Computer Forensics - Overview


In the early 1980s personal computers became more accessible to consumers leading to their increased use in criminal activity (for example, to help commit fraud). At the same time, several new "computer crimes" were recognized (such as hacking). The discipline of computer forensics emerged during this time as a method to recover and investigate digital evidence for use in court. Since then computer crime and computer related crime has grown exponentially, and even has jumped 67% between 2002 and 2003. Today it is used to investigate a wide variety of crime, including child pornography, fraud, cyberstalking, murder and rape. The discipline also features in civil proceedings as a form of information gathering (for example, Electronic discovery)

Forensic techniques and expert knowledge are used to explain the current state of a digital artifact; such as a computer system, storage medium (e.g. hard disk or CD-ROM), an electronic document (e.g. an email message or JPEG image). The scope of a forensic analysis can vary from simple information retrieval to reconstructing a series of events. In a 2002 book Computer Forensics authors Kruse and Heiser define computer forensics as involving "the preservation, identification, extraction, documentation and interpretation of computer data". They go on to describe the discipline as "more of an art than a science", indicating that forensic methodology is backed by flexibility and extensive domain knowledge. However, while several methods can be used to extract evidence from a given computer the strategies used by law enforcement are fairly rigid and lacking the flexibility found in the civilian world.

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