A computer could be used to commit a crime, such as hacking or transferring private or illegal information

There is a flow chart depicting how a case passes through the criminal justice system, as well as some case law that affects digital evidence.

What is digital forensics, how does it related to the criminal justice system, and why should a non-criminal justice major take this course?

By the end of this course you will have a better understanding of why IT professionals, or other non-criminal justice professionals, should still understand the criminal justice system particularly if they plan to work in fields such as digital forensics, incident response, or information security. You will also gain an appreciation for the restrictions and structures placed on criminal case investigations conducted by public law enforcement officers.

In the 1980s, when home computers were not yet popular and desktop systems were being developed for business and the government, the only digital forensics being practiced were used to detect and investigate hacking and computer compromise. In fact, the most common criminal act involving computers was the use of systems and dial-up modems to connect to the Department of Defense’s networks to get free long distance. As home computers and desktop computers became more popular, the main communications systems for inter-connectivity among computer users was through the use of dial-up commercial systems, which eventually resulted in the development of more advanced commercial networks, such as America Online (AOL).

As with any mechanism that makes life easier for consumers, those with criminal intent developed a means to exploits those systems for other-than-lawful purposes. Thus, computers became a bigger focus of the criminal justice system, as they could be used for different types of criminal activity. A computer could be used to commit a crime, such as hacking or transferring private or illegal information (e.g., stolen social security numbers, credit card information, or child pornography); it could be used to store evidence of a crime (e.g., child pornography, a “murder list,” narcotics ledgers, “cooked” accounting books); or it could be the target of a crime.

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