Nothing is Impossible
We see many things throughout our day and ask why do we not have a better solution for that? We have many things in this world that was invented to make our life and or job easier or more efficient. If you see a need for something, don’t wait for someone else to come up with a solution. You can do it, because nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it.
This is where my mind asked “We have camera cases, to carry our cameras, lenses, batteries, and SD cards, all in one place. So why do we not have one case for all our computer forensic needs?” Well, maybe not exactly like that but you get what I am saying. This is when I set out to build a desktop computer in a pelican style case. I knew what I wanted to end up with and started searching the internet for the pieces I would need.
Since this was going to be built in a small space, I had to make sure my components were small. So, I went over to Newegg.com and found “ASRock B365M-ITX/ac LGA 1151 (300 Series) Intel B365 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard”.
I kept the idea the same when looking for a power supply, when I found “FSP Mini ITX Solution / Flex ATX 300W Fully Modular Cable Management Efficiency >90% Full Range Active PFC Power Supply (FSPFSP300-57FCB) Flex Guru 300W (New Edition)”.
You may ask why, why build a computer in a case, when we have laptops? When you need to head out to complete a forensic process, you must gather up the items you need.
1. Laptop and power cords.
2. Storage media for the evidence.
3. Write blockers and power cords
When you arrive on scene, you realize you are missing a cord, write blocker, or not enough storage media. What if you had it all in one case, ready to go at a moment’s notice? Sure, laptops have come a long way but due to limitations, you are limited on power. Not to say you could not fork out the money for a high-end laptop, but you still must make sure you have everything ready to go. For half the money of a high-end laptop you can build a desktop in a case with all the connections and storage media you may need.
What happens when you arrive on scene and you have Windows and Mac computers to deal with? Did you grab everything you would need? I set out to build an all in one desktop with plenty of storage and connections you may need.
1. 15 TB storage
2. Firewire connections (for Mac)
3. SATA and IDE write blocker (for hard drives)
4. Network connection (for cross over connection if needed for servers)
5. Mic (for recording and or documentation)
6. External Audio out (for speakers if needed)
7. Power outlet (if you needed to plug something in, it is built in to case)
8. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (Some devices may need to connect via Bluetooth for data dump)
9. Internal USB Speaker (for listening to recovered audio and video)
10. External Video (for connecting a second monitor)
I had never done such a build, but I was not willing to let that stop me from doing my first one. I started out in one direction on the build but had to make changes mid-stream. That is OK as we should be flexible when doing such a build. Then again, we should be flexible in our daily walk in life as well. Like a river, don’t give up. Find a way around or through it but never let an obstacle stop you from moving forward.
I went to my hardware store, with one idea in mind and picked up material I thought I needed.
Once I had what I thought I needed, I started cutting and building. I found that somethings were not going to work as I started, so I changed up. I changed the wood inside the case to a L aluminum. I found that I could use a 6/32 threader on the aluminum, which allowed me to do away with having to put nuts and washers on the screws.
I kept moving forward and making changes where needed. I would tweak where I could until I had a complete desktop computer forensic workstation in a case. The computer is ready for hard drive(s), SD cards, cell phone(s), Window System(s), Mac, and USB drives.
At the end of the day, this computer build was fun, and I learned a lot. She is ugly but she will get the job done. It is not the look that matters but can she do the job. Below is the link(s) to most of the items I used in this build.
OS Hard drive M.2
Keyboard with touch pad
Hard drive dock (Decided after the fact, it is not needed)
HD Write Block
SD Write Block
Firewire Card (Low Profile)
Most other items needed in this build were purchased at local hardware stores. The only limitations are the ones you allow to limit yourself. I hope that this article gives someone the courage to step out and do what they see needs to be done or they want to do in their life.
Author - Emory Casey Mullis has been in Law Enforcement for roughly 20 plus years including military and civilian law enforcement. He started learning about computers back when Gateway 266 MHz was the top of the line and cost about $2000.00. Right out the box, I was compelled to take my newfound 266 apart. Why I have no idea other than pure curiosity. Once I had the computer out the box and on the floor in pieces, my wife walked in. Trust me people; this was not a good thing! Either way I got a good understanding at this point on how a computer is put together and / or the components inside. This was my starting point with computers and I still hear my wife in the background “It better work when you put it back together!” That was my humble beginnings as a Cyber Investigator. Now with many Cyber cases under my belt, I have learned that you must question, challenge and test almost daily to keep up with all the new tools, software, computers and cell phone formats to be able to forensically acquire evidence and it is a real challenge. I enjoy the challenge and look forward to learning more every day!