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Understating the Utility of 'Computer Forensics' Today and it's Impact

Computer forensics can be widely defined as the (increasingly popular) practice and field of first and foremost collecting data, analyzing it and subsequently reporting on all sorts of digital data in such a manner that it essentially becomes legally admissible to the relevant authorities.

It can also be widely utilized for the effective detection as well as the subsequent prevention of not just criminal activities alone, but moreover, this field of knowledge can also be used to help resolve any sort of dispute where the evidence may well have been digitally stored. Just like its real-world counterpart, the field of computer forensics also follows a more or less similar process to many other disciplines of forensic sciences out there, and therefore by extension, it also faces the same kind of issues as well.

o Why computer forensics?

Computer forensics is becoming increasingly more important to the authorities at large, for a number of diverse reasons. But by far the single most common one is that cyberspace is the new frontier for not just the law enforcement community but also the criminal elements who have found the internet to be a great tool to commit crimes. From ransomware that can effectively ‘lock’ the victims’ data till a ransom is paid, to hidden trojans that meticulously leak information to hackers, this trend of cybercrime can only continue to grow, at least in terms of the foreseeable future.

This is due to the fact that many, if not most such crimes are not only particularly lucrative but they are also very hard to detect, and in the rare cases when a hacker is caught, he may count on getting a relatively lenient sentence since it is essentially a non-violent crime, per se. Add to that the fact, that cybercrime can yield pretty high profits at very low risks and it is easy to see why it is becoming so popular as the ‘crime of choice’ for the 21st-century criminal.

o The importance of computer forensics in controlling crime

There are hardly any zones of industrial disputes or even crimes where the field of computer forensics may not be considered to be applicable. This is precisely why they have been right at the forefront of the many cutting-edge innovations in this particular field.

A personal computer, laptop or any other mobile communication can potentially establish what is known in LEA circles as the ‘scene of a crime’. This can include many hacking-related offenses or for that matter a DOS or denial of service attack. Or alternately such a computer system may also hold certain critical types of pieces of evidence and proofs in various forms.

These may also include internet browser history, any emails present on the system, various documents or for that matter, any other files that may be relevant to even non-computer related ‘real world crimes’, such as kidnapping for ransom and abduction, terrorism, murder, fraud, and even drug trafficking. This is due to the fact that computers are often the first line repositories of critical data, even for criminals.

In fact, it is not just the actual content of the emails and other documents and files may be of special interest to the LEAs and other investigators but the ‘metadata’ that would be associated with any particular document would also be of special concern here. For example, a highly detailed computer forensic examination has the intrinsic capability of revealing exactly when a particular file may have been made available on a system for the very first time when it had last been edited, when was it past printed or saved and lastly who had actually carried out all of these activities.

Taken together, such activities can go a long way towards ensuring that such criminal enterprises are not just prevented from carrying out attacks, but also apprehended in case they have successfully managed to do so, as well.

o The importance of computer forensics in business, industry, and commerce

Apart from more ‘mainstream’ criminal activities, many commercial entities and organisations have been known to use the field of computer forensics to their own advantage in many different cases that include the following:

  • Employment-related disputes and their resolution

  • Various types of industrial espionage

  • Bankruptcy-related investigations

  • Inappropriate email usage by staff members

  • The detection of forgeries

  • Unauthorised internet usage in the office

  • Fraud investigations

  • Intellectual Property Theft

  • Regulatory compliance

o Conclusion

In the light of the above, we can easily see that the field of computer forensics is gaining increasing importance today in virtually all sheers of cyberspace and beyond. This trend can only increase almost exponentially as the internet and its associated technology also becomes increasingly more interwoven with all of our commercial activities.