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The forensic network is a branch of the typical digital forensic analysis that is responsible for monitoring, capturing, recording and analyzing data traffic on the network. However, implies the use of scientifically proven techniques to collect and analyze network packages and events for research purposes. Forensic network analysis is an extension of the network security model that traditionally focuses on preventive analysis and detection of network attacks. Similarly, this current model allows analyzing malicious behavior in networks. In addition, it allows organizations to carry out investigations related to attacks on the corporate network from an internal and external environment. In this article, several aspects of the forensic network are reviewed, similarly, related technologies and their limitations. Together, the challenges in shaping a forensic network infrastructure are highlighted.
Digital forensic science  has evolved as a science related to the recovery of evidence located in a computer system, storage in devices whether these are permanent or erasable, electronic documents such as emails or images and a sequence of data packets transmitted through a computer network. Unlike other areas of digital forensic science, network investigations are treated as volatile and dynamic (live) information. This allows the network traffic to be transmitted while remaining unavailable, which makes the forensic network a dynamic and proactive network. Therefore, in a digital forensic process it is common to focus on extracting already stored data. However, the forensic network is a branch of digital forensic science that involves monitoring and analyzing network traffic, in order to gather information, legal evidence or intruder detection. A relevant aspect of forensic medicine is related to the processes that are carried out in «real time» or «after the event». An organized approach is the key to successful research. With the continued growth and expansion of the Internet, cyber -attacks and crimes occur every day , which allows the intruder’s skills to be increased using malicious software, for example, malware. This raises the fact that you will be attacked at any time, but I don’t know when. Hence, the emergence of traditional tools used in investigations, such as firewalls and intrusion detection
and prevention systems (IDPS) but are not enough since they cannot provide all the required evidence or data . However, when it comes to network security, organizations generally use tools to address security from two main perspectives: Prevention and Detection. Investigating attacks is a difficult task. Prevention systems include firewalls and access control mechanisms. Similarly, examples of detection include intrusion detection systems and antivirus. However, the tools used prevent numerous attacks, but despite the preventive measures implemented in organizations, there will always be attacks that cannot be identified and recognized. The forensic network is recommended as a complement to the network security model.
In the context, the network forensic refers to a dedicated research infrastructure that allows the collection and analysis of network packages and events for research purposes. It is proposed as a complement to the network security model [4,5]. In the forensic network the monitoring and analysis of the traffic of the computer network is carried out, both locally and at the WAN level, which allows the collection of information, as well as the collection of evidence or the detection of intruders . In data traffic, data packets are intercepted for later storage for analysis or real-time filtering. The forensic network generally has two uses. First, security identification includes verifying a system and recognizing interruptions and second, application
identification, where the analysis of captured network traffic
can include tasks such as assembling exchanged files, searching
keywords and analyzing correspondence between humans, such
as emails, chat sessions, messaging at WhatsApp’s level, social
networks like Facebook.
The term network forensic was previously used in a few
contexts without an official definition . In the forensic
network it deals with data located through the network
connection, between the various interconnected nodes, mainly
data traffic entering and leaving these nodes. The forensic
network analyzes the data from the data traffic that is generated
through the respective firewalls or IDS or on network devices
such as routers. The goal is to track the source of attack so
that cyber criminals are prosecuted. The forensic network is
defined as “The use of scientifically proven techniques to collect,
merge, identify, examine, correlate, analyze and document
digital evidence from multiple sources of digital processing
and active processing in order to discover facts related to the
planned intention of unauthorized persons oriented to carry out
activities aimed at interrupting, corrupting or compromising
system components, as well as providing information to assist
in the response or recovery of these activities ”. Network
research involves the reform and analysis of computer network
data associated with unauthorized access. Its purpose is to
allow specialists to reason about the circumstances of the
activity being investigated and to present evidence before the
court of law. The network forensic is characterized by detecting,
recognizing and assigning responsibilities for attacks. against
our data network infrastructures. In turn, it defines the use of
safety devices and their review data to guarantee the obtaining
of evidence. Similarly, it determines the use of networks for
the collection of static information during the investigation.
