What is Digital Forensics?


Image retrieved from Adam Erickson’s blog Digital Forensics

Forensics plays a huge role in the criminal justice system, whether the evidence obtained is physical or digital. Collecting enough evidence is necessary for law enforcement to have a trial against the suspect. Digital forensics can vary on many types of levels in the criminal justice field. Taylor et al (2015) state, “Civil court applications of digital forensics can include any aspect of computer science or information science” (p. 297). Digital forensics should be handled and processed with the proper care physical evidence is. Once the evidence is collected it should be analyzed by forensic scientists who specialize in digital forensics.

When an analyst is given the evidence, they attempt to discover the truth. They search for evidence in order “to find information that is in itself incriminating (e.g. child pornography) or evidence that helps establish the elements of a crime (e.g., paper trail for a fraud case)” (Taylor et al., p. 306, 2015). Analysts follow guidelines published by the National Institute of Justice. In Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for First Responders, law enforcement agencies are instructed on how to preserve digital evidence from an electronic crime scene. After all the evidence is collected, the analyst writes up a report “describing what evidence was identified, what elements of the crime it proposes to establish, how the evidence was identified, and finally how and why any summaries of evidence were created” (Taylor et al., p. 308, 2015). Though the guidelines seem easy to follow, unfortunately there have been complications with how digital forensic evidence is used when in court.

Challenges have seemed to arise in court for evidence that encompass digital forensics. Technology is always changing on a daily basis and this can have some major impacts for the field of digital forensics. When producing digital evidence in court, it often gets overlooked compared to physical evidence. An article on the website The Conversation, states “digital evidence tendered in court often fails to meet the same high standards expected of more established forensics practices, particularly in ensuring the evidence is what it purports to be” (Boddington, R.). Even though the evidence is not “physical” like in many cases, it is important for the court system to hold digital evidence to the same level.

Digital forensics is still relatively new and forensic scientists continue to work out the problems that encompass the field. Forensic scientists who focus on this specialty are encouraged to obtain better forensic practices and tools to collect digital evidence. This is an important factor because of the “increasing size of data storage on some personal computing devices, let alone cloud and network storage, which presents greater recovery and jurisdictional challenges to practitioners” (Boddington, R.). Technology is only going to keep on advancing and it is crucial for the forensic scientists to stay up to date on digital crimes and technology. It is going to be interesting to see what the future of digital forensics holds as computer crimes improve over the next few years.


Boddington, R. (n.d.). Cyber CSI: the challenges of digital forensics. The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/cyber-csi-the-challenges-of-digital-forensics-37902

Taylor, R., Fritsch, E., & Liederbach, J. (2015). Digital forensics. In Digital crime and digital terrorism (Third e., pp. 297-320). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.


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