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Computer Forensics – Past, Present and Future, Research Paper Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1487

Research Paper

Computer forensics has become a powerful branch of forensic science.  Due to the relevance of personal computers and other computing systems in potential crimes, computer forensics has emerged as an important discipline.  Its aim is simple: to examine media in order to gather relevant facts to hold up in a court of law or events surrounding computer crimes.  As computer forensics can be relevant in computer crimes or other types of events, its impact can certainly be understood in a variety of ways.

Past

The history of computer forensics can be seen alongside the evolution of the personal computer.  It is only natural that, since computers were becoming used for consumers, that crimes would naturally develop.  It is in this context that computer crimes and related terms developed.

This trend could be seen in the 1980s.  One of the first notable crimes related to computer forensics occurred in 1982, when a group known as the 414s broke into 60 computer systems used by hospitals.  The coverage on this story is notable, which included TIME Magazine (1983) and others.  Other publications used the term “hacker,” which led to one of the first such instances in the world of computer security.

Events like this one led to a concentration on computer forensics and related crime issuers.  Following the 1982 hack, the U.S. House of Representatives had hearings and passed several laws on such issues.  The FBI Magnetic Media Program, later known as the Computer Analysis and Response Team (CART), was created just two years later.  By the millennium, the caseload of this program exceeded 2000 cases.

In future years, a number of organizations, tools, and opportunities developed for hacking.  For instance, in 1984, the first conference for the Chaos Communication Congress met in Hamburg.  In the same year, the Secret Service gained jurisdiction over computer fraud.

Most notable is the emergence of the Internet.  A number of historical break ins, such as those of government and corporate computers, in 1986, took place.  Events like these led to the Hacker’s Manifesto – the most famous piece of hacker literature – as well as legislation designed to counteract hacker activity.  As online services allowed consumers more convenience in their lives, hackers were afforded opportunities to commit credit card fraud and other crimes.

The tools and areas in computer forensics from perpetrators were wide and varied.  Casey (2004) notes that computer forensics has been a critical part of criminal law since the 1980s.  As an example, Casey notes the case of Sharon Lopatka, in which hundreds of emails found on her computer led to the capture of her killer, Robert Glass (2004).  Naturally, as the opportunities to take advantage of computers in the 1980s and 1990s increased, so too did the relevance of computer forensics.

Present

The links between issues in computer forensics – from the past to present – are evident.  For example, one of the most recognizable types of malware today has its roots in the “past of computer forensics.”  Trojan Horse programs were around in the 1980s, where the proper start of infectious programs, hacking, and related issues can be said to begin.  Of course, Trojan Horse programs are a feared vehicle for perpetrators of computer today.

The growth of computer crime in recent years is considerable.  For instance, between 2002 and 2003, computer crime and computer-related crime increased by 67 percent (Leigland and Krings, 2004).  This trend is not a simple anomaly between those years, as there have been many prominent stories of computer-related crime in the news.

As anyone can imagine, there have been plenty of attempts to counteract the increase in computer-related crimes.  A number of free and commercial analysis tools exist for computer forensics specialists, such as those that review registry files.  Investigators will also often capture volatile data present on the machine, if it is still active.  Tools for extracting RAM data are popular to capture such volatile data, which can play a pivotal role in computer forensics.

One of the primary aspects of computer forensics investigations is found in the techniques that are utilized.  Notable techniques here can be named, such as live analysis, the recovery of deleted files, and steganography.  One of these techniques, cross-drive analysis, can be instrumental in analyzing bulk data.  Garfinkel (2004) noted that cross-drive analysis was able to immediately identify drives containing a high concentration of financial records, as well as clusters originating from the same organization – after analyzing 750 images of drives acquired on the secondary market.

These types of examples allow anyone to see the sheer power of computer forensics investigations.  By gathering all necessary information, specialists can also complete a report to be used in court to aid in a formal investigation.  They can also testify in court against the perpetrator.

The uses of computer forensics goes outside the “normal” areas of criminal activities.  It is common for businesses to take it upon themselves to hire computer forensic specialists.  Such an example can be for something as simple as determining if employees are using their computer for personal use, or something more egregious.  Due to the high cost of cybercrime, businesses hire specialists – and even former hackers – to test the computer network of the business.  Some experts state that angry employees are more likely to attack a firm than independent hackers.  Such considerations make the choice of a business to hire a specialist independently a strong one, rather than taking a more traditional approach to security.

As a result of computer and computer-related crime developments, computer forensics is a large and exciting field.  The development of computer forensics – since its inception a few decades ago to an ever-reaching field today – is quite drastic over the last 30 to 40 years.  Challenges exist on both sides.  For instance, specialists will have to keep up with the growing encryption-based standards that could make it difficult to decrypt and then piece together messages.

Future

A number of items are on the horizon for computer forensics.  One of these is seen with DNA testing, which is quickly becoming the standard in forensic science.  As it relates to computer forensics, DNA integration could become a major part of future developments in the field.  Technology could be developed to help test and catalog items in this field, making it relevant to computer-based investigations.  Even those that aren’t directly related to computer crimes can be aided in such tools and techniques.  In general, forensic services that can help preserve, collect, process, and scientifically test are on the rise – computer forensics as it relates to DNA testing is no exception here.

Naturally, biometrics and fingerprinting is integrated into this discussion.  As they fall under the wide range of services under high demand, biometrics and fingerprinting can help specialists counter computer and computer-related crimes.  This area of forensics has been linked to an incredibly notably story, in that of the tracking of Osama Bin Laden.  According to Adrian Covert, sources of the National Review named biometric analysis and forensics training as helpful in the mission (2011).

The future of computer forensics is not limited to investigations.  Methods and techniques linked to computer forensics can be used for non-investigative purposes – like data mapping and privacy risk assessment – as well as prevention, assurance, and compliance.  Companies can use these types of techniques in less serious situations, such as in the case of an accidentally deleted file.  The future of computer forensics has wide implications across the board.

Conclusion

Computer forensics has quickly exploded from its roots in the 1980s to a wide and dynamic field.  Evolving along with the state of computers, the Internet, and business, computer forensics has played an undeniably important role in security.  Today it represents an incredibly wide field that is deep an integral.

The wide-reaching nature of computer forensics is worthy of particular note.  Currently, such techniques, tools, and overall expertise is used to battle cybercrime as well as seemingly non-related crime.  Yet, it does not stop there – computer forensics can be used independently by businesses to protect and test data, as well as serve other uses such as accidental deletion of vital data.

As computer forensics continues to evolve and change, its uses, techniques, and tools will also continue to grow.  There are other specific items that are relevant, such as the integration of DNA mapping, biometrics, and other that will be important to watch.  As computer technology continues to emerge and grow, so too must computer forensics to keep up with it across all industries.  Computer forensics will continue to grow along with its undeniable usefulness.

References

Casey, E. (2004). Digital Evidence and Computer Crime. London: Academic Press.

Covert, A. (2011). Forensics, biometrics and classified technologies helped track Bin Laden in his compound. Gizmodo.  Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/5797741/forensics-biometrics-and-classified-technologies-helped-track-bin-laden-in-his-compound

Garfinkel, S. L. (2006). Forensic feature extraction and cross-drive analysis. Digital Investigation, 3S, S71-S81.

Leigland, R, and Krings, A. W. (2004). A Formalization of Digital Forensics. International Journal of Digital Evidence, 3(2).

Murphy, J., Elmer-Dewitt, P., and Krance, M (1983), Computers: The 414 Gang Strikes Again. TIME Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,949797-1,00.html

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