Digital Forensics Software: The Usual Suspects

The four key players in digital forensics software: Guidance, AccessData, Paraben and Technology Pathways

Digital forensics software can help preserve and examine data needed in investigations and litigation. For expert advice on evaluating, implementing and using digital forensics, see the companion article Rules of Evidence—Digital Forensics Tools.

Here's a look at the leaders in the market.

Guidance Software's EnCase

Considered the Cadillac of digital forensics tools, EnCase is the clear market leader in digital forensics, with 26,000 users of its single-workstation version and over 300 users of EnCase Enterprise, which works over the network. While widely accepted, it has also been criticized for being unintuitive and complex. The latest version adds a full-text indexing engine, a native file viewer and expanded e-mail support. EnCase is more expensive than other options, starting at $25,000.

AccessData's Forensics Toolkit

With its release in January 2008 of an enterprise version, AccessData is looking to directly compete with Guidance, with the claim of being easier to learn and use, especially with the help of wizards for data acquisition, filtering, case management and reporting. AD Enterprise contains all the capabilities of its single-workstation product FTK 2.0, but it adds an Oracle back end, allowing for advanced data correlation and reporting.

Paraben Corp. P2

Paraben provides single-workstation toolkits, as well as a suite that enables remote monitoring over the network. Although it has an extensive tool suite, it has not caught on in the industry as well as the EnCase and AccessData products. Its major distinction is its support for handhelds (PDAs running the Palm OS, Windows CE/Pocket PC/Mobile 4.x, BlackBerry and Symbian) as well as cell phones and global positioning system devices.

Technology Pathways' ProDiscover Technology

Pathways was one of the first to offer a remote forensics capability, but according to users, the tool does not scale as well as AccessData and Encase. Users call ProDiscover a powerful evidence-collecting toolset, but other suites offer a fuller set of capabilities outside of investigate inquiries, such as HR compliance reviews.

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