Digital Evidence - Article at CNN.com
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11

Thread: Digital Evidence - Article at CNN.com

  1. #1
    AO Senior Cow-beller
    Moderator
    zencoder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Mountain standard tribe.
    Posts
    1,177

    Digital Evidence - Article at CNN.com

    Source
    Digital evidence: Today's fingerprints
    Electronic world increasingly being used to solve crimes

    By Michael Coren
    CNN - Friday, January 28, 2005 Posted: 6:11 PM EST (2311 GMT)
    (CNN) -- Police and prosecutors are fashioning a new weapon in their arsenal against criminals: digital evidence. The sight of hard drives, Internet files and e-mails as courtroom evidence is increasingly common.

    "Digital evidence is becoming a feature of most criminal cases," said Susan Brenner, professor of law and technology at the University of Dayton School of Law, in an e-mail response for this article. "Everything is moving in this direction."

    Digital evidence may play a significant role in the trial of pop superstar Michael Jackson on charges of child molestation.

    Computers were among the items authorities in California seized during their search of Jackson's Neverland Ranch in November 2003. Once the territory of child pornography and computer fraud, digital evidence figures into every crime that can leave an electronic trail.

    The changing world of technology is challenging courts to keep pace with new laws addressing potential evidence and preserving privacy, legal analysts say.

    Police officials say that the U.S. war on terrorism may create a shortage of digital analysts at the local law enforcement level.

    In the wired world, almost every crime intersects with the digital realm at one time or another.

    "Digital evidence is simply a number of rows of ones and zeros ... whenever a computer is used to facilitate a crime," said Fred Demma, an expert on computer crime at the U.S. Air Force's computer research laboratory in Rome, New York.

    Laptops, digital cameras, phones and hard drives provide mountains of raw data for experts to sift through, part of the expanding field of computer forensics.

    A single file, credit card purchase or stray e-mail message can provide the proof that clinches a case.

    "It's incredibly important," said Jeffrey Toobin, senior legal analyst for CNN. "Data such as e-mail has become indispensable, particularly in the prosecution of white-collar crime."

    Digital search
    Law enforcement officials hope to become as technologically savvy as the criminals they pursue.

    "In modern day era of crime ... what you're going to find is a room full of computer, telephone lines and network address and that's about it," Demma said. "In many cases, that's what you start with."

    That may be enough, some investigators say.

    The NYPD's computer crime squad, founded in 1995, has taken on a wide range of criminal activity -- from pedophilia to corporate espionage -- using a team of technicians and specially trained detectives.

    Every year, it has put more and more people behind bars, said John Otero, the squad's commanding officer.

    "If I were to tell you we are 100 percent caught up to the bad guys, I'd be lying," said. Otero. "We're always in a catch-up situation. The key is to be so close to their tail they don't have the chance to breathe ."

    One section of Otero's 32-member squad scours the Internet for potential child molesters, drug dealers and others who may engage in illegal activities.

    Another investigates suspicious activity by setting up electronic wiretaps and sifting through data logs that detectives can investigate within hours -- the shelf life for many electronic clues.

    In one recent case, the NYPD seized a computer of a child pornographer, assumed his identity and continued the ruse to launch 43 spinoff investigations and arrests across Europe and North America.

    "Ultimately, it's still an investigation and it comes down to good police work," Otero said. "All NYPD is using are the tools available to us to keep up with these guys."

    Legal strategy
    Law governing digital evidence still lags behind the reality of cyber-crime. There are few legal precedents to guide judges who often have little experience in the mercurial world of digital technology.

    "It makes life difficult ... because law changes very slowly," said the University of Dayton's Brenner. "We have judges who did not grow up with computers and so many do not understand the technology and issues it raises."

    There is also a bottleneck of highly trained personnel to comb through evidence. Police report an acute shortage of detectives and lawyers trained in electronic police work.

    "Part of the biggest obstacles we've had to overcome is having to get savvy lawyers and judges to understand what we do," Otero said.

    The fight against terrorism means people with these skills will remain at a premium, potentially depriving smaller police departments of such personnel.

    The demand is only likely to increase as the volume of cases with digital evidence increases, according to the Department of Justice.

