Physical Location and Structural Design Considerations of Computer Forensics Lab

Physical Location and Structural Design Considerations in this article explain how to design & structure forensic lab and where should be physically located .

Physical Location Needs of a Forensics Lab

The physical location needs of a forensics lab are

  • Site of the lab: The site should have at least two directions of entry to ensure that one can access the lab despite heavy traffic conditions, street maintenance work, or any unexpected site disruptions.
  • Access to emergency services: There should be easy access to emergency services such as the fire department and other emergency vehicles. It must also have access to shipping and receiving without compromising the physical security of the lab.
  • Lighting at the site: The site must have proper lighting designed to augment security and discourage vandalism and unauthorized access to the lab. it should be similar to the campus lighting of a university that conducts night classes.
  • Physical milieu of the lab: The design must avoid:
         – Bushes across 10 feet of the lab surroundings
          Clusters of bushes around the premises
          Tall evergreen trees
  • Structural design of parking: The parking lot of the lab should have different levels. These are a few recommendations for designing the levels of parking:
    – First level: It is a low security area; it must be close to the visitor entrance.
    – Second level: Partially secured and fenced level used for shipping, waste pick-up, and other activities  requiring minimum security.
    – Third level: A secured level that provides employees with access to the lab only with the proximity keys or card keys.
    – Fourth level: High-security area where only authorized personnel have access and security personnel can monitor it.

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  • Environmental Conditions: The environmental conditions for proper functioning of a lab are:
    – Dimensions of the lab: The lab must be large. There must be sufficient space to place all the equipment in the lab, without any congestion.
    – Exchange rate of air: There must be a high exchange rate of air in the lab. The exchange rate enhances the fresh air in the room and prevents unwanted odors in the lab.
    – Cooling systems: There must be proper cooling systems installed in the lab to overcome the heat that workstations generate, It must be able to handle the RAID server’s heat output.
    – Allocation of workstations: The dimensions of the lab will determine workstation placement.
    – Arrangement of workstations: The design of the lab will determine the arrangement of workstations. There must be different workstations for different sections of the lab.
  • Electrical Needs; Following are the electrical needs of a computer forensics lab:
    – Amperage: The lab must have good amperage of around 15 and 20 A required to run the laboratory equipment.
    – Emergency power and lighting: The lab should have emergency power and protection for all the equipment from power fluctuations. It should have ample lighting for the following sections of the laboratory:
         – All the evidence sections
         – All the security sections, electronic security systems, and telephones
         – X-ray processing rooms and photography dark rooms
     – Electrical Outlets: There must be easy access to the electrical cutlets in the lab.
    – Uninterrupted power supply: For all the workstations and the equipment, a centralized UPS is preferred for a safe shutdown.
  • Communication Needs: The different communication needs are:
    Dedicated connection: Install a dedicated ISDN for network and voice communications.
    Dial-up access: Dial-up Internet access must be available for the workstations in the laboratory.
    Disconnection: Disconnect the forensic computer from the network when it is not in use.
    Network: A dedicated network is preferred for the forensic computer, as it requires continuous access to the Internet and other resources on the network.

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Work Area Considerations

The location of the forensics lab should be in an area with less human traffic. A forensic lab generally has two workstations, but this number increases depending on the number of investigation cases.

Design of the work area is subject to available financial resources. However, as the complexity and number of cases increase, the workstation area will increase. It is advisable to have separate rooms for supervisors and cubicles for investigators.

Also Read : Setting Up a Computer Forensics Lab

The work area should have ample space for discussing the cases among investigators as well as enough room for each investigator to align and store all the files and equipment. The productivity of the investigator Mil decrease in a cluttered workspace, thus hampering the investigative process. The layout of the forensics lab should be scalable with ample room for expansion.

Ambience of a Forensics Lab

Investigators spend long hours in a forensics lab, so it is of utmost importance that the ambience of the lab is comfortable. Ergonomics, lighting, room temperature, and communications form an important factor while considering the ambience of a computer forensics lab.

The Ergonomics Society of the UK defines ergonomics as the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use.” The society also defines ergonomic design as “a way of considering design options to

ensure that people’s capabilities and limitations are taken into account,” Physiology, psychology, and anatomy are the three important elements of ergonomics.

The environment in the lab, such as humidity, airflow, ventilation, and room temperature, also play an important factor. The lab should be able to handle more computers in case there is a plan for expansion. Improper lighting in the lab will lead eyestrain for the investigators, which may hamper their productivity.

Adjust lighting to avoid glare and keep the monitors at an angle of 90 degrees to the windows. Painting on the walls should have a matte finish instead of a glazed finish. The height and make of the ceilings, walls, flooring, etc. contribute to the ambience of a forensics lab. Do not use false ceilings, as they weaken the security of the lab.

Questions related to this topic

  1. What are some characteristics of a good forensics lab?
  2. What equipment is in a forensic lab?
  3. What Physical Location and Structural Design Considerations with good lab?
  4. What are the three minimum steps of a basic digital forensics examination protocol?
  5. What is the difference between computer forensics and digital forensics?
  6. Explain Physical Location and Structural Design Considerations?

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