Accuracy is the Key in Computer Forensics

29 July 2011

Computer forensics is high pressure work…with evidence discovered by computer forensic analysis playing a vital role in convicting criminals and clearing people that are innocent. Therefore the key word in any computer forensic investigation is always the same: accuracy.

This is highlighted by the problems incurred in the recent Casey Anthony case. On July 5, 2011, the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her two-year old daughter Caylee Anthony, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child, but guilty of four misdemeanour counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer.

A key piece of evidence for the prosecutors was a report prepared by a software program called CacheBack, which the state argued showed 84 web searches for chloroform being made on the Anthony computer. However, the owner of CacheBack stated that this was actually incorrect. Another report by Orange County Sheriff’s office using NetAnalysis (that returned only one search result for chloroform) was deemed to be correct.

While this “mistake” hasn’t caused the suspicion of Casey Anthony to go into overdrive, it certainly hasn’t helped matters. It’s the old “no smoke without fire” phrase that means the traces of chloroform found in Anthony’s car boot, coupled with the internet searches mean that suspicion will always follow Casey Anthony around. Is the fact that the (wrong) report using CacheBacks was used and reported led to the murky clouds to become even murkier? This is unfortunately a possibility.

Whatever the reason for the ‘84 web searches’ evidence being used (be it software and/or human error) it should goes to highlight that the evidence needs to be accurate before being submitted.  There is a big difference between one solitary search…and 84 searches…which would perhaps suggest thorough research into the complexities of chloroform.

This debacle shouldn’t have had any influence on the final verdict, but inaccuracies like this, without personally knowing the detailed complexities of the case, are a major set-back for the entire computer forensics industry.

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