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Digital forensics

Digital evidence features in just about every part of our personal and business lives. Legal and business decisions hinge on having timely data about what people have actually done. This online module will help you understand how to conduct investigations to correctly gather, analyse and present digital evidence to both business and legal audiences. You will also learn how to find tools to locate and analyse digital evidence on a variety of devices, including mobile phones, and how to keep up to date with changing technologies, laws and regulations in digital forensics.


Start End England fee Register
01 May 2015 Oct 2015 £1415.00

Registration closes 31/03/15 (places subject to availability)

Click to register
This module is expected to start for the last time in May 2019.

What you will study

This online module provides a broad and practical introduction to the fundamentals of digital forensics. It begins by setting the context of digital forensics in the wider discipline of traditional forensic science to show how many of the principles and techniques still apply, including investigation skills, evidence handling, note taking and reporting. You will then take a detailed look at some of the English civil and criminal laws particularly relevant to digital forensic investigations and learn how to find the law, both in England and Wales and other jurisdictions. Using written material and videos, you will learn the principles of legal report writing and giving oral testimony.

We look at the architectures of the digital systems that are likely to require examination and teach the principles that allow you to identify the relevant architectures of new and evolving devices. You will learn to find and use both open source and commercial digital forensic tools to acquire and analyse digital evidence by doing practical exercises. Using written material and videos, you will develop competence as first responders to a digital forensic incident. The teaching will then expose you to the challenges of network forensics in a client-server network, virtualisation, and network traffic analysis.

Mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, are an important part of our everyday lives and therefore important sources of evidence in many forensic investigations. Through videos and practical exercises, you will develop the skills to conduct a forensic examination of a mobile device and be able to apply these to new devices as they are released. A number of advanced topics will be introduced including Internet Intelligence and malware analysis. The module concludes by helping you consolidate the concepts and skills you have learned to help an organisation prepare appropriate plans for forensic incidents.

You will learn

This module is particularly relevant for students wishing to begin a career in digital forensics. It was designed to match the learning outcomes for the Forensic Science Society’s accreditation standards for digital forensics.

Vocational relevance

This module is appropriate if you are a computing student wanting to gain a further understanding of how digital forensics can be applied in both legal and business environments. It is appropriate if you want to enhance your career options in computer security or digital forensics.


It is expected that you will hold a bachelors degree (or equivalent) in computing or a related discipline, or alternatively have at least three years relevant industry experience.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Outside the UK

Although the laws referred to in the module are those of England and Wales, the module also helps you develop the skills to find relevant laws both in the UK and other jurisdictions. We use specific exercises to ensure that you are exposed to cross-jurisdictional legal issues and can find relevant local laws and regulations. All of the other teaching is relevant worldwide.

Preparatory work

You would benefit from some experience of using:

  • more than one operating system – Linux in particular
  • programs with a command line interface
  • a virtual machine through software such as Oracle VirtualBox or VMware.


M812 is a compulsory module in our:

M812 is an optional module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service before registering.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

The materials for this module are provided as a series of web pages via the module website and should be accessible using screen readers. Figure descriptions of any diagrams will be provided along with transcripts of any audio material and printable versions of the online text based material. Some online material may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). 

Alternative formats of the study materials, such as E-pub and Kindle versions, may be available in the future. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer, or think you may have difficulty using the online material you are advised to talk to the Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

This module is presented online. All study materials will be available on the module website, including:

  • details of how to download and install VirtualBox and a current forensic investigation application
  • four blocks of core texts
  • access to module books available at the library
  • module assessment
  • exercises, YouTube videos and podcasts to support the teaching.

In addition you will be provided with a module book either online or in print – the format will be confirmed nearer to module start date.

You will need

Having a second computer and mobile phone, possibly old or obsolete, may be useful for conducting forensic examination exercises.

Your computer will require a camera and microphone in order to complete the oral assessment as part of your final assignment (TMA).

Beyond the basic computer specification recommended by the OU, you will need to have access to a system with 4GB (recommended) or a minimum of 2GB of memory to support the virtual machines used in this module.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress on the module, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. You will be encouraged to interact with other students via the online forum.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in May 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code M812
Credits 30
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school