Computer Forensics: The Emerging Significance to Law Enforcement


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Reasons why the developing field of computer forensics is essential to modern-day law enforcement in fighting cyber crimes (by Lillian Ekwosi-Egbulem).

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Computer Forensics: The Emerging Significance to Law Enforcement

  1. 1. Computer Forensics: The Emerging Significance to Law Enforcement Lillian Ekwosi-Egbulem October 05, 2013
  2. 2. Ms Comfort is a 64 year old Nigerian, never had a formal educational training and lives in the slum. Each morning she takes a bus ride to the nearest city internet café to resume from where she left off on her business the previous day. Part of her self employed “yahoo-yahoo” job description is to watch for incoming mails. Once she receives one, she pays someone to have the mail content explained and a response sent for her. The name of her business is “Advanced Fee Fraud” aka 419, a type of internet crime very prevalent in the developing countries. Sometimes, she poses as a young African man and sends invitation to elderly single and lonely western women, inviting them to join “him” in experiencing a life so beautifully primitive in African. Other times, she asks her victims to help her transfer some unclaimed money from the country’s central bank. Those who accept the invitation end up paying ransom to reclaim their freedom and return back to their countries. Similarly, those who accept to help her transfer funds pay thousands of dollars in fees before they realized there is no unclaimed money to transfer. This is one of the many cyber crimes being perpetuated each day. Others include company policy violations, embezzlement, email harassment, murder, leaks of property information, terrorism, child pornography, financial crimes, fraud, identity theft, espionage, information theft, etc. The reason why there are many types of cyber crime is because it is very lucrative and the feeling of safety flight gives the criminals a lot of confidence and if they feel threatened, they can just pull the plug and walk away. With the many faces of cyber crimes and the sophistication by which cyber criminals operate, it becomes necessary to have a branch of the law enforcement agency dedicated to combating this menace. The purpose of this paper therefore is to discuss the multitude of
  3. 3. reasons why the developing field of computer forensics is essential to modern-day law enforcement. According to the author of Guide to computer forensics and investigation, “computer forensics involves obtaining and analyzing digital information for use as evidence in civil, criminal or administrative cases” (Nelson & Phillips, 2010). The field is relatively new but computer crime rate and the market has grown and will continue to grow, opening up a great need for computer forensic professionals (Bussing, Null & Forcht, 2005). Today there are simply not enough law enforcement officers with appropriate computer forensics and computer crime investigative training to apprehend and prosecute criminals that commit various cyber crimes. Its emerging significance to law enforcement cannot be overemphasized and the growth in computer crime rate and the market is one of the reasons among others, why the developing computer forensics is essential to modern-day law enforcement. As recorded in Computer Forensics: An emerging practice in the battle against cyber crime, an FBI report in 2000 showed 2,032 cases opened involving cyber crimes, however, only 921 were closed (Isner, 2003). The remaining unclosed cases were not processed due to lack of trained investigators, evidence, tools, coupled with the high cost of investigation to prosecute the cyber criminals. As a result, cyber criminals have been able to evade responsibility due to lack of supporting evidence to convict them As recorded in Guide to computer forensics and investigations “the general rule was at least one law enforcement computer investigator for every 250,000 people in a geographical region” (Nelson, & Phillips, 2010). Seemingly, with the rate of cyber crime escalating, there is a
  4. 4. great need to have at least two or three law enforcement computer investigator for every 250,000 people. Hence, the developing field of computer forensics that will train computer forensic investigators is essential to modern-day law enforcement. These trained professionals will be able to investigate cyber crimes, present admissible evidence to help convict more offenders for the crimes they committed. Awareness is a great tool for driving message across. With the developing field of computer forensics being essential to modern-day law enforcement, more schools will offer the training and grants in this field. With enough trained professional in the field, more cases will be prosecuted. If more cases go to court and more cyber criminals are convicted, the anonymity surrounding this type of crime will be eventually stripped. This is very important in making the cyber criminals realize that no matter how invisible they think they are, they cannot out run the law. Computer technology is