In general, investigations in networks forensic will use events,
allowing investigations and schemes to be recorded to determine
a) Who: is to blame for the action?
b) What: the attacker has done.
c) When: the next event will happen.
d) Where: the location of the node where the attack
e) occurred is identified.
f) Why: the crime occurred, what were your reasons for
g) How: was the source used or vulnerabilities found.
With numerous illegal activities, including the network,
this type of investigation is being carried out in a large number
and structure of essential component computers in forensic
In theory, digital forensic and, therefore, network forensic
analysis are not protection products. It is not supposed to
replace firewalls and intruder detection systems. However, it
is a complex process in which methodologies, tools and human
intelligence are combined for research purposes. In the literature,
few models have been proposed to model the digital forensic
process [4,5,9-11]. There is no consensus on which model best
or even correctly represents the process. However, the proposed
models share a common basis when fine details are ignored.
They are based on standard research models that are applied in
real-life crimes. The Integrated Digital Research Process (IDIP)
is a representative model of the digital forensic process . This
is made up of a series of levels that are organized into five groups
as seen in Figure 1 The following is a brief description of these
The forensic network is currently a manual and slow
process . It is usually carried out by experienced system
administrators. A typical investigation begins with the analysis
of several types of records. In a typical network configuration,
records can be in several places. For example, a network is
usually equipped with an audit facility, such as Syslogd in Unix. In
addition, applications such as web servers and network devices
such as routers and firewalls maintain their own records. There
are several tools and scripts (source code) that are generally
used for research. For example, in a Unix environment, a
researcher can make use of free utilities such as tcp dump ,
grep, strings, etc. Some researchers use commercial tools known
as network forensic analysis tools [14-16]. The architectures of
these commercial tools are not revealed. However, they provide
similar features to those free utilities. Although they are easier to
use and versatile. Besides, forensic network analysis is generally
a manual and brute force process, which is usually slow and
error prone. In this same direction, the records are not intended
for a thorough investigation, since these may lack enough details
or, conversely, have many unrelated details. They also come in
different formats and incompatible levels of abstraction.
An intrusion detection system (IDS) is made up of a system
whose purpose is to detect computer and network attacks
[17,18]. In turn, it monitors computer resources, a single node
or a complete network, and generates alerts when an attack is
detected. IDSs are implemented based on the nodes that exist
in the computer network or the same network architecture. In
addition, they use two main approaches to detect attacks:
Signature based: In this approach, detection is achieved by
comparing a database of known attacks.
Based on anomalies: In this approach, an IDS generates
a “normal” activity model of a system and then alerts when a
deviation is detected.
In the context of the forensic network, an IDS is a valuable
addition to a forensic network system. It can play the role of a
sensor which triggers the forensic process. In addition, the alerts
generated constitute an important source of information that
can be collected and analyzed later. These alerts also help the
analysis of data collected from other sources. There are several
limitations related to the use of IDS in the field of forensic
When relying on the output of an IDS, there are several
concerns. First, an IDS suffers from false alarms, such as a false
positive that refers to the case when an IDS generates an alert
for a non-existent attack, while a false negative refers to the case
when an IDS fails in a real attack. The second concern is related
to network-based IDS. They can be a target for known classes of
attacks, for example, evasion and insertion attacks .
A honeypot refers to a set of services, a complete operating
system or even a complete network that is designed to attract
and contain intruders [20,21]. Although honeypots are
destined to be compromised, they are a tight seal that is well
controlled and monitored. Essentially, all honeypots share
the same concept. It has no production value or authorized
activity. However, any attempt to interact with them is probably
malicious. In addition to containing and studying attacks, it can
also be configured to divert attention from real targets . In
the context of the forensic network and from an investigative
perspective, a honeypot is an ideal tool to closely study attackers
and capture their tools, keystrokes, etc. Few studies have been
proposed to adopt honeypots for forensic purposes [23-24]. A
notable example is the Honeynet Project, a voluntary research
organization dedicated to studying the tools, tactics and motives
of the attackers . In the context of constraints and from a
legal point of view, honeypots can be problematic for two
reasons. First, a honeypot has no value. It is configured only to
be compromised and attacked. Therefore, compromising it does
not incur any harm. In turn, it is not possible to legally claim any
damage. Second, honeypots can be considered as a boundary
between keeping attackers out of a network and inviting them
The computer forensic is the oldest member of the family of
digital forensics. Traditionally, it refers to the forensic analysis
of independent computers located at the crime scene . It
involves analyzing data storage devices, such as hard drives.
