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Tips to Improve Your Digital Forensic Lab’s Efficiency

Recently, our team helped a digital forensics unit that might be in a familiar situation as you. The Head of Digital Forensics at a law enforcement agency, came in early on a Monday morning to prepare for the week. He opened his inbox to find an email from his manager, the head of Forensics, about his proposal to improve the productivity of the digital forensics’ lab.

His request for additional funding for new lab hardware (such as more RAM, SSDs, faster CPUs) and increased headcount was declined.

After a follow-up meeting that afternoon, it was made clear that pressure from the units his lab supports needed a more drastic improvement in service levels, including guaranteed turn-around times, without significant investments in new hardware and headcount as proposed.

If you’ve tried to increase the efficiency of your digital forensics’ lab using a similar approach, then you know that it may temporarily alleviate the pressure on your lab, but that it’s become impossible to keep up. The volume of data, devices and cases involving digital evidence is continually increasing.

Reimagining how your resources are allocated, and your current processes and workflow, will allow you to unlock the capacity currently in your lab.

Here are four tips to help get you started:

Record and Analyze Your Processes to Target Inefficiencies 

Your first step towards identifying where your main inefficiencies exist, should involve recording and analyzing current processes and workflows. The goal is to pinpoint where the most time and resources are currently dedicated as well as where there’s the most downtime. Helpful questions to ask as part of this exercise are:

  • How much downtime do you have in between each step of the workflow?
  • Where do your examiners spend the most time? Is it on imaging and processing? Or where their skills are best applied at analysis and reporting?
  • How long does it take for your lab to turn-around a case back to investigators?

You can uncover valuable insights by requesting that each examiner record when they start and stop each part of the workflow using a simple tracking mechanism like an Excel sheet.

Standardize Your Workflows

Processing the same types of cases in a different way every time by different examiners creates variability in time-to-evidence as well as potential quality issues.

Standardize your procedures, processes and workflows for your lab’s common case types such as child abuse investigations, fraud, and serious and organized crime investigations.

By standardizing your workflows, you’ll be able to remove the variability between how each examiner processes a case. A repeatable workflow will help you to identify additional opportunities for efficiency improvement.

Augment Your Workflow with a Quick Triage Scan First

Performing a full scan takes a considerable amount of time.

This prevents you and your examiners from getting evidence to your investigators fast, delaying the investigation and creating unnecessary risk for the agency and community.

Augment your workflows to include a quick triage step first. By getting a first pass at the evidence to your investigators faster, they can help to identify key areas for your examiners to focus on. This will save valuable time at the outset of the workflow, as well as optimizing where time is spent subsequently on a deeper dive.

Leverage the Power of Orchestration & Automation Technology

Your analysis may have uncovered significant downtime between key steps in your standardized workflow.

Or, you may have uncovered that a significant amount of your skilled examiner time is spent on lower value tasks.

Also, while you may be using your own custom scripts to automate certain tasks, this doesn’t solve the problem of a creating a workflow that utilizes all your hardware assets as efficiently and effectively as possible.

By leveraging orchestration and automation technology, such as Magnet AUTOMATE, you can scale up your existing resources and processes without drastic investments in new hardware. Magnet AUTOMATE has already helped labs achieve incredible results such as guaranteeing a turnaround time of 48 hours to investigators.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

By analyzing and identifying your current workflow, you can uncover opportunities to streamline your lab’s processes and workflows to create efficiencies today while charting a path to scaling up those processes with technology.

Do You Need to Optimize and Find Efficiencies in Your Lab?

Contact sales@magnetforensics.com and let us help you implement an enhanced, modern approach to digital forensics.

Start modernizing your digital investigations today.

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