The two-edged sword: Legal computer forensics and open source
Source: NewsForge - Posted by Pax Dickinson   
Security Ryan Purita of Totally Connected Security is one of the leading computer forensic experts in private practice in Canada. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, holding one of the most advanced security qualifications in the world. Working for both the prosecution and the defence in legal cases, Purita has also taught computer security to law enforcement agencies, probation officers and social workers, and is currently developing programs for the Justice Institute of British Columbia. Much of his daily work is an extension of a system administrator's activities. A good part of it involves the advanced use of open source tools, including several standard system tools. His work methods offer fresh perspectives on security, privacy issues and the relative merits of Windows and GNU/Linux -- to say nothing of a niche industry where open source is more than holding its own.

"Computer forensics" is a term that is usually applied to an investigation after a system has been cracked. And, in fact, Purita's work does sometimes fall under this definition. However, the term is also used more narrowly to define investigations that find evidence for legal purposes. Illegal possession of trade secrets, intellectual property or child pornography, the dismissal of employees, divorce, insurance fraud, insider trading, counterfeiting, criminal or sexual harassment -- any of these could require a forensic investigation of a hard drive, removable media, or network.

Although open source tools are not the only ones available for computer forensics, they are among the most widely used. A GNU/Linux enthusiast, Purita often prefers the open source tools. However, he frequently uses proprietary ones as well. The proprietary tools, he explains, are "pretty," with better developed GUIs that are easier for clients to understand. Moreover, the precedence for accepting their evidence in court is well established although, increasingly, their open source equivalents are not far behind.

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