    "Cyber-crime is obviously something that is a national priority," said Steve Bunnell, chief of the criminal division at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C., which recently established a cyber-crime division.

    "Computer crimes are something that crosses borders. ...There is really a premium on getting the right and left hand working together," Bunnell said.

    Courtrooms and universities are welcoming more lawyers specializing in electronic crime. They are setting the stage for the evolution of "cyber-law" as the debate over digital evidence -- and what limits may be put on it -- is raging among legal scholars and law enforcement, Brenner said.

    "Our search and seizure laws evolved in a bricks and mortar era and therefore are not well suited for a digital environment," she said.

    Police must now re-evaluate how they obtain evidence. Information obtained in an electronic search can be thrown out if it violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    But how far does protection extend on a computer hard drive? What about e-mails and files sent over the Internet?

    Some judges at the state and federal level have restricted the conduct of electronic searches by law enforcement, insisting officers follow certain procedures or methodologies. Police and prosecutors disagree, arguing that a judge can only issue warrants, not dictate its terms.

    "This is a new issue," Brenner said. "In the real world, police go execute a warrant to find stolen tires ... and bring them back, end of story.

    "In digital searches, police search for a computer, find the computer, bring it back and then subject the data on it to various kinds of searches."

    The thorny questions about privacy and the sanctity of personal data loom as digital technology is inextricably linked to our daily lives.

    Brenner predicts we will need to revisit the laws designed during an earlier, simpler age.

    "I'm not sure you can say we 'choose' to use technology today," she said. "And I think the situation will only become that much worse."
    "Data is not necessarily information. Information does not necessarily lead to knowledge. And knowledge is not always sufficient to discover truth and breed wisdom." --Spaf
    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job. --Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
    "...people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right." - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

  2. #2
    AO Senior Cow-beller
    Moderator
    zencoder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Mountain standard tribe.
    Posts
    1,177
    *Pheh*
    Brenner predicts we will need to revisit the laws designed during an earlier, simpler age.
    'We will need' to do this? It's been needed for 10 years.

    Overall, I'm glad to see the article discussing this subject and geared towards the general populace.
    "Data is not necessarily information. Information does not necessarily lead to knowledge. And knowledge is not always sufficient to discover truth and breed wisdom." --Spaf
    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job. --Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
    "...people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right." - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

  3. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    37
    This is really nice, but I think we still have some obstacles ahead.

    As mentioned, most lawyers and judges don't understand the scope of new technology. I thnk first we have to train lawyers and judges to make them take on board the new technology.

    How could a judge make an informed judgment if the lawyer has some digital evidnenes?? He would obviously make a prejudice judgment!

    So I think that we still have some years for our courtes be more integrated with digital evidence!

    Just thoughts!

    Cheers

  4. #4
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Posts
    40
    Exactly, but another thought, if they have full access to the machine couldn't they in theory insure that the evidence they want is there. And even if it wasn't actually there, what's to stop the "good guys" from saying it was there anyways, the article points out a lacking knowledge on the part of the judges and lawyers, so how would they know for sure that the evidence hasn't been compromised...It's simple, I don't think that (at this time) there is a way that these individuals will know for SURE that the evidence that they have "found" has actually been found and that it was already there...It's the word of the authorities and we all know that a lot of them are as crooked as a politician. So it becomes the word of a possibly corrupt public officer against the word of the individual, whom he/she has deemed a criminal. I think there need to be more safeguards against the tampering of digital evidence before it becomes more widely used.

    Also think about the fact that their whole case can be lost with a simple (by simple I mean calling the right program into execution) whipe.
    --BigDick


    \"When in Rome, eat Rome!\" -Godzilla

  5. #5
    AO Senior Cow-beller
    Moderator
    zencoder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Mountain standard tribe.
    Posts
    1,177
    Opeth:
    Actually, that's a common misconception. Judges and lawyers are not necessarily experts on psychology, DNA, or accounting/banking/financial practices, yet civil and criminal cases are plead with these subjects constantly. It's a creates a need for having the 'experts' who can explain the concepts and testify to them confidently before a jury, judge, and lawyers who are not going to have the same level of experience or knowledge.

