Virtual evidence

Wednesday, 7 May 2003, 10:48 AM EST

Clifford May, computer forensic investigator at IT security specialist Integralis, says that prosecuting someone responsible for an IT security breach is difficult but not impossible. All too often, though, the reason for failing to secure a prosecution stems from inexperienced people getting to the scene of the crime first and inadvertently compromising evidence by not following correct procedures.

A common error is rebooting computers before an image file has been taken, which changes the dates recorded on the machine showing when systems or files were last accessed. "You want them to do absolutely nothing unless they're competent to do so," May says.

A fundamental problem is that most companies still do not have proper incident response teams and procedures, so when something goes wrong staff "run around like headless chickens", not knowing who to report incidents to or even what to report, he says.

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