Usually, a researcher uses specialized software to recover
deleted files, encryption keys, passwords, emails, etc. Forensic
computing has evolved over time following the standard
methodologies used by the police to investigate real-life crimes.
However, the computer itself is not the victim of an attack, it
is a tool used by a criminal. The forensic process follows well
defined procedures to preserve, identify, extract, document and
interpret the data recovered on the seized computer. In general,
forensic computing is not limited to personal computers. It also
refers to the investigation of other digital devices that have
some type of data storage medium, for example, cell phones,
PDAs, digital cameras, among others. Similarly, computers
can be found in crime scenes or with suspects. In the context
of the forensic network, investigating involves using computer
forensic techniques to investigate computers as if they were not
networked. Otherwise, a networked computer can be isolated to
start the respective analysis of it independently. Consequently,
computer science and computer forensics network complement
each other. With respect to limitations, forensic computing is
only used to investigate independent computers. In addition,
it lacks in terms of networked computer research. It does not
address the problems that arise as a result of distributed
data sources but centralized ones. Such problems include
data correlation, propagation of attacks, etc. In turn, forensic
computing deals exclusively with persistent data stored on a
hard drive or other media, for example, USB, SSD, etc. However,
in a network environment, it is necessary to deal with volatile
data such as data traffic on the network. Consequently, forensic
network analysis requires live data collection and analysis.
A challenge in the forensic analysis of the network is to first
ensure that the network is adequate to the forensic needs. For
a successful investigation of the network, it must be equipped
with an infrastructure that allows the research to be fully
supported [4,5,9,10,19]. The infrastructure must ensure that
there is the necessary data for a full investigation. Designing
a network forensic infrastructure is a complex task due to the
many possibilities that exist in how the design is done in the
various spaces. The following is a brief description of some of
A typical network is made up of several data sources that
include unprocessed network packets and records of network
devices and services. Although it is desirable to collect data
from all sources, this option is not always feasible, especially
in those ecosystems consisting of large network infrastructure.
Therefore, an important decision is to select a subset of data
sources that provide good network coverage and make the
collection processes practical .
A problem related to the selection of data sources is to
decide how many details should be maintained. For example,
when packets are collected on the network, full packages, packet
headers, connection information, for example, IP addresses, port
numbers, etc. can be collected. Similarly, maintaining extensive
data details is not practical in large and complex networks .
It is essential to ensure the integrity of the data collected.
The result of the forensic process may be adversely affected if
the data collected is accidentally altered. However, measures
must be implemented to ensure data integrity during and after
data collection and analysis.
The use of data collected internally within an organization
is quite different from how the data is presented in a court of
law. In the latter case, the data collected must pass written legal
procedures to qualify as evidence in a court of law. The data
must go through an admissibility test and a selection process by
the court [20,21].
The data collected is expected to include confidential
information, such as emails and files. However, proper handling
of this data is crucial. The data must be protected by access
control measures, so only authorized personnel have access [28-
An important challenge is the analysis of the data collected to
produce useful information that can be used in a decision-making
process. Such an analysis process is in many ways challenging
due to the complexity of a typical network environment and
the amount and diversity of data involved. Innovative tools are
needed to help researchers analyze the data. These tools allow
the use of field tools such as data mining  and information
Today, organizations use various tools to protect their
computer network. While these tools overcome many attacks,
new attacks still evade prevention tools without being detected.
In these circumstances, starting with investigations of attacks on
the network is a complicated and difficult task. In the literature
on computer security, it has been proposed that forensic network
analysis introduce investigative capabilities into current
networks. This refers to a research infrastructure that allows
the collection and analysis of network packages and events for
research purposes. In this article, various aspects of the network
forensic were reviewed, as well as related technologies and their limitations. In addition, the challenges in the deployment of the
forensic infrastructure of the network were highlighted.
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