What’s the Future of Computer Forensics?

A student asked me an interesting question today, regarding what I foresee in the field of computer forensics in the coming years: 5, 10, & 50. computer forensics examiner Here’s the question, my answer – and, dear reader, I’d love to hear your comments.

Mr. Burgess,

I would like to thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. I would like to ask you another question if you don’t mind, it is regarding the future challenges and/or issues in the field of computer forensics. In your expert opinion, how do you see it 5, 10, and 50 years from now? I am looking forward to your response.

My response:

An interesting question!

First, let me say that I don’t have an expert opinion about the future, just a personal and educated one. In my profession, I can only really have an expert opinion about stuff I’ve worked on and so can’t have one about the future until I get my time machine fixed!


As for 5 years from now, I see three things continuing to advance at a rapid clip:

1: Hardware -The size of storage media & memory and the speed of processors.

I expect that in 5 years, computers will come standard with 5TB or more of storage and that portable media like flash drives will carry something like 250GB of data – what the average hard drive was holding one or two years ago. In 5 years, computers will probably be 7 or 8 times faster. So these things will hold lots and lots more data and people will fill them up with lots & lots more data.Therefore, each computer forensics job will require sorting through and analyzing many times more data than today.

2: Computer Forensic Tools – The capabilities, automated nature and cost of computer forensic tools.

I expect that in 5 years, computer forensic tools will be about 5 times as fast, and twice as sophisticated. That means that even with all the additional data, the average, non-automated job will take about the same effort as it does now.

However, a lot of automated tools for collection and initial processing are starting to be released. These tools can be used by less-trained people, so it may be that data collection and preliminary processing will be faster due to automation.

I expect that the cost of computer forensic tools will not go down in relative terms. However, more Open Source forensic tools will be available for free for those willing to learn to use them.


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