Streamline investigations with targeted cloud extraction.

April 01, 2024

The employment of an effective cloud forensics platform has quickly evolved from being a luxury to an investigative necessity. To extract an ever-increasing amount of data available on the cloud, more law enforcement, government agencies, enterprises, and service providers have adopted cloud forensics in their investigations.

Cloud forensic capabilities provide investigators more access to the increasing amount of information on the cloud, even deleted or modified data from cloud repositories. But simply extracting from cloud environments is no longer enough. The process of extracting large datasets has added time required to sort and identify data, while stressing the limitations of resources and storage. As a result, more investigators are turning to targeted cloud extraction to streamline investigations and reduce backlogs.

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Targeted cloud extraction takes cloud forensics to the next level, using collection profiles designed to limit data extraction to the evidence you need – eliminating the time and resources needed to extract the data you don’t need.

Targeted cloud extraction yields better focus and efficiency

Investigators can use targeted cloud extraction techniques to extract artifacts from cloud-based applications, such as email platforms, collaboration tools, or productivity suites, to gather evidence related to user activities, communications, and file sharing to name a few. Examples of how targeted cloud extraction benefits the collection of data include processes such as analyzing file metadata, storage snapshots, and versioning histories to recover relevant evidence and reconstruct the data at different points in time. In these and other collection profiles, targeted cloud extraction can empower investigators with better focus that translates to more efficient investigations.

“In an average investigation of let’s say 10 computers, you might have 25 terabytes of data you have to store somewhere and the untold hours it will take to process that data,” explained Dan Dollarhide, Director of Global Solutions, Oxygen Forensics.

“Targeted cloud data extraction requires tools that create a highly targeted collection profile – as many as they like – then choose that profile, send it out and collect just that data. So instead of starting with a big collection and culling it in the processing phase, targeted data extraction culls it initially by only collecting the data that will be relevant to the investigation. And they do some further processing to put a fine point on it for information gathering in an investigation.”

Introducing targeted cloud extraction capabilities can improve results in many investigation processes including:

  • Customization Investigators may customize their extraction methods and profiles to the specific characteristics of the cloud infrastructure, applications, and data storage systems – optimizing their chances of successfully extracting the data they need.
  • Specificity Rather than extracting as much data as possible with a non-targeted cloud extraction, a targeted cloud extraction approach obtains specific types of data as evidence. 
  • Tools and techniques Cloud-capable forensic suites, network analysis tools, log analysis tools, memory forensics tools, and data visualization software typically help investigators extract, correlate, and analyze digital evidence from cloud environments efficiently.

Benefits of targeted cloud data extraction

Through the extraction of smaller, better focused profiles, targeted cloud extraction techniques and tools yield many benefits capable of streamlining investigations. Investigators can realize values such as:

  • Efficiency Targeted cloud data extraction allows investigators to focus their efforts on retrieving only the cloud data directly relevant to the investigation, rather than collecting and analyzing large volumes of irrelevant information. This targeted approach saves time and resources, leading to more efficient investigations.
  • Reduced data volume By collecting only the necessary data, targeted forensic collection helps minimize the volume of data that requires processing and analysis. This can simplify the forensic analysis process and reduce the risk of overlooking critical evidence possibly hidden within irrelevant data.
  • Faster analysis Investigators can perform more efficient and timely analysis of smaller datasets, reducing the time needed to identify relevant evidence.
  • Strategic decision making – Insights collected from analysis of targeted cloud data extractions enable investigators to uncover patterns, trends, or anomalies that might not be apparent in larger, non-targeted datasets, leading to strategic decisions based on the findings.
  • Privacy and Compliance – By avoiding the extraction of unrelated data, investigations can minimize the intrusion into an individual’s privacy rights and meet compliance requirements while still obtaining evidence needed.

As more data is available on the cloud, more law enforcement, government agencies, enterprise and service providers are moving beyond cloud extraction and adopting targeted cloud extraction tools and capabilities to streamline their investigations for better outcomes and reducing their backlogs.

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