Thursday, May 3rd, 2018...6:00 am

Born-Digital Blog Post #4: Digital Forensic Workstation

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This post continues the series, “Behind the Scenes at Houghton”, giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the library’s mission to support teaching and research. Thanks to Magdaline Lawhorn, Administrative Fellow & Project Archivist, for contributing this post.

A functional workstation is pivotal to every archivist’s work, especially when dealing with the born-digital environment that always appears to be in flux. Initially Houghton’s digital forensic workstation (DFW) was based on preliminary findings that reflected a small set of materials from a select number of collections. Presently the DFW toolkit is comprised of basic hardware and software with a few more advanced elements.

The first things every DFW needs are fundamental tools: computer, keyboard, mouse, and a suitable desk. Our workstation is outfitted with two tools that allow us to capture, store, and process our born-digital materials, the Mac Mini 2.3 and the G-Raid Mini. The Mac Mini 2.3 is an asset because it is a portable computer that has the capacity to run a virtual machine (an operating system or application environment that is installed with software, which imitates dedicated hardware). Likewise the G Raid mini is a portable device with a dual-drive storage system that acts as immediate but temporary storage.


Digital Forensics Workstation (DFW)

Most of the born-digital materials we are surveying in the backlog are on legacy media (carriers such as optical media, floppy disks, zip disks, etc.), media which cannot be accessed by most modern-day computers without the aid of specialized equipment. External equipment (i.e. adapters, drivers, card readers, etc.) acts as an intermediary, bridging the gap between new devices and legacy media. We have purchased a portable disk drive and a DVD/CD drive which connect to the computer via USB cord to physically mediate access to the data on the legacy media. The external drives are essential to the processing workflow, but the HoverCam Solo 8 is vital to the accessioning workflow. The HoverCam Solo 8 is a document camera that is fantastic at taking aerial shots (from a desktop) of legacy media.


Diskette and DVD/CD drives


Hardware allows us to physically gain access to information (via the media), but software helps us interpret and digest said information. BitCurator is free open source digital forensic software that we are using to extract and analyze our born-digital materials. In order to operate this system on the Mac Mini 2.3 we use Oracle VM VirtualBox which is also freely available open source software.


HoverCam Solo 8

This is what we have now, but what will we need to remain relevant as a Library that stewards modern archives and manuscripts? In conducting the born-digital backlog survey, we have found various types of legacy media that we do not have the right equipment for, so we are re-evaluating our needs. Specifically we need to acquire a multi-media card reader to handle various types of SD cards and a portable diskette drive that can accommodate a 5.25” floppy disk since we only have one that can handle a 3.5” floppy disk. And one day we might need a more flexible diskette drive in the form of a KryoFlux . Or possibly exchange BitCurator for other digital forensic software like FTK Imager and add other software to our DFW arsenal to assist with the ingest of challenging media types. New components will need to be continually added and replaced for Houghton’s DFW to service incoming materials.