Bulletin Reports

Digital Evidence and Forensics

Criminals often use computers to commit crimes; but, thanks to the growing science of digital evidence forensics, law enforcement officers now use computers to fight crime. Digital evidence usually is associated with electronic crimes such as child pornography or credit card fraud; however, it can be used to prosecute all types of crimes. For example, suspects' e-mail or cell phone files may contain critical evidence regarding their intent, their location at the time a crime occurred, and their relationship with the victim or other suspects. By using digital evidence forensics in 2005, a floppy disk led investigators to the BTK serial killer, who killed at least 10 victims but managed to evade capture since 1974.

In an effort to fight electronic crime and to collect evidence for all crimes, law enforcement agencies often are turning to the collection and analysis of digital evidence, also known as computer forensics. However, agencies and departments are challenged by the need to train officers to collect this evidence and to keep up with rapidly evolving technology.

The National Institute of Justice Electronic Crime Program, which includes the Electronic Crime Center of Excellence, supports the development of tools to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in combating electronic crime and collecting digital evidence. The program consists of five main focus areas:

  • Mobile and Cellular Device Forensics Tools
  • Digital Evidence Investigative Tools
  • Digital Evidence Analysis Tools
  • Digital Forensic Training
  • Digital Forensics Standards and Capacity Building

Additional information on the National Institute of Justice Electronic Crime Program may be found at http://www.nij.gov/topics/forensics/evidence/digital/pages/welcome.aspx.