Fighting computer crimes without the threat of a forensic compromise

It seems that no matter what illegal activity is pursued, whether it is pornography, kidnapping, murder, or even terrorism, the so-called criminal masterminds leave a winding but traceable trail of related computer data linking these perpetrators to their crimes. In the current era of escalating crimes involving computer usage, it has become essential that law enforcement has immediate access to potentially critical computer data. Such immediate access not only helps to ensure apprehension and conviction of the perpetrator, but contains within it the promise of the prevention of the unthinkable. While technology currently allows forensically sound and virtually instantaneous access to potentially critical crime-related computer data, this technology is not employed in nearly enough cases.

Crime waits for no man. Right now, computer crime labs across the nation are backed up from as much as several months to a year for forensically processing and obtaining vital information from suspect computers. Local investigative teams are hampered by computer forensic tools that require hours to forensically copy and transfer data for viewing, in order to maintain forensic soundness.

However, there is no need to wait for processing according to David Biessener, CEO of Voom Technologies. Using a unique device called the Shadow, a suspect computer can be booted and run on the spot, allowing immediate examination of its contents, without forensic compromise (i.e., the chain of evidence remains intact and the contents of the computer remain in an unaltered state, fit for use at trial).

Take the case of Mark Jensen, convicted in February, 2008, of murdering his wife. Initially, Rhonda Mitchell was called by the prosecution to testify in the capacity of computer forensic expert. Upon cross-examination, however, she was unable to effectively explain the manner in which the forensic soundness of the computer evidence was maintained, due to the complicated and technical nature of the process. Because of this, Martin Koch was then called to testify in this capacity. Mr. Koch used the Shadow to effectively present and explain the computer evidence to the judge, jury, defense and other court attendees.

In fact, one of the three key pieces of evidence quoted by the jury as essential in reaching their guilty verdict, was evidence presented by expert Martin Koch, using the Shadow. During the trial, the Jensen home computer was brought into the courtroom, the Shadow was connected, and that which would have been displayed on the monitor was projected onto a screen for the court to view. Part of the evidence accessed and shown via the Shadow included links to poisons and their effects. It was ultimately demonstrated that links to antifreeze poisoning were followed (the decedent was found to have antifreeze in her blood at the time of death), a link to the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning was followed, however, no link to remedies or antidotes to poisons had been followed. Defense tactics aimed at suggesting suicide were thwarted due to the fact that by the defendant’s own words, his wife was completely bedridden for three days prior to her death, and the Shadow showed clearly that the sites in question (including their contents) had been accessed during that time period.

Mark Jensen was sentenced to life in prison without parole in Walworth County, Wisconsin, in connection with murder of his wife 10 years prior (i.e., 6 years prior to the invention of the Shadow right across the state line in Lakeland, Minnesota).

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