2. Summary 2
Computer forensics emerged as a scientific response to the increased used of
computers and information technologies, as well as the legal response to the growing number
of crimes involving computer and information solutions. A whole set of legal and
administrative laws and guidelines govern computer forensics, but the USA Patriot Act is
fairly regarded as the first and probably, the major legal aspect of computer forensics today.
In his article, Null (2005) provides a detailed observation of what computer forensics is and
how the USA Patriot Act refers to the current system of computer forensics principles.
3. Summary 3
Computer forensics emerged as a scientific response to the increased use of computers
and information technologies, as well as the legal response to the growing number of crimes
involving computer and IT solutions. A whole set of legal and administrative laws and
guidelines govern computer forensics, but the USA Patriot Act is fairly regarded as the first
and probably, the major legal driver of computer forensics today. In his article, Null (2005)
provides a detailed observation of what computer forensics is and how the USA Patriot Act
governs the current system of principles in computer forensics.
According to Null (2005) in 2004 alone companies reported more than $377 million
losses because of computer related crimes. Given that more and more courts turn to
computers and information as the major sources of evidence in criminal cases, computer
forensics is gradually becoming the key element of successful crime investigation. Generally,
computer forensics is defined as “the process of scientifically examining and analyzing data
anywhere from computer storage to media so that the data can be used as evidence in court”
(Null, 2005). Computer forensics involves a range of computer investigation and
identification processes, from extracting and preserving the data up to interpreting and
presenting this data in court. Although the U.S. market for computer forensics constantly
grows, there is still a shortage of professionals and experts, as well as the lack of practical
experience and knowledge in different computer subjects (Null, 2005). However, not the state
of science and art in computer forensics but its legality attracts special attention. In this
context, Null (2005) suggests that the USA Patriot Act is “one of the most influential federal
statutes to be put in place because of the use of computer forensics in law enforcement”. Null
(2005) believes that the USA Patriot Act has completely changed the way professionals in
computer forensics operate when gathering and interpreting digital evidence. Null (2005)
4. Summary 4
asserts that sections 202 and 209 of the Patriot Act have caused the major shifts in the current
professional attitudes to computer forensics.
Section 202 of the USA Patriot Act makes it possible for forensic professionals to
access and gather wire communications that involve voice in hacking situations (Null, 2005).
As a result, this evidence can also be presented in court. By capturing wire communications,
law officials can monitor and record threatening communications, which can also be used
against defendants in court (Null, 2005). Null (2005) discusses section 209 of the USA
Patriot Act, which changed the way and rules forensic professionals should follow to access
stored voice communications. Earlier, when law authorities had to access stored voice
communications with a third-party provider a wiretap order was required, while accessing
voice communications on an answering machine required a search warrant; now, the term
‘electronic storage’ no longer exists, and with a search warrant officials can gain access to
any kind of stored voice communications (Null, 2005).
It should be noted, that the USA Patriot Act was designed to fit the legal requirements
of the U.S. Constitution, namely, its Fourth Amendment. That law officials can readily gain
access to Internet files and stored computer information is clear, and for this reason both the
Fourth Amendment and the USA Patriot Act had to delineate forensic practices that are
acceptable and unacceptable in specific crime situations. Where forensic criminals could not
balance security with privacy, the USA Patriot Act had to fulfill this role (Null, 2005). As a
result, both the Act and the Fourth Amendment became a kind of a legal barrier on forensic
professionals’ way to evidence gathering. Unfortunately, the Patriot Act did not resolve all
forensic issues: for example, forensic professionals often fail to properly document the
process of gathering digital evidence or cannot trace the process of changing digital data due
to its relative invisibility (Null, 2005). Nevertheless, the USA Patriot Act lays the foundation
5. Summary 5
for the development of appropriate rules and guidelines necessary to manage the process of
gathering and interpreting digital data for the purposes of computer forensics.
6. Summary 6
Null, J.D. (2005). Computer forensics: The modern crime fighting tool. The Journal of
Computer Information Systems, 46 (2): 115-119.