Sunday, June 15, 2008

Computer Forensics Examiners: To License or NOT.........

I have been reading a great deal of articles concerning the trend that some states are taking to require Computer Forensics Examiners to be licensed as a Private Investigator before they can commercially offer this service. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this.

First, let me say that I am a licensed Private Investigator, so one might assume that I would be all in favor of this type of requirement. Of course this would be an ASSumption, and it would be incorrect.

While on one hand I will say that computer forensics is a type of investigation since it's results are going to be used in court by it's very definition, there may be an argument as to why a person would need a Private Investigator's license to perform this service.

On the other hand, are these same states that are requiring that a Computer Forensic Examiner have a P.I. License going to require EVERY expert witness that has to go over specific case details, run tests on evidence, interpret these test results, and report on them to have a P.I. License? In the truest sense of what an Expert Witness is supposed to do, he or she is performing a type of investigation also. Will tire tread experts now have to have a P.I. License?

There is a larger consideration to make here also. A P.I. License does NOT make a person a competent Computer Forensics Expert. There are Private Investigators right now that have less than 5 years of Computer Forensics Examination experience that are going into court and testifying on their examination results that would not know the difference between a yellow and a black hardware write-blocker from Tableau. Think about the implications here. By requiring Computer Forensic Examiners to have a P.I. License, there would seem to be a limiting effect on the quality of Computer Forensics Examiners made available to the defendant's attorney. What about the people that have been in the business of conducting Computer Forensic Examination for 10 and 15 years, like Dan Farmer and Andrew Rosen? I could not imagine being charged with a serious computer crime, and wanting to be able to hire the very best Computer Forensics Examiner I could find like Andrew Rosen, and instead having to settle for a Private Investigator that only 5 years ago could not even figure out how to turn his computer on. I don't want to hire a Computer Forensic Examiner that BOUGHT a certification, I want to hire the Examiner that wrote the program that these certifications are being brought from. I don't want to have to sit through some P.I.'s "guesswork" as to what might have occurred on my computer, I want to be communicating with someone that can tell me what happened on my computer and that he can actually prove it. Maybe it is just me, but I feel that this new legislation that some states are passing that require Computer Forensics Examiners to have a P.I. License is not very well thought out.

If these states that are now requiring Computer Forensics Examiners to have a P.I. License would have given it a little more thought, they may have found that requiring a separate state certification to offer Computer Forensics Examinations might have been the wiser way to go.

Ricky B. Gurley Best Cyber Investigator