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Open Source Computer Forensics Investigations

The world of computer forensics — like all things computer — is rapidly developing and changing. While commercial investigative software packages exist, such as EnCase by Guidance Software and FTK by AccessData, there are other software platforms which offer a solution for obtaining computer forensic results. Unlike the two aforementioned packages, these open sources alternatives do not cost hundreds of dollars — they are free to download, distribute and use under various open source licenses.

Computer Forensics is the process of obtaining information from a computer system. This information may be obtained from a live system (one that is up and running) or a system which has been shut down. The process typically involves taking steps to obtain a copy, or an image of the target system (often times an image of the hard drive is obtained, but in the case of a “live” system, this can even be the other memory areas of the computer).

After making an exact “image” or copy of the target, in which the copy is verified by “checksum” processes, the computer specialist can begin to examine and obtain a wide range of data. This copy is obtained through write protected means to preserve the integrity of the original evidence. Information like pictures, videos, documents, browsing history, email addresses, and phone numbers are just some of the information (or evidence if being collected for possible court purposes), which can often be obtained. Even deleted elements are often retrievable.

Some of the open source packages available for free download include SANs SIFT (SANS Investigative Forensic Toolkit), DEFT (Digital Evidence & Forensics Toolkit), and CAINE (Computer Aided Investigative Environment) bootable CD’s. These powerful packages are built upon a Linux Ubuntu windows type (graphical environment) operating system and feature dozens of tools, with each disk containing many of the same open source tools, offering similar capabilities. Some of these tools are The Sleuth Kit (a complete platform in and of itself), Photorec (great for recovering all sorts of deleted files), Scalpel (another deleted file recovery tool), Bulk Extractor (bulk email and URL extraction tool), Chntpw (a utility to reset the password of any user that has a valid local account on a Windows NT/2k/XP/Vista/7/8 system), Gparted (a partition editor for creating, reorganizing, and deleting disk partitions), and Log2timeline (a timeline generation tool).

So if you have an interest in things technical, download one of these disks and start becoming a computer sleuth today.… Read More

Corner Computer Desks – Great For Almost Any Office

If you have been using an old table or a writing area that has not been specifically designed to be used as office space, it may be time to step up and get one of the corner computer desks on the market for the convenience it affords.

The choice of a desk will depend on the features you are looking for apart from the basic features like, CPU pedestal, pullout shelf for the keyboard, printer and monitor shelves. It is possible to purchase a traditional computer desk which is rectangular in shape and place it against the wall to create your new office area. They will basically contain compartments for CDs, bookshelves and several drawers. When you only have a small amount of space and you are trying to squeeze a computer into say a bedroom or a living room, you will need to purchase a corner computer desk to properly manage the limited space issues.

These desks can be easily accommodated in the small space and would not be seen as an eye afternoon – they will blend effortlessly into the corner. If you require a greater amount of space, you should consider an L shaped computer desk that will allow you to spread out your paperwork in the additional space. The desk could be positioned to provide a clear separation between the office space and the rest of the room.

Corner computer desks also come in a U shaped design. In this model, all your office needs are within easy reach and the desk still gives you a great deal of work space to enjoy. You may not have a dedicated room to use as office space, and as a result you will only be able to use a much more public space like the dining room. Under these circumstances, the solution would be to have one of corner computer desks that could be enclosed and out of sight when not in use. A solution to that situation would be a mobile computer cart; it is pushed into a closet when not in use.

Corner computer desks also come in the form of an armoire whose doors will be left open while you are working on the desk, but they can be closed when not in used. When closed in this way you would not even be able to recognize it as a desk, it will blend perfectly with the furniture of the room and will even look like a piece of furniture itself. The large and varied selections of computer corner desks make it possible for anyone to find the ideal desk for their situation. Finishes are available in plastic, wood, metal oak and cherry.

Corner computer desks can solve a variety of limited space issues, and there is a model for every room no matter what your need is and no matter the situation. They not only have a functional contribution to make, but they can also be an appealing addition to the furniture of any … Read More

Computer Cookies: Are They Good or Bad?

Explaining “Cookies” (the non caloric ones that live in your computer!)

You can’t talk about all those nasty ‘things’ that can ‘attack’ your computer while you are surfing the Internet, like viruses or spyware, without talking about ‘Cookies’. But what are they and are they really bad for my computer?

Ok, first let’s define the term, and then we’ll explain the good and the bad about it.

Cookie(s):

A small data (text and numbers) file (piece of information) created by a Web server (large computer that stores web sites) that is stored on your computer either temporarily for that session only (the time that you spend on a web site) or permanently on the hard disk (persistent cookie). Cookies provide a way for the Web site that you visit and go back to visit again, to identify users and keep track of their preferences. Amazon and Barnes and Noble online are very creative in the use of their cookies that get generated when you visit.

Here’s an example from my computer from visiting the Disney.com website:

CP null*disneyworld.disney.go.com/1088 1761935360 30785590 403215680 29726670*

Notice that the only thing in that string of text and numbers that you can recognize is the name of the website. The rest of the information is simply a set of numbers that only a computer can understand.

Why are cookies important to you? Well, you would not be able to browse through the Web as you are currently used to if you had cookies restricted on your computer.

