Book review / Book reviews / critical thinking / tech security

Book Review: Digital Forensics With Open Source Tools

Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools: Using Open Source Platform Tools for Performing Computer Forensics on Target Systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, etc.Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools

by Cory Altheide

Note: This review written as part of my Amazon Vine Voice series

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I write techno-thrillers, so I’m always looking for new ways to crack the tangled online lives of popular fictional characters, a blueprint for the next Digital Fortress. In the case of Altheide and Carvey’s Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools (Elsevier, 2011), I’ll have to keep looking, but I wasn’t disappointed. It delves into the equally obfuscated world of computer malfunctions. In plain English (as opposed to the acronyms more rampant in the geek world than the government), it details how to investigate a variety of problems on a variety of systems to find out what went wrong and how to fix it–using open source tools. The ‘fix it’ part is the digital forensics which the authors define as “the use of scientifically derived and proven methods toward the preservation, collection, validation, identification, analysis, interpretation, documentation and presentation of digital evidence derived from digital sources for the purpose of …reconstruction of events found to be criminal…”

Simple enough, though for the purposes of this review, I truncated the original 54-word definition by half. In full disclosure, the book includes many neologistic words like ‘MinGW’, ‘RAID’, ‘installing interpreter’s, ‘perl, python and ruby’ because the authors admit their intended audience is new forensic practitioners or experienced ones interested in delving into open source tools. Those weird words are their language, but the authors do a good enough job defining the more complicated terms that beginners will want this book in their library. It summarizes the wide variety of platforms out there–Linux, Windows, MacOS and more–and which open source products can best be used to address what forensic problems.

The authors are Cory Altheide and Harland Carvey. Mr. Altheide has a robust background performing end-to-end forensic investigation (you can see what he’s up to on his blog, even ask questions about the book if this review hasn’t covered enough. I have to tell you, after browsing his posts, his tweets and his LinkedIn profile, what this guy doesn’t know about digital forensics, no one does). Likewise with Harlan Carvey. His blog goes much deeper than my personal knowledge base and itemizes enough incident responses that it’s clear Mr. Carvey knows of which he speaks.

Even if you aren’t a nerdy geek who sits in front of a computer 24/7, you will come away from this book impressed with the creativity and ingenuity of today’s computer minds. Man’s survival has always been about using the brain, stretching those synapses, thinking not only outside the box, but into the next. Some say American education is in trouble, but if it turns out problem solvers like these two, we’re in good shape.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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