dynamic and has become an integral part of our everyday life. The same technologies we use in sharing our children’s photographs with friends and family members aide others in transmitting child pornography. Obviously, cyber criminals need avenues and storage facilities to share and store their criminal activities. Consequently, computer and internet represent the fastest growing technological tools used by criminals who maintain files of incriminating evidence in their computer. However, they do not understand that sensitive data tenaciously clings to life and can be retrieved and investigated for the purpose of prosecution. The criminals unfortunately have no ability to properly destroy the evidence. The developing field of computer forensics is essential to modern-day law enforcement to assist in obtaining and analyzing digital information for use as evidence in criminal cases that will help convict the cyber criminals.
  5. 5. As the computer technology advances and pervade the society, the cyber criminals are not just folding their arms; they are getting more sophisticated and looking for better ways to conceal their crimes. Cyber criminals do not have to be physically present on the crime scene. Their tenacity is due to the lucrative nature of the business and the desire to demonstrate prowess in cyber space. Cyber criminals are really motivated today to use the domain of cyberspace for their personal gain and to satisfy their criminal urge. Also, they feel pretty comfortable because of the anonymity of operating in an anonymous state through cyberspace which offers them low risk (WebTycho, 2010). Law enforcement practitioners need more than the available tools to deal with cyber crimes. They need professional training in computer forensics to be able to use the available tools in fighting cyber crime. “Computer evidence is very fragile and can be easily and unintentionally altered or destroyed” (Anderson, 2008). As a result, evidence processing is not a task to be undertaken lightly by just any IT worker but a trained computer evidence specialist (Kay, 2006). Also, there are standards and procedures (state and federal laws) that must be followed to avoid risks. For instance, the Fourth Amendment Rights (Search and Seizure) protects defendants against computer forensic evidence and provide them reasonable or legitimate expectation of privacy. An untrained investigator trying to process a computer forensic investigation without cognizance of the legal framework is like a first aid technician performing brain surgery with a pocket knife which can lead to severe consequences. Furthermore, the expenses involved in computer forensic investigation are enormous and shortcuts by untrained practitioners should be avoided at all cost (Anderson, 2008). In conclusion, we live in the information age and so do criminals. Sophisticated attacks
  6. 6. on IT systems are increasing in number at an alarming rate. (Arasteh, Debbabi, Sakka & Saleh, 2007). Due to the ease at which the criminals operate, internet has been termed the “crooks dream” and the law enforcement nightmare. No doubt, the law enforcement officers are doing a good job but the training they have is not adequate in providing a “scientifically proven methods in gathering, processing, interpreting, and using the digital evidence to bring a conclusive description of cyber crime activities” (Arasteh et al., 2007). This makes the developing field of computer forensics essential to modern-day law enforcement because then, trained professionals can match the sophistication of the criminals and operate through the standards and procedures to preserve data that can serve as evidence in a court of law. Certainly, with enough computer forensic professionals, internet will be perceived differently; perhaps as law enforcement dream and the “crooks’ nightmare.
  7. 7. References Nelson, B., Phillips, A. (2010). Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigation (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Course Technology Kay, R. (2006). Computer Forensics. Computerworld, 40(16), 49. Retrieved from ProQuest Computing. (Document ID: 1024925931). Bhaskar, R. (2006). State and local law enforcement is not ready for a cyber Katrina. Association for Computing Machinery. Communications of the ACM, 49(2), 81. Retrieved from ProQuest Computing. (Document ID: 980873961). Busing, M.E., Null, J. D., Forcht, K.A. (2005). Computer Forensics: the modern crime fighting tool. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 46(2), 115-119. Retrieved from ProQuest Computing. (Document ID: 984317121). Anderson, M.R. (2008). Electronic Fingerprints: Computer Evidence Comes Of Age. Retrieved from Arasteh, A.R., Debbabi, M., Sakka, A., Saleh, M. (2007). Analyzing multiple logs for forensic evidence. Elsevier,doi:10.1016/j.diin.2007.06.013. Retrieved from http: Isner, J. D. (2003). Computer Forensics: An emerging practice in the battle against cyber crime. Global Information Assurance. Retrieved from Raduage, H. (2010). Deloitte center for cyber innovation. Document posted in University of Maryland University College CIA3016382 online classroom, archived at: