Forensics Laboratory Setup Considerations
The factors that influence the design and size of a forensic laboratory include the following:
- Estimation of the space for each work area
- Laboratory’s role and tasks that it will ensure and undertake
- Estimation of the space required to store the evidence
Depending on the jurisdiction, there are several applicable standards that could be used as reference including but not limited to ISO, TIA, IEEE and any local or national standard. It is vital to setting up a forensic laboratory that all relevant standards are considered, checked and complied with.
Protection from External Threats
When deciding on the location is important to consider the following risks and provide appropriate safeguard and contingency plan:
Flood: Laboratory should be setup in a geographical region that is not prone to floods. If there is no option but to use such a location, extensive procedures and controls should be put in place to ensure evidence is not compromised in case of such an eventuality.
Fire: Appropriate fire prevention and control mechanism should be followed and test runs must be conducted at random to gauge effectiveness. Evidence storage must be fire resistant.
Civil Unrest: The facility should be setup in primarily in a politically and socially stable region. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery planning should be conducted and elaborate measures put in place to aptly respond to these eventualities.
Neighborhood: Any facility is prone to interferences from its neighborhood. Consideration must be given before setting up the lab to ensure factors like noise, vibrations, electromagnetic interference, etc. do not end up causing disruption to forensics process itself and/or result in the compromise of forensics evidence. Also a watchful eye must be kept on the neighborhood to respond to any changes in the environment e.g., entry or exit of a neighbor or any local planning and development, etc.
Other Natural Catastrophic Events: The laboratory must be resilient to other natural elements such as earthquakes, lightning strikes, sandstorms, tornadoes, etc.
Appropriate advanced warning systems must be installed and news must be followed to maintain awareness. All warning systems must be connected to a centralized system for effectiveness.
Power and Cabling
In order to determine the power requirements for the Forensic Laboratory, following must be considered:
Lighting: how much lighting is required – in rooms, public areas, evidence analysis, parking, security search lights, areas with no direct access to sunlight (basements), etc.
Air-conditioning: Primarily driven by the climate and the weather conditions but must factor in the number of computer systems, personnel, working shift patterns, etc.
Forensic Processing Equipment: Any specific power and cabling and access requirements for the forensics equipment must also be factored in.
Auxiliary Equipment: Items such as printers, photocopiers, external disk bays, redundant backup media devices, additional monitors, LCD screens, etc. must be factored into the calculations.
Technology and Dedicated LAN Infrastructure: Power required for maintaining the network and the company intranet – to maintain connectivity through towers or dedicated receivers, etc.
Physical security should be designed to meet the requirements and the working practices. The area outside and inside the laboratory should include:
- Sensors and Alarms
- Visual Monitoring systems such as CCTV
- Physical Access control and Guard Forces
- Security Doors
- Perimeter awareness
- Elaborate Governance, Detection, Response and Remediation Policies and Procedures
Layout of the forensic laboratory
There are several aspects that should be considered when setting up the laboratory. A typical layout include the following areas:
- Unpacking and Disassembly Area
- Server Room Area
- Evidence Storage
- Equipment Storage
- Office Space
- Research Area
- Forensic workspace (workstations, dedicated equipment, write blockers, cameras, UPS, etc.)
- Analysis and Report Writing Area
- Break, Kitchen and Toilet Area
- Faraday Room (for mobile device imaging)