Computer technology impacts each and every one of us every second of every day, but we rarely stop to think about the enormous implications of this. Advances in IT occur so rapidly that it is impossible for legislation to keep up, and appellate guidance lags even further behind.
The principal criminal legislation is contained in the Computer Misuse Act 1990. In 1990, a top of the range desktop computer had a 20MB hard disk. Tim Berners-Lee had only just invented HTML (the foundation of the modern internet). There have been a few, poorly thought-out amendments to the CMA since then, but it remains fundamentally unchanged.
Consider the following two scenarios:
The same two acts, but when one involves unauthorised access to data contained on a computer, that’s a crime.
If you alter such data, things become much more serious. Consider this:
The stakes become so much higher due to the involvement of digital technology.
Cybercrime encompasses a huge range of offences, e.g. hacking, unauthorised access, intellectual property infringement, illegal file content. But in almost every criminal investigation, IT evidence plays a major role, i.e. phone contents, internet search history, encrypted communications.
Presentation of these cases requires expert knowledge, both to prosecute and defend. As George Bernard Shaw said: “All professions are conspiracies against the laity”, and nowhere is that truer than in the field of computer forensics.
It is all too easy to be overawed by technical jargon, but experience has shown that there are several ways in which, with the right level of expertise, successful challenges can be made to the evidence of so-called “experts”. It is vital, when dealing with a case involving computer evidence, to ensure that you have knowledgeable, expert advice in order to deal with this fast-moving area of law.