Digital Investigations: A “Toolbox Industry” and Other Reflections.

March 18, 2024

An Oxygen Forensics Solutions Architect reflects on the company’s customer-centric approach to a “toolbox industry.”

Meet Matthew Finnegan, Solutions Architect at Oxygen Forensics. Matt is one of the Solutions Architects who serve as a bridge between Oxygen Forensics’ developers and customers. His responsibilities range from demonstrating the company’s solutions to prospective customers to helping current clients extract the most value from their purchase. Such ongoing interactions give Solutions Architects a broad perspective on what’s happening and where value resides in digital investigations.

New challenges, new solutions

In Matt’s experience, unlocking devices is most organizations’ primary use for digital forensics tools. While many rely heavily on these products to analyze extracted data, the vast majority first and foremost want to extract data from the device or cloud as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“And there are always new challenges,” said Matt. “During the past 10 years, probably the biggest one is the rise of ubiquitous encryption.”

Matt recalled the “panic” that ensued “when Apple and Android made encryption the default on their devices, rather than an option users could enable.” But, he continued, “it turned out that the way the encryption was implemented was not particularly secure because the companies had made trade-offs between security and user experience.” Since then, however, the companies have stepped up.

“It has absolutely become more difficult to defeat the encryption on devices,” Matt notes. From his perspective, while that tactic may have increased the challenge to Oxygen Forensics and others, his colleagues still find ways around encryption and continue to evolve new solutions regularly. He noted that, in regard to several aspects of data extraction, “over the past few years, we’ve been first to market.”

Discovering Oxygen Forensics

Matt’s experience in — and passion for — his work began unexpectedly. While serving in the UK military, he was posted to a job that involved digital forensics. He found the science so interesting and enjoyable that, after completing his service, he pursued a job in digital forensics with the UK Civil Service, where he regularly used Oxygen Forensic® Detective.

Even with a number of other forensics tools at his disposal, “I used Detective relatively heavily,” said Matt. “I liked the way that it did certain things versus the others.” His experience with the tool ultimately attracted him to the company that created it. That, and the chance to work at a smaller company.

Coming from larger governmental organizations, “I’ve always found smaller teams, smaller companies, tend to be more flexible and agile,” said Matt. For his role at Oxygen Forensics, this flexibility has been invaluable in getting feedback from users (and potential users) into the tools quickly. Matt appreciates “the ability to not be a lost voice amongst thousands” as one often is at a larger company, but rather to be heard and to influence development to satisfy Oxygen’s customers.

Challenges in a “toolbox industry”

Based on his prior experience, Matt isn’t surprised to find most organizations using multiple digital forensics tools; after all, it’s what he did. He describes digital forensics as a “toolbox industry” that’s very “capability-driven” — where organizations adopt as many products as they can afford to get the job done, even if some apps end up getting used much more heavily than others.

Perhaps equally unsurprising, Matt has observed a big shift over the years in how most digital forensics solutions providers package their tools. He refers to the “annoying” rise of premium versions of tools and the corresponding shift in price. From his vantage point, the cost of new premium offerings — generally those where a digital forensics provider develops a solution none of its competitors have yet — “have gone up by at least a factor of five.” In contrast, Matt pointed to the value to clients of Oxygen Forensics’ forgoing “add-ons,” and its use of a perpetual licensing model.

“Oxygen Forensics’ licenses are all-inclusive,” Matt emphasized. “When a customer or prospect comes to us and asks us to help figure out how to extract data from a particular device, or when developers come up with a new enhancement, the result is made available to the entire customer base, rather than offered at an additional charge.”

And with perpetual licensing, “even if a company doesn’t renew its license right away, the product still works; they just won’t have access to software updates, customer support, and training,” Matt explained. He noted this is particularly valuable for government and corporate clients where the wheels of procurement approval move slowly when it comes to spending money on renewals.

Continuing service with a customer-centric approach

As a company whose mantra is “customers always come first,” Oxygen Forensics is a good place to be for someone who devoted much of his early career to service. Matt’s continued enthusiasm for digital forensics is evident in his presentations and day-to-day customer interactions, where he’s always looking to help fill gaps in the industry toolbox with product innovations from Oxygen Forensics.

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