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Computer Forensics is the Key for Criminal Investigations

5 June 2011

Computer forensics analysis of Google searches are becoming a more and more effective method of finding evidence in cases (usually murder) that you wouldn’t initially suspect that computer forensics would be needed for.

One of the most shocking recent instances of this is the attempted murder of an 89 year old granddad whose family plotted to kill him. This plot included young teenage sisters of 14 and 15, their 48-year-old mother, 18-year-old brother and his 16-year-old girlfriend. Computer forensics analysts discovered grotesque search engine searches such as ‘the easiest way to kill an old person’, ‘1,000 ways to die’, ‘how to kill someone’, ‘ten easy ways to kill someone with no trace’, ‘can you kill someone with a punch?’, ‘dangerous drugs for the elderly’, ‘sugar in petrol tank’, ‘delayed symptoms of concussion’, ‘if you hit someone across the back of the head with a brick will they die or just get a bruise?’, ‘poisonous salts’ and ‘easiest way to kill an old person’. The victim survived an alleged attack by his adopted daughters with bricks wrapped in plastic by the two girls. The group are currently standing trial.

Another current case that has really captured the American media’s attention (rather like the OJ Simpson case caused a media storm) is the alleged felony murder of Caylee Anthony by her mother Casey Anthony.  Caylee’s remains were discovered in woodland 6 months after she has been reported missing. Prosecutors claim that computer forensic analysis revealed search engine searches on a computer used by Casey Anthony for “how to make chloroform,” “neck breaking,” “self defense” in March 2008, with traces of chloroform found in Casey Anthony’s car boot. The searches were found in a portion of the computer’s hard drive that indicated they had been deleted, Detective Sandra Osborne of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office testified. However, this is just evidence in an on-going trial, so may not lead to an actual conviction.

Computer forensic investigations are able to recover a computer’s website history, search terms used, deleted emails and attachments, deleted images, and all online chat and instant messaging activity etc. A person’s online activities and entire character can be unearthed by analysing their hard drive, which has since proved to be very effective in modern policing and within the courtroom in recent years.

These cases go to show that digital, mobile, and computer forensics are now firmly established and now even plays a vital role in every criminal investigation these days that it won’t be long before the role of a computer forensics analyst become THE most important role within investigations and during the court process.

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