Computer Forensics, or Digital Forensics to give it another name, is something that in today’s fast moving environment has become as much part of policing as walking the beat or patrolling or the mobile unit.
As technology progresses and it does so extremely quickly these days, so to do the ways in which technology is applied to crime and its uses by the criminal. Whereas in the past when crime was much more straightforward and involved a physical presence, Computer Crime requires, in some instances, nothing more than a computer, access to the internet, and the personal information of an unwitting individual.
As this type of computer criminal becomes more and more common so too does the need for experts in the field of Computer Forensics Analysis. However in the United Kingdom at the present time there is a shortage of trained professionals in this field which leaves the computer criminal at a distinct advantage.
Computer Forensics is used in a variety of different ways and not simply as a means of producing an auditable trail of data. A Computer Forensics Analysis of a laptop or desktop machine can provide valuable information as to not only how the machine was used to perpetrate a crime, but also who used the machine to commit the crime.
As individuals we all have certain ways of typing and committing words to a page and this is all very much part and parcel of the Computer Forensics Experts job, identifying these common traits and using them to help produce a profile.
The role of Computer Forensics Analysis in a court case is vitally important especially if that case pertains to the use of computers as a means to defraud money or in the distribution of materials deemed illegal such as pornography and child pornography. An expert Computer Witness will be able to provide such analysis to members of the jury, the judge, and the defense and prosecution teams in a way that is both informative and yet easily enough understood so as not to muddy the waters.
Such a witness is invaluable in both the prosecution and defense of a case and can be utilised to provide expert Computer Forensic Analysis and also provide the jury, who are not necessarily familiar with such terms, with easily digestible and retainable information.
Indeed an expert witness may also be able to physically demonstrate to the court just how a criminal has managed to perpetrate a crime especially if this crime is committed over a distance.
As touched upon earlier there is a shortage of such personnel in the United Kingdom at the present time and this is in no small part due to the face that computer crime is on the increase and becoming more sophisticated. Such trained personnel are invaluable to a case and are fully conversant with ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) guidelines.
With such a shortage of trained personnel it is fair to say that the floodgates have been opened for the Computer Criminal. He, she or they (it is often common to find such individuals working in cells using complex networks and IT infrastructures) are more likely to evade a thorough investigation and subsequent prosecution without the assistance of trained Computer Expert Witnesses and their informed analysis.
These trained personnel are often in short supply because of the need for more than one discipline when it comes to Computer Forensics Analysis.
Network Forensics is often such that an Computer Forensics Expert will be required to examine the data on a large number of computers either networked together physically (hard-wired) or operating as satellites as part of a Wi-Fi network. This particular type of auditing is particularly useful and often provides vital information in the prosecution of computer crime especially when it is necessary to link together a number of individuals spread over a large geographical area.
It is important to remember also that the analysis provided by a Computer Expert Witness is not only used to help in the prosecution or defense of a case at a judicial level but also can be used in helping to identify and prevent further instances of Computer Crime. Moreover this is something that has, and will have, an impact when it comes to fighting e-crime in the future as the e-criminals and their methods become more sophisticated and harder to track.
by Andy Frowen