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Significance of Computer Forensics to Law Enforcement

Introduction

The following essay will evaluate the emerging significance of computer forensics to law enforcement. It will also discuss the reasons as to why the developing field of computer forensics is essential to modern-day law enforcement.

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Computer forensics is also referred to as “digital forensics, computer forensic analysis, electronic discovery, electronic evidence discovery, digital discovery, data discovery, computer analysis, or computer examination” (Vaca, 2005, p. 4). It refers to the scientific study of computers which involves the art of safeguarding, recuperating, retrieving as well as analyzing information preserved in computers or any other kind of electronic media in line with providing evidence during court rule procedures (Sheetz, 2007, p. 2).

This involves such electronic media devices such as hard disk, diskettes and tapes. It is mainly a computer crime scene investigation since it has been evident that the rapid growth in technology has led to issues like hacking which have resulted to exposure of various kinds of preserved information. Though computer forensics is today mentioned at a very high frequency, it is a young field of digital advancement that has gained court recognition within the past twenty years.

Significance of Computer Forensics to Law Enforcement

Computer forensics has made a way for electronic evidence and information gathering in most conflicts and crime scenes today. Law enforcement officers have now adopted computer forensics for a long time since they are not bulky and are ubiquitous thus is easy to handle (Vaca, 2005, p. 3). Since the introduction of computer forensics in the judiciary systems, law enforcement officers have been able to generate their own printouts at times from original application program, specialist analytic or examination tools.

As technology continues to advance, investigators have further been able to retrieve important evidence from remote machines some of which they do not have physical access to, as long as these machines are accessible via phone or share some network connection. This has made it possible to follow up evidence from a certain computer network including the activities that may be taking place in the cyber space through the internet. Computer forensics is inclusive of such electronic transactions such as telephone logs, bank account transactions or court evidence involving dense paperwork.

Electronic evidence can be useful in criminal cases, civil disputes as well as human resources and employment procedures since there is so much information stored in computers more than many could even imagine. It is not as easy to retrieve information from a computer as many could generally imagine thus it is important to have stilled examiners in this field in order to be able to carry out the procedure more effectively and efficiently.

If professionally utilized, computer forensics is capable of providing evidence and retrieving lost and deleted information regardless of whether it was intentionally or unintentionally deleted (Vaca, 2005, p. 4). Whereas the goal of data recovery is just to retrieve lost data, computer forensics aims at retrieving lost or existing data and interpreting it as much as possible since their main objective is to promote law enforcement procedures. Computer forensics is therefore a more complex field when compared to data recovery though it employs some of the skills and softwares used in data recovery.

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Globalization and advancement in computer technology especially in communication and information exchange has led to emergence of a totally new kind of crime known as cyber crime or computer crime. This crime has accelerated the adoption of computer forensics in law enforcement since it is the only way to provide evidence during the prosecution of such kinds of criminals. Cyber crime is inclusive of various online offenses such as cyber terrorism, cyber theft which includes identity theft, financial crimes, hacking among others (Miller & Jentz, 2009).

Apart from cyber crimes, there are many others crimes whose procedures have been made easy by the use of computers especially the internet due to ease and secure mode of communication. For example terrorism, drug and human trafficking, murder cases, counterintelligence, pirates work, counterfeiting, economic espionage, bank robbery among others.

Computer forensics can be applied in various criminal and civil cases to provide the necessary evidence. For example, criminal prosecutors can use evidence of incriminating computer date in cases of child pornography, homicide, financial fraud, drug and embezzlement. Civil litigation can apply computer forensics in cases of fraud, discrimination, divorce and harassment cases. Corporations may apply this technology to find evidence of sexual harassment, and confidential corporate information while insurance companies may employ computer forensics to discover possible computer based evidence concerning accidents and compensation. It is necessary for law enforcement procedures while solving such cases from individual to corporate level (Vaca, 2005, p. 4).

Law enforcement officers value a computer in the scene of crime so much since in most cases, it may contain valuable information that can be used as evidence. However, they do not allow any other person to tamper with the computer since evidence may be tainted. Thy therefore employ computer forensic specialist who can stand the pressure and the scrutiny of the court as he testifies.

Computer forensic has been of much significance in the corporate world and businesses since it has been widely used to fight for employee’s justice in the workplace. Computers in the modern day human resource proceedings have been the most common mode of communication. They have been used to provide evidence of ‘sexual harassment suits, allegations of discrimination and wrongful termination claims’. Most of this evidence is mainly retrieved from ‘electronic mail systems, servers and individual personal computers’. However, since computer information is eligible to manipulation, this evidence must be presented by a computer forensic specialist who can professionally explain in the court of law what he did to the computer and its data.