    You are correct that their unfamiliarity with the subject matter can cause biased or uninformed decisions, but the same holds for all specialized areas of knowledge. The difference with information technology is that advances in the field and the proliferation of computers in homes and offices make people comfortable with the subject, and they don't have a realistic viewpoint of their *lack* of knowledge. One of the other members (sorry, I forget who) has this article linked in their .sig as, I suspect, a lark, but it is a very pertinent point..
    "Data is not necessarily information. Information does not necessarily lead to knowledge. And knowledge is not always sufficient to discover truth and breed wisdom." --Spaf
    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job. --Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
    "...people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right." - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    510
    I thnk first we have to train lawyers and judges to make them take on board the new technology.
    I think the judges and prosecutor's anyway. There will be a lot of financial incentive for defense lawyer to learn about this on their own. Maybe it would be different in the US where your DS's and judges are elected, a little more incentive to evolve than here in Canada.
    \"You got a mouth like an outboard motor..all the time putt putt putt\" - Foghorn Leghorn

  7. #7
    AO Senior Cow-beller
    Moderator
    zencoder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Mountain standard tribe.
    Posts
    1,177
    BigDick:
    Computer Forensics is a whole evolved field consisting of how to capture this data, copy it, and work on the copy, certifying what has and has not been changed in the process. As for your suggestion that the "good guys" are planting evidence and creating cases...I think a little more life experience will help you to understand that the people doing this work have more than enough to do without having to manufacture cases or evidence. They don't let any 'ole Billy Ray Hick**** become an FBI Forensic Examiner just because he knows how to use "Winder's Nintah' Ate".

    Are there corrupt officials? Almost certainly. How many? Far less than you describe. It's a popular subject that Hollywood flirts with constantly, but there are so many checks and balances in place that anyone with aspirations in this area get's weeded out pretty quickly.

    If it was so common and easy, why didn't they nail every swinging dick from Enron to the wall with their 'ensured evidence'? That would have been a major poitical coup for many major federal investigators, considering public opinion of the company, it's state, etc.

    Sorry, not trying to harp on you, it's just an area that I am intimately familiar with, and these are people I know and work closely with. They work hard, they don't have nearly as many successes as we would all like due to legal rerstrictions and the problems described here, and they don't get nearly the respect or acknowledgement they deserve.
    "Data is not necessarily information. Information does not necessarily lead to knowledge. And knowledge is not always sufficient to discover truth and breed wisdom." --Spaf
    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job. --Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
    "...people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right." - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

  8. #8
    Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    37
    I did not mean to train them to make them technology gurues, no. But they have to know at least the basices of technology and what it can afford to the court...

    An example:

    Lawyer: Mr.Judge, the accused person was in NY city at the same time of the crime {Washington DC}?
    Judge: How come?
    Lawyer: We found out that the accused has sent an e-mail to his brother in England, after tracing the IP you come up that he was not in Washington DC.
    Judge {Unconvinced}: The person is pleaded guilty.

    This would happen if the judge don't know that IPs may indicate the place of the person, on the other hand he also must also know that it could happen that some one may manipulate with their IP....

  9. #9
    AO Senior Cow-beller
    Moderator
    zencoder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Mountain standard tribe.
    Posts
    1,177
    Opeth:
    One phrase answers this: "Subect Matter Experts". that is what I was discussing. The judge doesn't need to know this, just as he doesn't need to understand the documented behavioral anomalies of serial killers. The psychologist comes in and explains it to him. Same with technology. If the judge remains unconvinced, you have an ignorant/thick skulled judge, or a poor 'Expert', or both.
    "Data is not necessarily information. Information does not necessarily lead to knowledge. And knowledge is not always sufficient to discover truth and breed wisdom." --Spaf
    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job. --Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
    "...people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right." - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

  10. #10
    Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    37
    You might be right! But dont' you think that having the very baisc information about technology might help the judges to make more informed decisions.

    I still think that in cases that conatins Digital Evidences should be lead by judges who know some, not necessarily copmuter gurues, baiscs. Just to aviod bias or misinformed judgments.

    That's what i believe in!


    Cheers

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •