Discussion Topic 1: Several states have adopted a licensure requirement in order to practice digital forensics as an investigator as a means to establish minimum competency requirements. What do you see the role of education playing in digital forensics? What critical success factors contribute to overall investigator competence?
It is highly probable that a time is coming when all computer specialists will need to be licensed by either a professional organization or the government in a manner that is similar to other professions such as lawyers, doctors and engineers. The justification underpinning licensing in some professions is that one’s job has a profound impact on the lives of other people. The initial intent of licensing is to safeguard the public incompetent professionals and quacks, however many have criticized its effectiveness and highlighted the negative outcomes of licensing requirements of some professions (Clarke, 2010). Basing on this line of argument, licensing requirements is a necessity in digital forensics owing to the fact that forensic experts play a significant role in the present-day society. In this regard, education will play a vital role in licensing requirements of digital forensics. Forensic experts offer expert testimony in court trials, which has a profound effect on whether the alleged criminal is found guilty or not and often subjected to harsh penalties (Newman, 2007). In this regard, it cannot be denied that forensic examiners have a substantial impact on the lives of others; therefore, the profession should be subject to regulatory control through licensing requirements, which can only be enforced through setting minimum education requirements for a digital forensic expert in order to avoid unwanted outcomes in the justice process. Therefore, it can be argued that education will play a significant role in establishing the mandated entry requirements for digital forensics profession and ensuring that forensic examiners pass a licensing examination in order to guarantee their competence.
There are a number of critical success factors that influence the competence of a digital forensics examiner; they include the ability to manage, interpret and analyze evidence and sequence events, ability to preserve and control the scene, and the ability to decide, record, and present the admissible evidence to courts of law. In addition, another critical success factor is the reliability and credibility of the forensic examination results. In this regard, it is imperative to ensure that the forensic examiner follows all the steps required in a forensic process appropriately and correctly from the scene of crime to the court. In line with argument, quality assurance and control procedures can play an instrumental role in ensuring that forensic examiners adhere to all the standard operating procedures (Rowlingson, 2004).
Discussion Topic 2: In your opinion, what are the most encouraging technical developments in digital forensics? What do you feel are the most glaring challenges yet to be adequately addressed?
In my point of view, the most encouraging technical development in digital forensics is the development of software application tools/computer forensics tools to aid the digital forensic examination process. There are a number of computer forensic tools developed to assist forensic examiners during the investigation process. An outstanding example is the Encase forensic tool, which is considered as a standard for analyzing digital media during evidence collection. Encase is one of the computer forensics tools developed by Guidance Software (Guidance Software, 2013). The fundamental use of Encase is to provide an analysis of digital media for forensic investigations, data investigations and recovery. Most of the law enforcement agencies consider the Encase forensic tool as a standard for analyzing digital media during evidence collection. Some of the services available in the software include data acquisition, parsing of file, and retrieval and recovery of data. A typical example where Encase was used in the criminal court was the case of BTK killer, whereby Encase was used for data recovery. Encase forensic was developed for computer forensic practitioners who want to collect evidence in a repeatable manner (Bunting, 2007).
Despite recent technical advancements in digital forensics, there are still a number of challenges that are yet to be addressed. The first challenge relates to the handling of digital forensic evidence; the very nature of digital evidence makes it difficult to handle it without compromising its credibility and reliability. For instance, digital evidence is latent and can only be presented, analyzed and understood by using tools. Digital evidence is usually time-sensitive and fragile in the sense that it can be destroyed or modified easily and exists for a limited time. Technical solutions are yet to be developed to deal with the limitations associated with digital evidence (Vacca, 2005).