Cesar, you're Head of the Support Team at Oxygen. Tell us about your role – what does your day-to-day job look like?
Hey! My role right now is to help my team supporting our software to our end users all over the world, to the best of our abilities. Whether that be with helping with technical issues, or commercial issues, I help my team with whatever questions or concerns they need.My day to day really varies, as one day it can be all research into why a particular problem is occurring with the software, or another day helping our Sales Team complete a huge order. I’m a jack of all trades for the company, and every day brings new challenges and tasks.
What was it that first sparked your interest in digital forensics?
I’m actually pretty new to the digital forensics field myself, but have gained a vast amount of knowledge not only from my co-workers, but also just talking to people within the field. I’ve always been into modifying my cell phones from stock, since the first Apple iPhone, and now I have put that knowledge into a field I know is ever expanding and changing.
Talk us through some of the recent product developments from Oxygen – what changes have been made over the past year or so?
A great recent development which was released this year has been our Oxygen Forensic Cloud Extractor. We have so many positive reviews of this module, as now digital forensic investigators can grab information directly from the cloud. We support the major ones you probably are familiar with: iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive; but also some cool ones like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Also, we have implemented new physical bypass methods for both Samsung and LG Devices, that can not only bypass a lock screen for the devices, but also give the forensic investigator a physical dump of the phone. This has been a huge feature for police forces, who as you can imagine, gather quite a lot of locked devices from suspects.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing digital forensic investigators today, and how does Oxygen address these?
In today’s world from what I have seen so far, the biggest challenges facing digital forensic investigators today are encryption and social media.
By encryption, I mean the user encryption that is now being set by default for the user by the cell phone manufacturers. As user encryption will soon be implemented by default – as it is now by newer Android OS, digital forensic investigators will soon have to come up with ways to un-encrypt these partitions. Oxygen Forensics has addressed these issues by adding the ability to decrypt devices backups and images, as well as decode secure messaging apps.
Social media: if you have been paying attention to the news lately, the people you see committing crimes are no longer using text messages and phone calls to communicate, but social media apps. Facebook, Snapchat, these are the applications criminals are now using to communicate. Oxygen though, has stayed ahead of the curve and not only are we able to retrieve these popular social media application chats, but also private messengers like Signal, Line, and Wikrme.
Looking to the future, how do you think the world of digital forensics will change over the next few years?
Going forward, I believe that people will go away more and more from their personal computers, and start doing all their business on their cell phones. Right now it seems the case that’s where we’re heading with functions such as Apple Pay, and apps to control your own home now. Mobile forensic software companies such as ourselves will soon have to implement new parsing techniques to capture all data.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? What aspect of your job do you find most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my job definitely has to be giving a solution to the end users in a bind. You have to understand some of our end users are police personnel you see on the news, or government officials who need to find this information yesterday. When they call in or submit a ticket looking for assistance on processing a phone or looking for one specific piece of information, and we give them that support in a timely manner, they are always grateful for our assistance, and that in itself makes the job rewarding, knowing we are helping people out there.
The most challenging part of my job is keeping up with cell phone manufacturers’ level of security. It’s like a game of cat and mouse with us and cell phone manufacturers; they want to lock their phones down, and we want to open them. From user encryption and various new levels of security added, we have to be constantly developing and testing new features for our users to combat.
One of the questions we're often asked at Forensic Focus is "how do I get started in a computer forensics career?" What advice would you give? What qualities do you think are most important in this field?
Besides basic training, I would recommend for anyone that wants to get into the computer forensic field to attend forensic conferences in their area. Most of them are free, and I’ve seen students and normal civilians alike attend the conferences who are just as intrigued about the field. This way, you can see all the latest new advances in the field, and actually talk to people in the field. This would be a great way to get your foot in the door, by creating connections.
The biggest quality that you would need to work in this field is to be ready for change 24/7. Being in the field that we are in, everything can change within days, hours, and sometimes minutes. Cell phone manufacturers can drop a new update at a drop of a hat, or an app can release an update that has a ripple effect within the program.
Finally, when you're not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m not at work I try to travel as much as possible, and create custom clothing. I’ve always loved to travel to new cities and try new things that aren’t here in my own city. I just came from Miami for a music festival, and plan to head to New York City soon for Memorial Weekend with friends. If I am not traveling, them I’m probably working on my next design for my shirts. I’ve always been into fashion, and just recently started making my own custom shirts – my parents always want them for free.
Cesar Leon is Head of the Support Team at Oxygen Forensics, who provide digital forensic software to extract data from mobile devices and from cloud backups. You can find out more on their website.