Amber, you're the Founder and CEO of Paraben. What first drove you to start the company?
I had been in the digital forensics space for over 10 years prior to Paraben doing digital forensics. When I first started Paraben, it was a shareware company and when I took over as CEO, we moved to be a digital forensics company since that was my background. This space was always the one I wanted to develop tools for; it is the closest I can get to being Wonder Woman.Tell us more about your role – what does a typical day in your life look like?
As with many people, I read a lot of emails. However, the more entertaining parts of my day are done with validation testing, research, and occasional case work. I try to make sure that just because I am running a company, it doesn’t mean I lose touch with the investigative side. If I can’t understand the struggles that an investigator faces, I don’t think I can make the best decisions when it comes to tool development.
What are some of the most important challenges in digital forensic investigations today, and how does Paraben address these?
I have found that the problem that we all face is the speed at which things are changing. It is very difficult from a product perspective to always be ahead of the technology curve, and I think it is even harder for an investigator. We have new technology, devices, and things connecting digitally all the time, so being able to know what impact they have in digital forensics is a challenge. At Paraben, we try to stay ahead as much as we can with putting out new research to help those in the field and make sure our tools are addressing those new challenges quickly. One way we do this is through our Forensic Impact blog. Many times in my career I have been the victim of developing things too early, but I am happy that we can always provide the tools people need before they have a problem.
The Internet of Things is a growing area, and presents new challenges in the field – what are your thoughts on how we as forensic examiners can work more effectively with IoT devices?
I personally, and Paraben as a company, have spent a lot of time on this very topic. IoT is something that we started working on two years ago and we were the first company to offer forensic support for these types of devices and their data. We started with the obvious: with UAV, or Drones, and moved from there to wearables, and recently added support for home assistants. This field will continue to have a lot of growth and it is a combination of approach for the support of them as evidence. You have to be able to process the data from the device or synchronized data, but the cloud aspect also has to be addressed, as IoT lives in the cloud. It is a challenge for sure, but one we are meeting.
You've written extensively about mobile forensics – what are some of the current considerations in this area, and what do you think the next steps will be?
Mobile forensics has been a huge passion for me. We put out the first tool for it back in 2001 and have continued to offer quality support through the years. We now look at the space as two large areas of concerns that are being faced. The first is with locked devices; it is something that everyone is facing and with which everyone is annoyed. We have part of our research team always working on different methods to unlock all types of devices. It is an uphill struggle for everyone, from tool manufacturers to investigators, and no one knows what will happen in the long term. All we can do is carry on and see what happens with the new firmwares and devices as they are released.
The second area is apps. There are so many of them it is hard to fathom the support of them all. So, the way we approach it is we make the path to the data easier to find. It is not reasonable to think any company can support all the millions of apps that are out there, so making your workflow easy to follow to that data is crucial. We do an exclusive Sort function that pulls the data from the apps to a central area so investigators can go through and review it as needed. We also make a comprehensive app list that is like a table of contents to the device. We think that giving that easier workflow really helps with dealing with such a large problem as apps.
In your opinion, what does the future hold for digital forensics? What is the "next big thing" in the field?
The next big thing is that digital forensics will become part of other industries. We have always been separated, but the technology is merging together so quickly a merger of the industries is eminent. You will not only see this with technology that has what we call a forensic-grade functionality, that are part of security for example, but also with cases not having clear lines between security, forensics, and discovery.
What can we expect to see from Paraben over the next twelve months or so?
We are doing a lot of focusing on IoT to make sure we provide a good tool for everyone to be able to investigate this data. We will continue with our support in mobiles as we are a very strong solution with support for over 27,000 different devices. A lot of people are not as familiar with Paraben, but we offer affordable options that really look at all aspects of the digital investigation process.
Do you have any advice for people who are looking to start their digital forensics careers?
I think they need to make sure they are well rounded in their knowledge, but I also think people should look to specialize. It is too hard for anyone to know everything about digital forensics, so having a good working knowledge, but a specialty is very important whether you are starting a lab or starting out in the space.
Finally, when you're not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I am a huge foodie. I share BBQ pics with fellow people in the industry as we do smack talk of our latest meat triumphs. Some of them use my proprietary rub as well. I am also a baker and make my own jams. I even make my own treats for my fur kids as I have four dogs. I think taking time for the little moments in life with your family is the best hobby.
Amber Schroader is Founder & CEO of Paraben, a full-service digital forensics company providing solutions for computers, mobile devices and the Internet of Things.