Computer forensics is generally very significant in law enforcement since it is an easier way of providing evidence to some of the most complex offences which offenders were not present physically or have not left anything traceable. It has also been able to counter attack the many computer related crimes which result everyday from the developing technology and globalization. It has eased the jurisdiction procedures since it now provides some of the evidences that could be otherwise hard to detect.

Importance of Computer Forensics in the Modern-day Law Enforcement

Developing the field of computer forensics is very essential in the modern-day law enforcement. This is due to the complexity of the diversified criminal offences that are taking place today with the influence of the advancing technology and globalization which are changing every day. Most of the criminal activities are very ambiguous and indirect and are mostly applying the use internet and computers thus making it very difficult to produce evidence during their prosecution. It has also become very easy for most criminals to operate without leaving traces thus making it even harder detecting leave alone tracing such crimes.

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Furthermore, most of the criminal offenses taking place today are disastrous and may require prevention before their actual occurrences. Some of the very chronic examples include terrorism acts, manufacture and use of nuclear weapons, work of pirates among others. White collar crimes which mainly make use of computers have been on the increase that demanding a better means of counter attacking the challenge.

A survey carried out by the FBI in 2003 showed that an annual average of $6, 900 dollars were lost in bank robberies while $900,000 dollars were lost through computer crimes (Vaca, 2005, p. 4). In 2002, an average of 3.25 billion Americans realized that their information had been misused through identity theft whose total cost amounted to $50 billion annually. Again, 10% of the total health care funds ended up to health care fraud which amounted to an average of $100 billion. Check frauds cost businesses around $10 billion annually while cyber crime cost victims over $14 billion in 2002 (Vito, Maahs &Holmes, 2006, p. 412). The internet has eased most of the criminal procedures since they are able to access most of the essential information online. It has further reduced the cost involved in reconnaissance and communication as compared to the traditional crude method thus making the victim more vulnerable to the criminals.

The alarming rate of white collar crimes which have been made easier by the use of internet also calls for adoption of computer forensics in the modern-day law enforcement system. A recent report from a survey carried out from the FBI showed that they are currently focusing around 74% of their computer forensic workload towards fighting white collar crimes.

This is because white collar crimes are mainly carried out by professionals who in most cases have good jobs and are financially stable thus are capable of employing the latest technology in their offensive criminal cases. Some of the major white collar crimes include “fraud, embezzlement of public funds by government officials, swindling in stocks, corrupting legislatures, stealing of company funds, medical crimes among others” (Mishra & Pandy, 1998). Since most of these crimes make use of electronic data storage, it would be easier to employ computer forensics while finding evidence in order to have justice done to the victims.

The other 26% of the FBI workload is directed towards violent crimes like child pornography, interstate crime, robbery, organized crime like drug dealing and criminal enterprise, as well as counter terrorism and national security. From the above survey, it is evident that computer crime has infiltrated almost all areas of criminal offenses thus raising the application of computer forensic from nearly zero in the past to tens of thousands of cases.

Computers and other digital electronics have been advancing rapidly in the recent past thus creating loopholes for criminal activities. Most of the services are offered online from wherever an individual could be. There are many cell phones with computer services, internet and many other features that ease the process of communication. Considering the above and many other electronic based transactions, there are very few crimes that do not make use of these technologies thus making computer forensics very essential.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the development of computer forensics has been very significant in law enforcement since its development a few years ago. The rapidly developing technology has left very few crimes which do not employ computer technologies in their prosecution. Computer forensics is therefore very important to counter attack such challenges whose complexity is increasing every day. Development of computer forensics is very essential in the modern day since most activities are electronically accomplished and loopholes for crimes are relatively proportional.

References

Miller, R. & Jentz, G. (2009). Fundamentals of Business Law, Excerpted Cases. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

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Mishra, G. & Pandey, B. (1998). White Collar Crimes. New Delhi: Gyan Books.

Sheetz, M. (2007). Computer forensics: an essential guide for accountants, lawyers, and managers. New Jersey, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Vaca, J. (2005). Computer forensics: computer crime scene investigation, Volume 1. Massachusetts: Cengage Learning.

Vito, R. Maahs, J. &Holmes, R. (2006). Criminology: theory, research, and policy. New York, NY: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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