 actually relates to the big 4 audit or accounting companies, who all have a consultancy branch which includes computer forensics.

The big 4 audit firms are (in no particular order)

KPMG
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC)
Deloitte (DTT)
Ernst & Young (EY)

They aren't necessarily the biggest 4 firms in the computer forensics field in terms of market penetration.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 02/07/2010 8:39 pm
forensicakb
(@forensicakb)
Active Member

2 of those 4 listed have had large scandals.

The list changes as new divisions open up within the companies and the companies seek larger markets and even smaller markets.

Just to clarify as I see the words Big 4 thrown around a lot in our area of expertise.

Who exactly are the Big 4 Digital Forensics Companies in question?

Is this an ever changing "dynamic" list or set in stone?
Is it bought about by personal opinions, reputation, size or skills?

Thanks
Si D

ReplyQuote
Posted : 02/07/2010 10:01 pm
ecophobia
(@ecophobia)
Active Member

Wiki has it all explained.

http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Four_auditors

ReplyQuote
Posted : 02/07/2010 10:03 pm
seanmcl
(@seanmcl)
Senior Member

They aren't necessarily the biggest 4 firms in the computer forensics field in terms of market penetration.

Nor are they, necessarily, the best. I have been engaged by outside counsel in a couple of cases where the client felt that our firm did not have enough name recognition and wanted one of the "Big 4" to work hand in hand (read "oversee"), our work. In each case, our firm remained as the sole forensic consultants by the end of the action.

Having been a former VP for MIS at a health care institution, my perception is that the "Big 4" are typically brought in for "indemnification" rather than competency (which is NOT to say that they lack the latter). The old expression among management was "Nobody ever got fired for bringing in [insert your Fortune 500 company here]."

And while I do not pretend that my experience has been shared by others, in many of these cases the field staff employed by a big name firm utilized a scripted playbook which I found to be too restrictive when doing a forensic examination where cost and, therefore, parsimony, are important to the client.

Furthermore, if you look at some of the job postings for these firms, I often see the job requirements for "Senior Forensics Analysts/Associates" to include 3-5 years of experience and a minimum of an Associates Degree
which seems a little like career inflation.

None of this is to say that there are not highly qualified individuals working for these firms, but I'm not sure that the "Big 4" designation means much insofar as digital forensics is concerned.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 02/07/2010 10:59 pm
jaclaz
(@jaclaz)
Community Legend

Having been a former VP for MIS at a health care institution, my perception is that the "Big 4" are typically brought in for "indemnification" rather than competency (which is NOT to say that they lack the latter). The old expression among management was "Nobody ever got fired for bringing in [insert your Fortune 500 company here]."

I share exactly the same opinion.

And while I do not pretend that my experience has been shared by others, in many of these cases the field staff employed by a big name firm utilized a scripted playbook which I found to be too restrictive when doing a forensic examination where cost and, therefore, parsimony, are important to the client.

As well, in my experience - not directly related to the forensic field - with a couple of them, I have seen *kids* (maybe brilliant - but without the needed field experience) being sent out to perform checks and verifications they simply hadn't the "absorbed" knowledge (i.e. besides the "on the book" one) needed to perform what they were asked for.

Overall I got the impression that they tend to send on the field the youngest and less expert, which is a good thing as they learn in the process, but without an appropriate guide or supervisor, and this may lead to a sub-optimal result.

jaclaz

ReplyQuote
Posted : 03/07/2010 3:04 pm
trewmte
(@trewmte)
Community Legend

And how many of these firms add another service to their lists reducing skilled individuals and skilling, enterprise and competitiveness in the marketplace?

An observations that was raised to me recently when looking at employment - just because a lawyer deals with a case about dentistry does that mean we all expect the lawyer to become expert in another subject other than law and to perform and offer dentistry as part of their lawyer services? I imagine applying that principle in the analogy could equally apply to accountants. You expect an accountant to understand and deal with tax matters, GAAP, number crunching, double-entry bookkeeping and conduct petty cash slip analysis, not conduct computer forensics/data forensics for their clients and on matters that might often not be related to accountancy.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 04/07/2010 9:04 pm
seanmcl
(@seanmcl)
Senior Member

And how many of these firms add another service to their lists reducing skilled individuals and skilling, enterprise and competitiveness in the marketplace?

Absolutely. Look at how the office equipment companies (Staples, Office Depot, Office Max), started selling computers. They establish a relationship to the customer which fixes, in the mind of the customer, that computers == "office supplies" == Vendor X.

The Big 4, and their ilk, started as accountants. Accounting moved from the printed page to computers and now they are, all of a sudden, experts in data systems. Data systems are used to commit and hide evidence of criminal and other actionalbe behavior so now they are experts in digital investigations.

It is a question of momentum. The client is comfortable with the vendor and says, "Can you do this?" and if the vendor says "Sure!" (even if they can't), then, often, there is no need to issue RFPs or go to bids, just extend the existing contract to include a modified scope of work.

