Detective stories like Sherlock Holmes interested Yestine Goh, Senior Forensic Examiner, Technology Crime Forensic Branch, Criminal Investigation Department of Singapore Police Force. Now she lives a similar story, except the clues she finds are on digital devices.
Goh searches for investigative leads, helps to solve crimes and keeps Singapore safe. She shares how she hopes to tackle the increasing number of ransomware incidents that the country faces.
Tell us more about your role. How do you protect the digital realm and improve citizens’ lives?
As a Senior Forensic Examiner with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) currently attached to the Technology Crime Forensic Branch, my daily work revolves around the forensic extraction and examination of data from electronic devices, such as mobile phones and personal computers, to uncover investigative leads to solve cases and aid in the mission of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to prevent, deter and detect crime and ensure the safety and security of Singapore.
What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?
My interest in computers and technology started from my days in the school lab playing Super Solvers on MS-DOS, an educational whodunit-like game where players have to stop the antagonist by solving puzzles and collecting clues to deduce where the Master of Mischief is hiding. I have always been interested in detective stories like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, and it fascinated me how a box-like object can allow one to become part of the story and control its outcome using a keyboard and mouse, unlike reading from a book.
In a way, my childhood interest has come full circle as my current role requires us to handle a wide variety of seized electronic devices and extract the evidence contained within, while working with investigators to piece the clues together to solve the crime.
What has been the most impactful project of your career?
The most impactful project of my career personally would be the investigation management system used by the SPF. The project was already commissioned and in the maintenance phase by the time I took on the job fresh out of university. Even so, it provided for plenty of learning opportunities in software maintenance, user interface design, and even customer support skills. Knowing that we were making a positive impact on the crime fighting capabilities of the Police force with every line of code written, or each user support request resolved, gave me immense satisfaction and motivation.
With the exponential growth in the amount of electronic data and number of digital devices used necessitating changes in the way we approach digital forensics, the Digital and Information Forensics Centre of Expertise (DIF CoE) at HTX is hence developing a range of new tools for the recovery and processing of digital evidence such as the Digital Forensic Kiosk and Digital Evidence Search Tool (DIGEST) to help bring actionable insights and evidence closer to the investigators. I hope to continue to use the knowledge and experience gained from past projects to contribute to current projects in a meaningful way.
What challenges would you like to take on in the next year?
The increasing amount of data and number of devices we are handling each day is posing a logistical and resource challenge to the way digital forensics is traditionally done. There are some projects in the pipeline to where we hope to improve on, and even automate some of these processes to reduce the time or manpower required in sieving through the information for digital forensics purposes.
Meanwhile, in the broader cyber landscape, we are seeing a rise in ransomware incidents reported so I hope to broaden my knowledge in this area, to better equip myself and aid the organisation in responding, investigating, and recovering from such attacks.
Who or what inspired you this year, and why?
My lifelong inspiration and motivation would be my mum. She will fuss over my family and always make sure that we are all well-fed, in typical Asian mother fashion, and she does her best to support us in whatever we do. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in early 2020 and braved surgery and chemotherapy treatment with frequent hospital visits during the height of the Covid-19 situation. Thankfully, her cancer is now in remission, and her courage and resilience in facing her illness continues to be a source of inspiration and motivation for me.
What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in cybersecurity?
I feel that cybersecurity, and technology in general, should be a relatively gender-equal playing field where physiological differences play a smaller part in the way one can contribute, compared to a healthy sense of curiosity and a willingness to keep learning. Of course, one should still maintain one’s health as the hours can be demanding, especially amid a case or incident response. It is an ever-changing, fast-paced field so the best advice I can give anyone is to dive in with both feet, be willing to adapt, and constantly challenge oneself to learn new and emerging technologies.
If you could sum up your life motto in one sentence, what would it be?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
At work, I try to give my best in every case no matter how big or small, as I would wish had been done for me if I were the victim. In life, I strive to treat everyone with kindness as we never know what difficulties they may be going through.