Oleg, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into digital forensics?
About 6 years ago I was hired by my local police department’s forensic lab. The funny thing is – I should have become a forensic linguist, but finally started doing digital forensics, as there were lots of cases and only one examiner, so I’d become the second. Very soon it became my main interest.Now I can say that it’s both my job and my hobby, and I’m really happy about it.
What does your current role involve? Can you talk us through a day in your life?
My current role involves forensic examination of different digital media: HDDs and SSDs, mobile devices, DVRs, etc. But sometimes I do traditional forensics, because in the police dept I’m currently working even digital forensic examiners sometimes have to go to a crime scene and, for example, look for fingerprints, footprints, etc. Thankfully I’m changing my work place very soon and will finally start doing only a DFIR job.
Also, when I get too tired of working on my cases, I write articles both in English and in Russian, and look for DFIR news to post on our blog – Cyber Forensicator.
You've recently published the Windows Forensics Cookbook. Can you give us an overview of what readers can expect from the book?
For the last 6 years I’ve read a great number of digital forensic books, from Carrier and Carvey to Hale Ligh and Case. I really enjoyed almost every book, and it became a dream to write my own one day. And this day had come. I noticed Scar’s tweet – she was looking for a co-author. This is how I was involved in writing Windows Forensics Cookbook.
The book consists of a number of Windows forensics recipes – how to extract this or that forensic artifact with the help of both commercial and open source tools. Almost all commercial tools presented in the book have trial versions, so the readers can test all of them and choose one or two they like most. As for free and open source – I would recommend to add all of them to your DFIR toolkit. All the recipes are walk-throughs, so the book is highly recommended for the beginners.
The 'cookbook' format is an unusual route to take – how does this differ from a traditional format?
I really enjoyed this format: I used to write articles for the blog and they looked just like the recipes I needed to write for the book. Most non-recipe parts of the book were written by Scar.
What unique challenges are involved in Windows forensics, and how does the book help to address these?
Any operating system has its unique challenges. And Windows is not an exception. Windows examination is easier for most examiners, as they face it very often and usually have it installed on both lab and home computers, so they are very familiar with it. But, of course, there are a lot of OS-specific artifacts an examiner or analyst must know, and must know well. The book introduces a lot of these artifacts, and also the tools, both commercial and open source, capable of extracting them.
What are some of the tools and techniques featured in the book, and why did you choose these?
You can solve a lot of Windows forensic problems with Magnet AXIOM. I think it will become the most widely used forensic tool on the market, as it’s being developed very fast.
Also the book includes the recipes on how to use the most popular open source tools which must be in every digital forensic examiner’s toolkit, for example, the Sleuth Kit and Volatility.
In your opinion, what's the "next big thing" in digital forensics?
I think the “next big thing” is the cloud, especially for mobile forensics. It’s becoming more and more difficult to extract data from mobile devices due to strong passcodes and encryption. Recently we had a discussion with my friend Igor Shorokhov, and he suggested that soon mobile devices would have very limited storage – user data would be stored in the cloud, and it wouldn’t be a problem as the Internet speed would be very fast. As for computer forensics, especially malware forensics, I think we will face memory-only malware more and more often, so nowadays memory forensics skills are a must for every digital forensic examiner.
Finally, when you're not writing or working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Unfortunately, I don’t have much spare time, because digital forensics takes a lot of it. But if I have some, I really enjoy hanging with my wife and friends, and trying not to give up skateboarding.