Challenges & Trends in Digital Crime

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

As new digital technologies emerge, so too must forensics experts in understanding their implications. In this lesson, we'll talk about some of the latest challenges and trends used by today's cybercriminals.

Changing Times

It seems like it's always been around - DNA evidence - but that's just not the case. It wasn't the case in 1983 when Colin Pitchfork killed the first of his two victims in Leicestershire, England. It still wasn't the case three years later when Pitchfork struck again. But, it would be his undoing in 1987 when he became the first person ever to be convicted of murder based on DNA fingerprinting. And, we've relied on the science behind it ever since.

Just as traditional forensics has changed so too has digital forensics.
technology, digital, crime, challenges, trends, iot, cloud, investigation

That's just one example of how things have changed over the years and how forensics and investigations have changed with them. The first computer crime occurred in the mid-1960s. Almost assuredly, the way law enforcement investigated that case would be vastly different than how they would investigate the same type of case today. And, think about the impact mobile devices have had in digital forensics. It's an even newer field than computing!

The rapid development and evolutions of devices and technologies present a crucial challenge in digital forensics cases. As new technologies emerge, forensics experts must adapt to understand how they are being used to either commit - or prevent - digital crimes.

Let's take a look at four areas where new technologies have emerged and the implications they might have for digital forensics investigations

Evolving Technologies

Stop and think about all of the new technologies that have been introduced just in your lifetime: maybe it was the laptop, portable music players, the internet, smartphones or social media. A lot can happen in a short period! Here are a few recent entries into the technology world that are impacting how forensics experts do their jobs.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is a delivery model that allows users to access networks, software, storage and more - all over the internet. If you've got too many pictures on your computer, transfer them to cloud storage and voila, you've freed up valuable hard drive space.

Cloud computing is renowned for its vastness, which also makes it one of the biggest challenges facing forensic investigators today. The structure of the cloud, the various delivery models and the services that exist inside it are all a lot of new territories for investigators to have to cover. The fact that experts will be dealing with a virtual space instead of a physical device will require a different approach to an investigation.

For example, forensics experts are accustomed to following specific protocols to collect and preserve data. With information living in the cloud, there are going to be challenges in following standard information-gathering measures. Another issue that presents itself is gaining access to the user's specific cloud and ensuring they've retrieved everything necessary to an investigation - no small task.


It's a funny-sounding mash-up of a word, but botnets (a network of computer ''robots'') are becoming a more prevalent tool of cybercriminals to do everything from mining cryptocurrency and to spreading malware and ransomware to attack websites and steal users' data. And, if it's on cybercriminals' radar, then it certainly needs to be on forensics experts' radar as well.

The cybercriminals behind these botnets are undertaking numerous deception strategies to hide the existence of bots, as well as implementing techniques to make it harder for forensics experts to analyse. And, because these botnets are designed to do a lot of damage to a large number of devices simultaneously, gathering all of the forensic evidence can be challenging.

Mobile Devices

How often do you hear investigations on TV talking about using an individual's smartphone to build a case against them? It's becoming more and more prevalent. A shift toward increased usage of mobile devices is causing forensics experts to shift the types of devices they want to analyse and the methods necessary to extract the data.

The primary challenge here with mobile devices is merely the rapidly expanding nature of them. Let's consider the Apple iPhone. First introduced in 2007, it has already had more than a dozen models launched in the market. Are you starting to see the challenge? Each of those is just slightly different in its structure, file systems and protocols. And, that's only the iPhone!

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