The proliferation of computer use in today's networked society is creating some complex side effects in the application of the age-old greed, jealousy, and revenge. Criminals are becoming much more sophisticated in committing crimes. Computers are being encountered in almost every type of criminal activity. Gangs use computers to clone mobile telephones and to re-encode credit cards. Drug dealers use computers to store their transaction ledgers. Child pornography distributors use the Internet to peddle and trade their wares.
Fraud schemes have been advertised on the Internet. Counterfeiters and forgers use computers to make passable copies of paper currency or counterfeit cashiers checks, and to create realistic looking false identification.In addition, information stored in computers has become the target of criminal activity. Information such as social security and credit card numbers, intellectual property, proprietary information, contract information, classified documents, etc., have been targeted. Further, the threat of malicious destruction of software, employee sabotage, identity theft, blackmail, sexual harassment, and commercial and government espionage is on the rise.
Personnel problems are manifesting themselves in the automated environment with inappropriate or unauthorized use complaints resulting in lawsuits against employers as well as loss of proprietary information costing millions of dollars. All of this has led to an explosion in the number and complexity of computers and computer systems encountered in the course of criminal or internal investigations and the subsequent seizure of computer systems and stored electronic communications.
Computer evidence has become a 'fact of life' for essentially all law enforcement agencies and many are just beginning to explore their options in dealing with this new venue. Almost overnight, personal computers have changed the way the world does business. They have also changed the world's view of evidence because computers are used more and more as tools in the commission of 'traditional' crimes. Evidence relative to embezzlement, theft, extortion and even murder has been discovered on personal computers. This new technology twist in crime patterns has brought computer evidence to the forefront in law enforcement circles