The proliferation of computer use in today's networked society is creating some
complex side effects in the application of the age-old greed, jealousy, and revenge.
Criminals are becoming much more sophisticated in committing crimes. Computers
are being encountered in almost every type of criminal activity. Gangs use computers
to clone mobile telephones and to re-encode credit cards. Drug dealers use computers
to store their transaction ledgers. Child pornography distributors use the Internet
to peddle and trade their wares. Fraud schemes have been advertised on the Internet.
Counterfeiters and forgers use computers to make passable copies of paper currency
or counterfeit cashiers checks, and to create realistic looking false identification.
In addition, information stored
in computers has become the target of criminal activity. Information such as social
security and credit card numbers, intellectual property, proprietary information,
contract information, classified documents, etc., have been targeted. Further,
the threat of malicious destruction of software, employee sabotage, identity theft,
blackmail, sexual harassment, and commercial and government espionage is on the
rise. Personnel problems are manifesting themselves in the automated environment
with inappropriate or unauthorized use complaints resulting in lawsuits against
employers as well as loss of proprietary information costing millions of dollars.
All of this has led to an explosion in the number and complexity of computers
and computer systems encountered in the course of criminal or internal investigations
and the subsequent seizure of computer systems and stored electronic communications.
Computer evidence has become
a 'fact of life' for essentially all law enforcement agencies and many are just
beginning to explore their options in dealing with this new venue. Almost overnight,
personal computers have changed the way the world does business. They have also
changed the world's view of evidence because computers are used more and more
as tools in the commission of 'traditional' crimes. Evidence relative to embezzlement,
theft, extortion and even murder has been discovered on personal computers. This
new technology twist in crime patterns has brought computer evidence to the forefront
in law enforcement circles.
Computer forensics is simply the application
of disciplined investigative techniques in the automated environment and the search,
discovery, and analysis of potential evidence. It is the method used to investigate
and analyze data maintained on or retrieved from electronic data storage media
for the purposes of presentation in a court of law, civil or administrative proceeding.
Evidence may be sought in a wide range of computer crime or misuse cases.Computer
forensics is rapidly becoming a science recognized on a par with other forensic
sciences by the legal and law enforcement communities. As this trend continues,
it will become even more important to handle and examine computer evidence properly.
Not every department or organization has the resources to have trained computer
forensic specialists on staff.
As in any investigation,
establishing that an incident has occurred is the first key step. Secondly, the
incident needs to be evaluated to determine if computer forensics may be required.
Generally, if the computer incident resulted in a loss of time or money, or the
destruction or compromise of information, it will require the application of computer
forensic investigative techniques.
When applied, the preservation of evidence
is the first rule in the process. Failure to preserve evidence in its original
state could jeopardize the entire investigation. Knowledge of how the crime was
initiated and committed may be lost for good. Assignment of responsibility may
not be possible if evidence is not meticulously and diligently preserved.The level
of training and expertise required to execute a forensics task will largely depend
on the level of evidence required in the case. If the result of the investigation
were limited to administrative actions against an employee, the requirement would
be lower than taking the case to court for civil or criminal litigation.
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