The Good “Cookies” (non calorie type)

Cookies are commonly used to “maintain the state” (the current or last-known status) of the session (time that you spend on a site) as a user browses around on the site. For example, if you filled out a form and decided to leave that for a moment to view another page, when you come back to that form, the information that you already filled in would still be there. Without cookies, the site would not know who you were.

On the 2 web sites that I mentioned, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, they both use a combination of cookies and online database to recognize you when you return to the site as well as “remember” your earlier choices and from those choices recommend possible book or music choices for you on your current visit.

Imagine, if you will, walking into a local Barnes and Noble store where a clerk immediately recognizes you, walks up to you as she calls you by name and walks you over to your own table of books and music. You see that they have put all of your favorite kinds of books and musicians on the table, both new and old works, all laid out for your quick viewing pleasure!

And, on the next table, is a sign saying “Other people who bought these items also purchased these items” so that you may find interesting items that you may never have seen but might find interesting. Wouldn’t … Read More

Indulge in Some Essential Small Business Computer Support

Small business computer support is critical to the success of your business. Trouble shooting of problems, resolving issues, web hosting services are just some of the vital services that a small business may require from their IT support department. Traditionally, smaller businesses do not have an in-house IT support department, rather choosing to outsource these services. There are so many benefits to this but the main thing is to choose something based on your own business needs.

If you want more time to work in your business rather than on it, then outsourcing all of your IT support is a great way to allow for this. Choose a provider that has experienced engineers and knows what the needs of small to medium-sized businesses are.

Imagine that you are working hard and it is a busy day. Then the internet drops out and you need to look up the details for a client, or your computer just packs up leaving you unable to do the accounts. Do you just sit there stressing out and wondering what to do now, get down on your hands and knees spend hours fiddling with wires and leads, switching things off and on again and just getting no where. Or do you simply pick up the phone, call your IT support and speak to a real person who can fix the problem either via remote access or by coming into your office as soon as possible.

Trust is a big thing especially for small businesses. Being able to trust the support that you have is so important. Your IT support needs to be structured in a way that you know you can trust that critical issues will be resolved as soon as possible, and that your business interests are always put first. If you don’t need a particular service or product, as a small business you don’t want to get sold something that you do not want or need. So having trust in your small business computer support is essential.

Another advantage of outsourcing your IT support is that you only pay for what you need. Cash flow in small to medium-sized businesses is often a juggling act and there is not always the need for a full-time IT department. So you can tailor your plan to provide the exact amount of IT support you really need and want. This way you save money in the long run, as you don’t have to pay for lots of server that you will not end up using. And if the company grows, you can easily add on more computers and servers as well as extra support.

There is one more major benefit of outsourcing your IT support – you get the benefit of many experts, all specialized in their field, rather than a generalist IT staff member or team. So you can now tap into a wealth of knowledge and get the best advice for each area. This is particularly beneficial for small to medium-sized businesses as often … Read More

Understanding Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its subsets Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) are playing a major role in Data Science. Data Science is a comprehensive process that involves pre-processing, analysis, visualization and prediction. Lets deep dive into AI and its subsets.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is mainly divided into three categories as below

  • Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI)

  • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

  • Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).

Narrow AI sometimes referred as ‘Weak AI’, performs a single task in a particular way at its best. For example, an automated coffee machine robs which performs a well-defined sequence of actions to make coffee. AGI, which is also referred as ‘Strong AI’ performs a wide range of tasks that involve thinking and reasoning like a human. Some examples are Google Assist, Alexa, Chatbots which uses Natural Language Processing (NPL). Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) is the advanced version which out performs human capabilities. It can perform creative activities like art, decision making and emotional relationships.

Now let’s look at Machine Learning (ML). It is a subset of AI that involves modeling of algorithms which helps to make predictions based on the recognition of complex data patterns and sets. Machine learning focuses on enabling algorithms to learn from the data provided, gather insights and make predictions on previously unanalyzed data using the information gathered. Different methods of machine learning are

  • supervised learning (Weak AI – Task driven)

  • non-supervised learning (Strong AI – Data Driven)

  • semi-supervised learning (Strong AI -cost effective)

  • reinforced machine learning. (Strong AI – learn from mistakes)

Supervised machine learning uses historical data to understand behavior and formulate future forecasts. Here the system consists of a designated dataset. It is labeled with parameters for the input and the output. And as the new data comes the ML algorithm analysis the new data and gives the exact output on the basis of the fixed parameters. Supervised learning can perform classification or regression tasks. Examples of classification tasks are image classification, face recognition, email spam classification, identify fraud detection, etc. and for regression tasks are weather forecasting, population growth prediction, etc.

Unsupervised machine learning does not use any classified or labeled parameters. It focuses on discovering hidden structures from unlabeled data to help systems infer a function properly. They use techniques such as clustering or dimensionality reduction. Clustering involves grouping data points with similar metrics. It is data driven and some examples for clustering are movie recommendation for users in Netflix, customer segmentation, buying habits, etc. Some of dimensionality reduction examples are feature elicitation, big data visualization.

Semi-supervised machine learning works by using both labelled and unlabeled data to improve learning accuracy. Semi-supervised learning can be a cost-effective solution when labeling data turns out to be expensive.

Reinforcement learning is fairly different when compared to supervised and unsupervised learning. It can be defined as a process of trial and error finally delivering results. t is … Read More