Email Forensics Analysis and Best Ways That Experts Use
Email Forensics has grown to be a large and ever-evolving field with the rising popularity of Email as a medium of communication. Email is now used in offices, homes, and in schools as well. This exposes the customers to being victims of spam and online fraud. Therefore, the need for forensics in this field is in high demand.
Overview of Email Forensic Analysis
Email Forensics purpose-built part of digital forensics which handles tasks like providing all the investigative services for emails.
The first step in carrying out the investigation is to collect the information that is associated with the emails.
Key Components of Emails in Email Forensics
During Email Forensic Analysis, there are several essential elements of emails that hold significant value. These components include:
- Email Headers: An important part of Email Forensics are Email headers which have a vast array of information like sender details, subject, date, time, etc.
- Metadata: Metadata is the information related to the email’s creation, modification, and transmission. Extracting metadata assists in identifying malicious access and establishing the connection between the sequence of events.
- Email Server Investigation: Email Forensic Analysis investigators analyze the email servers to locate the source of an email. Servers maintain logs that are analyzed to identify the sender’s address.
- Bait Tactics: The bait tactic is a technique used to locate a cybercriminal. These are techniques where forensic experts send an email that has a special HTML tag. This sends the IP of the receiver to the investigators revealing their location.
Challenges Faced in Email Forensics
This domain experiences all the challenges that may be faced by forensic experts:
- Data Acquisition: It is a significant challenge to obtain relevant email data because email evidence is spread across multiple sources. Safe handling of this data is very crucial.
- Unauthorized Header Manipulation: In the case of unauthorized access to emails, the individual can modify the data present in an email like header information. This renders the data to be unusable in Email Forensic Analysis.
- Anonymity and Spoofing: Attackers can take unfair advantage of certain email providers which offer total anonymity and untraceable exchange of emails.
- Data Recovery: Retrieval of deleted or corrupted email data poses a significant challenge in Email Forensic Analysis. Data recovery techniques, such as file carving and specialized software help in recovering lost or fragmented email content.
- Encryption and Security: It is a major challenge for investigators to decrypt email data if it is encrypted.
- Email Storage Formats: Emails have various formats for storage purposes. Forensic experts need to be familiar with different email storage formats to conduct Email Forensic Analysis.
- Volume of Data: Investigators have to examine large amounts of data.
- Jurisdictional and Legal Issues: The field of Email Forensics may involve legal complexities and jurisdictional issues. Ensuring the admissibility of evidence in court is a major concern.
Analyzing the Email Data
You can analyze the data in an email in 2 ways.
Method 1: Forensics By Using the Email Header
The data of an email is present in many places. One such place is an email header.
It is a part of an email that contains various kinds of information regarding the sender and receiver.
Basic Email Forensic Analysis can be done by using this. This method leaves out the investigation of other complex data that a normal user cannot understand.
Accessing the Email Header Information
Different email service providers have slightly different ways to access the header information. But, in essence in all the service providers, you have to select the desired email, click on the options tab and find the option that enables you to view the original form of an email.
All the header information is present here and you can copy all the contents from this page and paste it into an online tool that provides this service.
Method 2: An Advanced Tool for Email Forensics
One of the top and highly rated tools like the MailXaminer is automated and user-friendly.
Various merits of this tool are:
- Multiple Case Building Feature: All the evidence and investigations of each case have a separate working space and hence you can work on various cases at the same time. This ensures efficient management and collaboration among team members in an Email Forensics environment.
- Variety of File Formats Supported: It is the only tool in the market that supports a wide variety of file formats like MBOX, PST, DD image files, DMG image files, etc.
- Advanced OCR Facility: Analysis of keywords in image files and attachments makes the process very easy.
- Search Using Multiple Options: You are provided with search options like general search, proximity search, fuzzy search, etc in the application to tackle large evidence data and speed up the Email Forensic Analysis.
- Detailed Filtering Options: Standard filter, custodian filter, keyword filter, etc which enhances the selective search capabilities of the tool.
- Powerful Analysis Features: You can use advanced analysis options like link analysis, word cloud, and timeline analysis for a mind-map-like representation of forensic data to better interpret the information
- Various Export/Extraction Formats: After you complete the investigation, you can export the evidence in various formats like EML, PST, DAT, etc.
Short User Guide for the Tool
The short and main steps for using this tool are:
- Launch the tool to enter the user credentials and here you can create a new case.
- Select the desired email client and add the evidence to continue with the forensics analysis.
- You can export the conclusions of a comprehensive report by going into this window.
This article details the information about the field of Email Forensics and solidifies the need for a superior to analyze the evidence and to make it usable for the process. You can refer to the tool in the article for your consideration.