Technology is everywhere nowadays, and with that comes digital crimes. Computer forensics and examination plays an important role in digital crimes when it comes to gathering evidence, litigation, and prosecution. Computer forensics is a specialized science where investigators analyze the information of a suspect’s computer and search for evidence. This is a newer career field, but it is opening up because of the digital age we live in. A computer forensic investigator is very important when it comes to digital crimes as they are the ones who collect, analyze, and report the evidence. Read on more about how they play a pivotal role in catching criminals.
Obtaining EvidenceA computer forensic investigator can examine most types of digital media to identify, recover, preserve, and analyze the information that it contains. They deal with a lot of computer crimes - such as trade secrets, identity theft, fraud, child pornography, or homicides. Since computers are used in everyday life, it is important to collect as much information as possible about the suspect or victim through their digital media.
Obtaining the evidence must be done in a certain way or the examiner risks the evidence being thrown out during trial, which could make or break a case. Evidence is not always easy to discover as it may have been deleted on purpose by the suspect. An expert in computer forensics is able to recover this data and produce it in court as evidence. There are standards and procedures involved when obtaining evidence, so it is important these are followed otherwise the evidence can be thrown out of court. Again, this could be the difference between winning or losing a case.
It is imperative that an expert in the field handle digital evidence to preserve it as much as possible. Someone without in-depth knowledge of how computers or digital media work could accidentally erase evidence, causing the case to fail before it even starts. Furthermore, the examiners know where to look, what is important, and what can be ignored. It takes intense training to understand how to properly obtain digital evidence.
Search and AnalyzeExperts in computer forensics can find evidence that goes beyond the surface. This includes management of an electronic file, tracking, or history in the computer. System information, such as when the file was accessed, modified, or created, can be printed out by the examiner and used as evidence in cases. This can help establish timelines or add knowledge to complicated crimes such as fraud or theft. It can get pretty complicated as the system information is changed every time the file is opened, so there is a lot of information to go through. The examiner will know what to look for, where to look for it, and what information can be left out. Data that is unimportant will be left alone and only the usable evidence will be focused on. This is vital when it comes to time-sensitive cases as you do not want investigators spending their time on unimportant items when other files contain the evidence needed to close the case.
Most often than not, the files examiners come across are not working or completely intact. An expert will be able to find data in places that others would not normally have access to. This can include finding partially deleted files on the hard drive and put them together to create the original document. Furthermore, by digging deep into the history, the examiner can figure out what path the user took on the computer to help figure out the meaning of the fragments of data. Putting all of the pieces together is part of a computer forensic investigator’s job and it also aids law enforcement in seeing the entire case from a digital standpoint.
PreservationOnce the evidence is collected and analyzed, it must be properly preserved. Digital evidence can be tricky to deal with because of an accidental alteration, or even an intentional one. Computer forensic examiners establish a chain of custody before any evidence is admitted into court.
Individual files can be compromised as well. Their data can be manipulated because it is changed every time the file is opened, so it may even be an accidental manipulation. A crucial step the examiner takes is capturing the image of the hard drive to ensure the files are protected and authenticated.
Computer forensics is extremely important in today’s world and especially in the litigation process. The examiners obtain evidence, analyze it, and preserve it so it can be properly presented in court. Furthermore, the examiners can interpret their findings for those who do not fully understand what they are looking at. This helps the attorneys, jurors, and the judge get a clearer picture of what crimes were committed.