Monday, November 13

Role of Digital Proofs in Criminal Investigation

The number of Internet users in India has been on the rise in the recent past and so has been the number of cybercrime cases. Every good thing comes with its own set of perks. The more we minimize these perks, the better experience we can get from any entity. Internet’s importance in today’s world needs no mention, everyone is aware of its seemingly endless usages. With its seemingly endless usages comes a seemingly endless world of cyber crimes. From risking human lives to fraudulently duping billions of money, criminals have found a way to execute all their evil crimes online. A little in-depth knowledge can make anyone capable of hacking into someone else’s personal systems.

Victims of cyber crimes are mostly unaware of what is to be done after they’ve fallen prey to some evil trap online. The only things that can help them get justice are potential digital evidence. In the court of law, digital evidence is the only way how a victim can prove the cybercrime he/she has fallen prey to. However, not many people are aware of what exactly is included in the digital evidence and to what extent it can be used in the court of law against cyber crimes. To explain the entire role of potential digital evidence in cybercrime investigation, we have come up with this little extract that tries to make digital evidence more potent in helping out cybercrime victims.

What Is Digital Evidence?

Before understanding anything else, we first need to understand what a potential digital evidence actually is. Any piece of evidence that is stored or transmitted in a digital form and can be used to prove a point is termed as a digital evidence. These include ATM transaction logs, video or audio evidence, computer printouts, computer backups, CCTV footages, databases, browser history, phone records, GPS location, e-mails, and everything else that has a digital background. Just like any other evidence, the authenticity of digital evidences too needs a check. For checking the authenticity of potential digital evidences, digital forensic experts are referred. Based on what the digital evidence is, the court has the right to decide whether an original is required or a copy will be enough. In case of cyber crimes, it is most likely that digital evidences become the only solid proof as every step of the crime committed involves the usage of a computer.

What Is Their Role In Criminal Investigations?

A cyber crime cannot be committed without the usage of a computer system and at most times, Internet. Thus, the role of digital evidences in cybercrime investigations becomes the most important thing. It involves no physical evidences or eye witnesses, all it has for a record are digital logs and reports that are capable enough of rewarding justice to the victim. In case of an Social media threats or scam through a phishing mail, the victim has to present a printout or the mail to the court of law which gets authenticated through the digital forensic laboratories before being considered as a digital proof. Once authenticated, further investigations are carried out and the criminal is traced by tracing the sender’s IP address. Thus, from proving the crime to executing the criminal, digital evidences play a key role throughout the investigation of a cyber crime case.

Are Digital Evidences Reliable?

The biggest concerns with digital evidence are their vulnerability of being tampered easily. This doesn’t hamper the reliability of digital evidences by any means. However, this gives a chance to the culprits to plot another plan and escape unscathed. In a recent case of online sexual abuse, the victim had presented proper digital evidence of the text/mail sent from the culprit that contained abusive messages initially. However, in the later hearings, the culprit tampered with the evidence and presented his side of digital evidences which showed that the messages were never sent. The victim ended up getting charged for filing a false case against a respected individual. This draws a big question mark on the credibility of digital evidences. Are they worthy of deciding justice for someone? Probably the answer still remains yes given they are the only way of proving a cyber crime. In the case discussed, it became difficult for the court to decide which digital evidence was real. There was another record of the conversation and that was with the service provider. Had the victim asked the court to extract that detail, the result could have easily been so different and that detail would most probably have been the original one. Thus, the court of law has formulated another set of instructions which are supposed to be followed before presenting the digital evidence. Anyone found presenting a manipulated digital evidence or is found tampering any digital evidence gets charged under Section 204 of the IPC and Section 65 of the ITA 2000/8 for the destruction of evidence.

The final conclusion that can be drawn from this case is the fact that potential digital evidences are much more reliable only if used in a proper manner. The American Law Reports lists out a few proponents that help make the role of digital evidences more potent. It states “the reliability of the computer equipment”, “the manner in which the basic data was initially entered”, “the measures taken to ensure the accuracy of the data as entered”, “the method of storing the data and the precautions taken to prevent its loss”, “the reliability of the computer programs used to process the data”, and “the measures taken to verify the accuracy of the program” should all be taken into consideration while involving a digital evidence into any criminal investigations. A few guidelines have also been laid by some top nations to ensure the reliability of digital evidences. The UK ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) Guidelines help them affirm the integrity and authenticity of any digital evidence.

Tampering with any digital evidence is considered to be a cyber crime. In India, the scenario is much more different than UK. Most of the people are hardly aware of the IT Act or what a cyber crime actually means. This renders the potential digital evidences more vulnerable and a bit useless for a majority of India’s population. To make the role of potential digital evidences more significant, it is necessary to spread cyber security awareness amongst the Indian masses to tackle cyber crime with relative ease.

Indian Cyber Army (ICA) aims at building a digital environment safe for everyone who enters it. It tries to spread cyber security awareness through its various programmes that educate people about all the cyber threats prevalent in the digital world. Anyone who falls victim to any cyber crime can easily reach out to ICA for help through their 24×7 cyber crime helpline number. Their highly skilled professionals remain available to help out everyone who reaches out to them through their cyber crime helpline numbers.


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