Cyber Crime

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A young man, whose actual name is Daniel Bartlam, has been found guilty and jailed for 16 years in the UK for the murder of his mother.  Despite the several lies he told, one of the most important pieces of prosecution evidence was obtained from his computer. Detective Chief Inspector Kate Maynall form Nottingham, where it happened has been quoted saying, “From his computer we recovered a deleted story about a character called Daniel Bartlam who killed his mother in the same circumstances in which Jacqueline was killed”. What this detective is talking about is digital evidence even in this cyber-unrelated case.

Whether the case is digital-related or not, modern investigators across the world today often look for digital technology and cyber space form such an integral part of our life that today’s criminals and culprits often tend to use digital technology while conducting crimes. Evidence that helps establishing such crimes can very often be found in, through and by means of digital equipment. Almost all pieces of digital equipment have an inborn capacity to automatically create and store usage details when they are used or abused. For instance, in the case of the use of a mobile phone, not only details pertaining to calls and messages, but even the movement of the person carrying his communication equipment (for eg, mobile phone) is very well documented, digitally. Hence digital evidence not only helps establish a crime but also confirms the criminal’s involvement in the crime.

The power of the Mobile Phone

Most investigators depend on the suspect’s mobile phone usage details. They trace the calls and messages back to the suspect with the help of his/her mobile phone instrument’s unique codes such as the mobile phone number, IMEI, IMEISV, and the IMSI. Apart from these, these investigators use the mobile phone tower’s TMSI code (that uniquely determines the tower under which the suspect has been roaming) also to precisely prove the suspect’s involvement in the crime. All these codes are indexes to access the digital evidence (that means, the call and message details, with date and time stamps) stored in the data bases kept in the computer server of the mobile service provider of the suspect.

Madhavan, a widower, receives an unsolicited SMS text message from Susan, ostensibly a single female looking for friendship. The innocent exchange of lonely heart texts develops into a warm relationship over the mobile texting system. They agree to meet in a hotel at a neutral city. Madhavan arrives in the city and checks himself into a room at the trusted place and time only to be welcomed by a set of goons who accuse him of having murdered their sister, Susan. They have enough evidence on a mobile phone to prove his long time involvement and agreed tryst with her. He is blackmailed into parting with a huge amount of money in return for a safe way out. Blackmailing stories like this are rampant in this modern digital world and each of these stories reminds the common man of the power of mobile phones to leave digital footprints of their use and abuse.

The attempt here is not just to define or introduce digital evidence but also to answer a few essential questions regarding the implications of the use of digital instruments and their outcomes that are becoming vital for the average person in today’s working world.

mobile-phone-crime

Not just mobile phones but any digital equipment is open to widespread abuse by criminals in a variety of ways, and most of these abuses give rise to criminal charges and suits against these perpetrators. For example, spamming is the abuse of the email system, software privacy is the abuse of software technology, file slacking is the abuse of operating system, IP spoofing is the abuse of network technology, DoS (Denial of Service) attack is the abuse of the internet and pornographic films are the abuse of digital videos technology, just to name a few. While all sorts of digital equipment are generally popular with criminals, a computer probably can be their most favourite tool because of many reasons such as the general proliferation of computer use, the computer’s power to encrypt, keep and deliver data anywhere in the world and the computer’s ability to interface itself (for data transfer) with the entire constellation of digital (audio, video, communications, medical and photographic) devices. However, cyber-crimes are not limited to those mentioned above. These days, traditional crimes like rape, burglary, etc. are committed often by exploiting the power, user friendliness and availability of digital equipment as well as by unethically taking advantage of the easy accessibility to information. Just like Daniel Bartlam and the goons who blackmailed Madhavan, many computer savvy criminals attain user proficiency of digital equipment (and thus again gain easy access to digital information) and widely exploit the equipment itself or the digital information contained in it in order to conduct traditional crimes.

However, many of these criminals are often unaware (or they underestimate) their digital gadgets’ power to store the usage details (as digital data), the investigation agency’s capacity to access these details from the service provider’s computer and further make these details available to the court as digital evidence.