What is Network Forensics- Need, Types, Forensics Tools

The world has never been more technologically developed. The rise and bloom of machines and computers have introduced us to numerous ways that can make our life easier and more comfortable.

The advancement of computer technology has also put us in a position where we have to deal with different types of crimes. These crimes are known as Cybercrimes.

Cybercrimes fall under the category of the crimes that are committed with the inclusion of computer technologies like the internet, smartphones, etc.

To deal with these crimes, several units and organizations have come up in the past few years. These organizations go by the name of the Forensics Department.

Cyber Forensics, Computer Forensics, Network Forensics, etc come into the category of digital forensics. In this article, we will be keeping our focus on Network Forensics.

What is Network Forensics? 

Network Forensics deals with the crimes committed on a network of computers and devices. This network can be as small as an organization’s network, or as big as the internet. It is a classification of digital forensics and majorly deals with packets of information. This information is often volatile.

Network forensics emerged just a few years ago. Due to the growing popularity of the internet among the common masses, the number of criminals also increased. So it was essential for experts to devise a new branch that would deal only with problems related to networks.

Network Forensics Tools 

Before we dive deeper into network forensics, let us first talk about how network forensics activities are carried out.

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For every task that is done using computers, there is a tool/ software. Similarly, Network Forensics also requires certain tools to carry out forensics investigation. Some of the prominent Network Forensics tools have been discussed below.

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Wireshark

This is the first tool that comes to mind while talking about Network Forensics. Wireshark is an essential tool that helps in analyzing traffic in a network. Some of the major problems that can be solved using Wireshark are – issues with latency, malicious activity, etc.

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Wireshark works by reading the traffic on a network and then converts the binary format of the information into a human-readable format. This helps in analyzing the type and the amount of traffic that has been crossing a network. There is a feature available in Wireshark that lets you filter out the traffic and only look for the things that are useful for you. Using this, you can also track the ongoing malicious activity on your network.

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It is recommended that before anyone uses Wireshark, he/ she should have a good knowledge of the basics of the computer network. This includes knowledge of all the network layers and major protocols such as TCP/IP. Wireshark has been a major help to network forensics personnel.

Aircrack-ng

Another revolutionary Network Forensics tool, aircrack-ng is highly used while investigating and analyzing wireless networks. Aircrack-ng can be used in a variety of ways. This includes going past the encryption algorithm of a wireless network and identifying keys.

Aircrack-ng is a suite of tools, where each tool contributes something to the operation. For instance, Airodump-ng helps in capturing the packets that are used by aircrack-ng while carrying out operations on a wireless network.

Aireplay-ng

Aireplay-ng is another tool belonging to the suite which works by injecting frames into the wireless network’s traffic. These injected frames are then used by aircrack-ng to get past the WPA-PSK keys and retrieve them.

Aircrack-ng comes into action when airodump-ng and aireplay-ng have done their jobs. Aircrack-ng retrieves the encrypted keys.

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Another tool is airdecap-ng which is finally used to crack the encrypted files (decrypt them).

So the above-mentioned points explain the working of Aircrack-ng in brief. It is a very powerful tool that can be used in wireless cracking and is often used by professionals.

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Network Miner

Another powerful tool on our list is Network Miner. It is highly used by professionals as a sniffer tool which is used to analyze a network’s traffic. This tool works by sniffing out the files that have been shared over the network. These files include various documents, files, emails, or certificates. It either works by extracting the information directly or by parsing a PCAP file.

Passwords and usernames can also be easily extracted using Network Miner. Network Miner is a professional tool and it comes installed on a USB Stick and can be directly run from it. Although it can also be installed on your computer and used from there.

Examples of Network Forensics 

Network Forensics has wide use in the modern-day world. It is used by private/ public investigators, organizations, and the police to catch criminals. The various examples of Network Forensics are:

  1. A document related to a case that might have been shared over a network is retrieved using Network Forensics.
  2. Companies often use network Forensics tools or hire a Network Forensics investigator to expose the people who have committed fraud by altering the bills and other information.
  3. Cases of Cyberbullying, harassment, etc. Are often investigated using Network Forensics tools.

What is the Need for Network Forensics? How You can use it? 

Network Forensics is extremely important because there are thousands of cases of cybercrime that are reported every day.  Network Forensics is needed to investigate these matters and prevent them from happening.

As discussed above, Network Forensics is carried out using some tools. But there are some steps involved in the process of Network Forensics investigation. These steps are almost common for the branches of Digital Forensics. These steps are:

Identification: This step involves identifying the type of problem that is being dealt with. Is it a case of cyberbullying or data thievery or fraud? This is identified in the first step.

Retrieving Evidence: This includes retrieving the evidence whether it is physical or is present over a network. This is done very carefully while taking care that nothing gets damaged in the process.

Preservation: In this step, the retrieved data or evidence is preserved. A copy/ replica is made so that the original data can be left as it is and not tampered with. The replica is used to analyze and investigate.

Analysis: All the preserved and collected data is then analyzed to carry out the investigation.

Report: A report is made after the analysis describing everything from step 1 to step 4. This report is then presented in front of the court of law along with the evidence.

Types of Network Forensics

There is no solid classification of Network Forensics, but there are various areas where network forensics is used differently.

On Ethernet, network forensics is used to study information such as email, traffic over the network, etc.

At the TCP/IP level, Network Forensics becomes more complicated because a single layer is being dealt with. Here, packets of data that are being transmitted are dealt with, altered, or studied.

Over the internet, Network Forensics is a huge thing. There are a lot of things to consider and a lot of things to be analyzed. Here, the scope becomes vast.

Is There Any Difference Between Forensics & Network Forensics?

Although both Network Forensics and Computer Forensics fall under Digital Forensics. They are somewhat different from each other. While Computer Forensics mainly deals with devices and stored data (data at rest). While network Forensics deals with data that is volatile and dynamic. This means the on a network, data is flowing continuously, and the approach of studying dynamic information is different from studying data at rest. So that is a major difference between Computer Forensics and Digital Forensics.

 

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