The field of Computer Forensics is fast becoming a popular option for individuals who are technologically savvy and analytical minded. The marriage of crime solving using evidence within computer and technology systems, broadly speaking, is known as computer forensics. Since computers and technology have become ubiquitous in our society both for personal and business use; traces of crimes committed are increasingly found by examining data within these devices. This not only includes a computer hard drive; but also includes other devices such as blackberry’s, cell phones, and similar PDA devices. Any device that stores information such as emails, text messages, or internet usage can contain clues about someone suspected of committing a crime.
Common Uses of Computer Forensics
Anytime you hear the word “white collar” crime, you can bet that a Computer Forensics Analyst is heavily involved in investigating the case. These highly trained professionals may be employed by the business where the suspect works, conducting investigations based on red flags raised within the companies human resources group. In addition, local and federal law enforcement agencies employ Computer Forensics Analysts to conduct research and gather evidence to be used in a court of law.
One common use of computer forensics is to track and prosecute child pornography offenders. If an individual is suspected of consuming or producing child pornography, their computer equipment may be seized by local authorities and examined by these trained professionals. The Forensics Analyst will perform tasks such as examining the hard drive, looking for sexually explicit materials or searching through historical data on web sites visited or created by the suspect. A cell phone may be seized and examined to determine if the suspect was attempting to contact under age victims. Due to the now common utilization of such technology, there are usually many clues to be gleaned from such investigations.
Another common use for computer forensics is the investigation of the various types of cyber crimes committed. Since the internet is still in its early stages, the vulnerability to crime is great. While there have been several improvements to security; the fact remains that cyber crime is still a major concern. Identity Theft and Phishing scams in which highly sensitive personal and financial information is taken from innocent people through a variety of tactics, continues to be a priority for law enforcement. Tracing these activities back through sometimes sophisticated schemes is the primary goal. In some cases, federal agencies must operate on an international level, which can be more complicated and requires involvement by the FBI.
Violent Crimes, including homicide are another area in which computer forensics has proven to make or break cases with compelling evidence. Again, the examination of communications or other data stored on any technological device can provide clues to the character, state of mind, and communication patterns of a suspect. In earlier days, the examination of phone records was an important aspect of a violent crimes investigation. Now, with the use of the internet, texting, and email, there is a wider selection of data to pull from when conducting an investigation.
The above examples are just a few of the many uses of computer forensics. Any crime committed or any investigation conducted where the use of technology is involved is potentially within the spectrum of computer forensics. The field is increasingly becoming a central part of criminal investigations, and trained professionals who are both tech savvy and analytical with formal training, are being sought out for these positions.