New Orleans Firm Battles Cybersecurity Foes

As businesses lean more heavily on technology, digital forensics specialists are filling an essential investigative role. The digital branch of forensic science encompasses the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices — often in relation to computer crime, but including threats to virtually any kind 
of digital device.

A pioneer in the field, New Orleans-based Digital Forensics Solutions (DFS) works on a national stage, performing vital security work for customers in the hospitality, health care, government, financial, energy and education sectors.

In 2009, DFS received a U.S. Department of Justice grant to create a tool called Registry Decoder, which was nominated for Computer Forensic Software Tool of the Year in the 2012 Forensic 4cast Awards. The company then received two of 20 coveted Cyber Fast Track grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense to cyber security professionals that help the government fight an ever-increasing number of critical new hacks taking place.

“While we do work for government agencies, we also help other companies protect financial info, such as credit cards, personal information like Social Security numbers, and health information like patient records,” DFS founder and CEO 
Daryl Pfeif said.

Recently, a conglomerate in the hospitality industry detected malware on a machine in 
its network. DFS reverse-engineered the malware and was able to determine no confidential data had been exposed or withdrawn, saving the client an extensive amount of money and embarrassment.

In a civil litigation case, DFS investigated an intellectual property theft and bankruptcy claim. The company was able to identify undisclosed bank accounts and other critical evidence that resulted in a settlement of the case.

“The average person doesn’t realize that hacks, malware and attempted breaches are regular occurrences every day,” Pfeif said.

Pfeif spent two decades working for other technology businesses, including 10 years in Seattle at one of the nation’s leading interactive companies. Recruited to work for an early-stage technology firm in Louisiana, she then went on to form DFS. Today, she is very impressed by the talent level coming out of the University of New Orleans (UNO) forensics program.

“I’ve hired a majority of my employees from the UNO Information Assurance program and I’m glad I’ve been able to provide jobs locally,” she said. “These people could have moved to big firms in the Beltway, but now they have the ability to do work that interests them here in New Orleans.”

Pfeif said Louisiana’s support of technology firms has helped grow her business. She earned digital media tax credits from the state, which enabled her to further invest in her company, attract better talent and pursue more federal funding. Business costs in Louisiana are significantly lower than in the Beltway or Silicon Valley, she said, as is the cost of living.

“Having lived all over the world, Louisiana is an outstanding place to work and live,” she said. “People are genuine and helpful. Culturally, I have to choose from 20 fabulous things to do during my time off. I am a living testimony to the state’s attention and devotion to fostering technology. I was imported, then converted and can envision the rest of my life here.”