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Digital Forensics Challenges in the IoT World

Digital Forensics Challenges in the IoT World


The Internet of Things will increase connectivity via the Internet to much more of the natural and physical environment than is possible with today’s PCs, laptops and mobile devices. There are challenges to it success, however, regarding standardization, infrastructure capacity and interoperability. Even more questions revolve around what kinds of data will be stored, analyzed, shared and used on the IoT.

Unfortunately, missing from the discussion around those questions are concerns about IoT’s effect on digital forensics gathering and analysis.

IoT Forensic Issues

Just as with any other digital computing or storage system, IoT will be subject to misuse and misappropriation as a platform for illegal or inappropriate activities. It can be hacked, infected with malware and appropriated to commit thefts or inflict damage. However, today’s anti-intrusion measures and post-incident forensics methodologies may be diminished due to several issues.

Data Diffusion

A digital forensics examination of a digital system within a business or home that contains IoT components faces the challenge of identifying to whom data belongs since artifacts may be shared or transferred over a large number of devices.

Furthermore, since IoT devices typically use proprietary formats for data and proprietary communication protocols, understanding the relationships between artifacts in both time and space would be complex at best.

Chain of Custody

In civil or criminal litigation, a solid chain of custody over evidence is of the utmost importance. However, ownership and preservation of evidence in an IoT environment could be difficult and may impact a court’s perception that the evidence acquired is reliable in the first place. This is another side effect of data diffusion plus the ability of IoT devices to form ephemeral ad-hoc network connections.

Tool Applicability

The toolset for digital forensic experts is mainly focused on conventional computers, storage devices and their networks. However, activities such as live imaging may not be effective with even a single IoT device let alone an interconnected collection of them. Even IoT-specific tools may only be applicable narrowly to a subset of devices due to a lack of IoT standardization.

Cloud Interaction

Use of cloud infrastructure is inextricably part of the IoT concept. The impact on IoT forensics is that additional complexity, time and money will be incurred if evidence must be collected from cloud components as well.

High Change Rate

Currently, IoT is one of the fastest-moving technologies on the planet. New devices show up daily and new usage models are rapidly being created, modified or discarded. This means IoT digital forensics is constantly chasing a moving target even more so than in the world of today’s conventional devices and networks.

The Path to a Digital Forensics-Friendly IoT

Obviously, if the IoT ecosystem wishes to foster its acceptance and engender a perception of security and privacy, it should carefully consider these and other issues related to digital forensics’ ability to prevent, detect and resolve inappropriate or illegal incidents involving IoT devices and infrastructure.

One aspect of this consideration is to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of the digital forensics industry’s top experts. They can provide an understanding of how forensics work from technical, legal and privacy standpoints, which could influence the development of a more robust and secure Internet of Things.

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