The sad thing is that many of these clients are expecting to pay through the nose for such services so they don't mind paying for the vendor's "learning curve" because they don't understand what is happening.

My dad was once asked if he could do a job outside his area of expertise and he said he could but that it would cost the client $XXX USD. The client asked him why so much and he told him "You can get the mailman to deliver the milk, but it'll cost you a lot more than to have the milkman do it."

He had the integrity to admit that there were more effective and efficient suppliers of the service which that client desired than himself.

I've never seen such honesty from any of the Big 4.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 05/07/2010 5:00 am
pbeardmore
(@pbeardmore)
Active Member

I am not going to defend the Big 4 on their pricing strategies but it maybe a little over simplistic to suggest that they are a bunch of accountants who are dabling in computer forensics. Part of their strength is their wage levels and they can and do hire some very competent, skilled and experianced staff.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 05/07/2010 3:40 pm
Jamie
(@jamie)
Community Legend

I think the truth lies somewhere in between, or rather at all points of the spectrum. I've met, and worked together with, very impressive people from the Big 4 firms while at the same time I absolutely do recognise the descriptions above. In my experience degrees of competence and professionalism can vary greatly from location to location within the same firm - some clients are lucky, some less so, simply depending on where they're based…

ReplyQuote
Posted : 05/07/2010 3:55 pm
seanmcl
(@seanmcl)
Senior Member

I am not going to defend the Big 4 on their pricing strategies but it maybe a little over simplistic to suggest that they are a bunch of accountants who are dabling in computer forensics.

I don't believe that I said that. What I did say was that these companies evolved into this line of work through the progression from accounting support to automation to IT consultancy to digital forensics. I'm not saying that this is bad.

If you look at digital forensic job postings for the Big 4 you see in the opening paragraphs relatively vague statements like "improving customer value" and "improve business processes". Rarely do these "mission statements" directly mention digital forensics. If they decided, tomorrow, that the market was too crowded they could easily close their practices while continuing to provide other advisory services to their clients.

Now compare that to a firm which specializes in digital forensics and most often you will see explicit statements that focus on ESI, eDiscovery, litigation support and forensics. These companies have made an expressed commitment to being in this particular line of work.

Part of their strength is their wage levels and they can and do hire some very competent, skilled and experianced staff.

I don't disagree. But I have two observations which are mine, alone. First, unlike many of the forensics firms with which I have worked, the Big 4 personnel deployed to the field are often the more junior, less experienced personnel. This is not surprising as more senior personnel are usually able to negotiate less travel and their hourly rates are usually much higher cutting into profits.

The second observation is a matter of necessity (like McDonald's using 43,000 head of cattle to make a single hamburger so that they taste the same in Munich as in Nashville), which is that these firms commonly use a more standardized practice. The plus side to this is a consistent customer experience and a decreased likelihood of missing the low hanging fruit but the flip side of this is that, again, in my experience, customers are becoming cost conscious and there is an increasing need to focus the investigation on the most likely sources of evidence. Sometimes a standardized approach is simply too expensive and inefficient for particular cases.

In any event the original posting was about the "Big 4 Forensics Companies" and, IMHO, the term is a bit misleading. The "Big 4" refers to accounting firms all of which have digital forensics practices. But they are not, IMHO, the big 4 with respect to digital forensics.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 05/07/2010 7:31 pm
Patrick4n6
(@patrick4n6)
Senior Member

If you're looking for a bit of history of the big4's issues, you should read up on the history of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US. When a Republican congress/president decide your industry needs regulating, you know you've really screwed up.

That doesn't necessarily equate to their CF work, but their CF functions are embedded under their consultancy arms, so if you're ever going to work there, you should be aware of these rules.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 05/07/2010 11:12 pm
jaclaz
(@jaclaz)
Community Legend

In my experience degrees of competence and professionalism can vary greatly from location to location within the same firm - some clients are lucky, some less so, simply depending on where they're based…

Sure ) , but the whole point is that - mostly in good faith - "management" rents them because of the name that should imply a top level service, which is not always the case, as it should be.

If we put it in terms of ISO9001 or anyway "quality assurance" terms this is exactly what should NEVER happen.

Just imagine, say, Mercedes Benz or BMW had different levels of quality of their cars depending on where you buy them. 😯

For the record this USED to be true several years ago, at least for a number of car manufacturers, at least Alfa Romeo's and BMW's for the US market had a level of quality far superior than those for the EU one.

jaclaz

ReplyQuote
Posted : 06/07/2010 12:55 am
Jamie
(@jamie)
Community Legend

I don't disagree lol

ReplyQuote
Posted : 06/07/2010 1:28 am
davnads
(@davnads)
Junior Member

I work Big 4 and I'm one of the more "junior" people some of you are referring to… I would like to point out they have invested over 100k in my career development throughout the last 3 years. I don't know any other companies that hire out of college and vest to that amount in training, certifications, conventions, etc. ??

ReplyQuote
Posted : 06/07/2010 11:58 am
Page 1 / 2
Share: