Friday, May 07, 2010


A new wave of criminal offences will soon be coming our way. With the implementation of advanced technology such as satellite and fiber optic networks in Kenya, new forms of criminals are getting ready to exploit the opportunities that will be available.

Electronic Commerce provides a relevant illustration. The valuable financial tokens that underlie e-commerce - credit card numbers and bank account information - have to be secured against these “new” criminals who will use various methods like internet sniffing to obtain these details. With increased success, these criminals will emerge with the sole motive of defrauding unsuspecting Kenyans for a quick profit.

Cyber and conventional crime share a fundamental concept; evidence is a primary determinant of innocence or guilt. Locard’s exchange principle applies to the real and virtual worlds. This principle is applied to crime scenes and states that when the perpetrator of a crime comes into contact with the scene, he/she brings something into scene and leaves with something from the scene. Every contact leaves a trace.

Fibers from where the criminal sat on the upholstered chair are examples of physical trace evidence. Digital trace evidence on the other hand includes deleted files and registry entries to the internet history cache among others.

Cases involving complex computer evidence require our judiciary system to be technically prepared. What would happen if our courts were swamped with cyber-crime cases where abstract and technical information needs to be communicated and thoroughly understood?

To ensure a successful prosecution digital evidence has to be evaluated. An example would be in an investigation where child abuse images are found in a suspect’s computer. The defense or prosecution of the offender can often rest on the precise way in which these images arrived in his/her computer.

Were the images simply downloaded or were they viewed? Did the offender distribute them to others? Are there messages hidden in the images that point to other criminal activities such as drug trafficking?

In many cyber-crime cases, data is often deleted or moved about in an effort to cover tracks. This trail is difficult to investigate and outline. Understanding that no digital data is ever permanently deleted and that digital files have fingerprints known as MD5 hash values requires in-depth computer knowledge.

Our courts are currently ill-prepared to handle this new type of crime. It is time the legal system developed and implemented a comprehensive training system for its judiciary staff so as to have reasonable level of ICT expertise.

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