Electronic Crime Scene Investigations; Assessing & Documenting the Situation. I/II

When a computer crime is suspected in the workplace, action must be taken immediately. We’ll take you through a step by step computer crime scene investigation; the same protocol that we security and information specialists conduct.

When securing and evaluating the scene:
• Do not alter the state of an electronic device. If a computer or an electronic device is off, leave it off.
• Remove all unauthorized persons from the area where evidence is to be collected.
• Identify, seize and secure all electronic devices, including personal ones used at work. (Have the employee sign a release or note the type of device and serial number – including the hard drive serial number, if s/he refuses).
• Recognize potential digital evidence in telephones, digital video recorders, other office appliances and motor vehicles.

If the computer is on or the power state cannot be determined:
• Look and listen for indications that the computer is on — e.g., fans running, drives spinning and lit light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
• If you cannot determine the power state of the computer, observe the monitor to determine if it is on, off or in sleep mode.
• Check display screen for signs of data destruction.  Look out for words such as “delete,” “format,” “remove,” “copy,” “move,” “cut” or “wipe.”
• Look for indications that the computer is being accessed remotely and/or signs of ongoing com-
munications with other computers or users — e.g., Instant Messaging (IM) windows or chat rooms.
• Take note of all cameras and determine whether they are active.

Preliminary Interviews
•Separate and identify all persons of interest and record the location they occupied when you entered the scene. Obtain the following information from interviewee(s):
• Purpose of computers and devices.
• All users of the computers and devices.
• Type of Internet access and Internet service provider.
• Computer and Internet user information — e.g., login names, user account names and passwords, and Instant Message screen names.
• E-mail and Web mail (Web-based e-mail) accounts and Web pages.
• Account information for online social networking Web sites — e.g.,  Facebook, LinkedIn
• All security provisions, data access restrictions, destructive devices or software in use.
• Any automated applications in use.
• Any other relevant information.

Documenting the Scene
Your documentation should include:
• The type, location, position, condition and power status of the device.
• A record of all activity and processes visible on the display screen(s).
• A record of all physical connections to and from the computers and other devices.
• A record of any network and wireless components capable of linking devices to each other and the Internet.
• The type, condition and power status of the device’s Internet and network access.
• Video, photos, notes and sketches to assist in recreating/conveying the details of the scene.
(Some computer systems and electronic devices — and the information they contain — may be protected under applicable laws, agency policies or other factors, that may prohibit collection of these devices or components.  That’s when you call in a pro.  However, do include the location, condition and power state of these devices in your documentation.)

Movement of a running computer or electronic device may cause changes or damage to the computer or device or the digital evidence it contains. Computers and electronic devices should not be moved until it is determined by a professional that it is safe to do so. 

In Part II/II we will get into the meat of Evidence Collection.  The instructions we will impart will not be generalizations but rather, actual, working directions.

Our Operatives: A step ahead.

As always, stay safe.