Computer Forensics and Code of Conduct 10
COMPUTERFORENSICS AND CODE OF CONDUCT
ComputerForensics and Code of Conduct
ComputerForensics is a branch of computer information technology which,broadly put, is concerned with the legal processes of retrieval andmanagement of computer data for use for official prosecution. It iscommonly applied in investigations involving computer crime, beingparticularly vital for the establishment of a credible audit trail incases involving multiple stages with data deletion or manipulation.It is one of the leading branches of digital forensic science, and isfinding increasing popularity in emerging information technologylegal issues (Daniels, 2013). This paper will investigate thevalidity of the professional code of conduct as it applies to thecomputer forensics.
Thefirst code is: All professional members have a duty to observe theprovisions of the constitution and the code of conduct of the societyand any regulations made hereunder. The American Society of DigitalForensics and eDiscovery (ASDFD), the professional body in charge ofcomputer forensics, has a provision similar in fact to this code. Itstates that all members must conduct their operations in line withset procedures, including obeying commands of courts of law, whichare the custodians of the society’s constitution (ComputerForensics 2014). The second code is with regard to conducting oneselfhonorably in the course of performing their duties. The (ASDFD) codeof ethics requires that examiners show diligence and morality inperforming their duties. Due to the nature of computer forensicswhere examiners have access to vital, very private information, thesuspects are susceptible to extreme exposure and potentialembarrassment by the examiner. Therefore, honorable conduct by theexaminer is an essential property of the computer forensic’s Codeof Ethics (CoE) (Daniels, 2013).
Thethird code is to promote to the utmost of their power the interestsof the Society. This point is not a central pillar in the computerforensics society, but has only a supplementary bearing. Firstly,computer forensic experts are usually privately hired by individuals,or publicly procured in criminal cases. They maybe privately employedor government workers. Their primary interests are to source relevantinformation from digital data in a manner as to establish a legalpoint of view regarding a crime. The interests of the society, tothis end, are overshadowed. The society only exercises moral mandateover its members (Daniels, 2013).
Thefourth point is to maintain the dignity and welfare of the society.This point is not especially important in the computer forensicsprofession as the primary focus is outside the society, namely in theprovision of legal services to external parties. Thus, the society’srepresentation by members while in the course of performing theirduties is not as important as the representation of the client andaccused parties. The investigator is obliged to treat all personswhom he/she investigates including places of work, personal computersand other private information storage systems with the dignity thatthey deserve, avoiding unwarranted or unnecessary intrusion ofpeople’s privacy (Daniels, 2013). Any information obtained in thecourse of professional duty must be used only for the intendedpurposes, and must not be divulged for other uses. In addition,information obtained in the course of work which is not directlyrelated to the case at hand must remain confidential, and notvoluntarily given to any third party unless by court demand.Therefore, dignity is this aspect pertains to the client ordefendant, not to the society. The fourth point does not apply tothis society (Daniels, 2013).
Thefifth point is with regard to public interest, high standards ofintegrity, and competence. Competence is strictly implied in thecomputer forensic society code of ethics. The code states that anexaminer will continually pursue continuing education in their field.This point is especially relevant for this society as informationtechnology is rapidly advancing, thus making information concealmentmore complicated. In order to retrieve information, forensicexaminers must therefore continually pursue knowledge regardingemerging information systems, data retrieval and informationmanagement. With regard to integrity, the computer forensics societyhighly upholds showing responsibility in the manner in which anexaminer performs their duty at all times. Integrity also impliesimpartiality in handling issues. Thus, the computer forensics societyis specific about remaining neutral during investigations, as well aseliminating any personal interests during information submission andlimiting the contracts they undertake to those for which they arequalified. In addition, in accordance to the requirements of ethics,members of the computer forensics society must not make decisionsregarding the innocence or guilt of persons they investigate, theyshould simply present facts as they pertain to the case at hand andleave the decision about guilt or innocence to courts (Daniels,2013).
Pointnumber six is with regard to members limiting their activities in amanner commensurate with the field in which they are registered andin accordance with the society’s accreditation. This point isapplicable by the computer forensics society, and has been covered inthe points number 5, 6,7 and 10 in the society’s code of ethics(Daniels, 2013). The computer forensics accreditation is done throughthe society, and all matters regarding ethics and conduct of memberscan be reported to the society for purposes of disciplining nonconforming members, or performing any other necessary actionsincluding de-registering members in cases of extreme disregard forthe laid out codes of professional performance. One point of ethicaland professional conduct under the society’s code is that memberswill not misrepresent or otherwise overstate their qualifications inthe course of performing their professional services. This pointensures that the individual member’s actions help protect theprojected image of the society at all times. The image should be oneof integrity, reliability and efficiency in service delivery,especially given the delicate nature of interaction betweeninvestigators and clients (Computer Forensics 2014).
Thelast point of the professional code is with regard to conformity withthe society’s code, especially with regard to continuousconsultation with the society to obtain guidance on procedures andpolicies. It states: In order to fulfill their duty under this Codeof Conduct, Members shall give due attention to any general guidanceon the subject of professional conduct and advice on specificquestions and shall conform to any rulings thereon that may beapproved and issued from time to time by the Council of the society.This point, while necessary in the objective of maintaining harmonyin the society as well as safeguarding professionalism in the waymembers conduct their business, is not very essential in theirservice delivery to clients. This is especially so where the membersare contracted by private agencies, entities or the government toprovide expert consultation services regarding computer forensicsservices with specific results expected. In deviation from generaloperation procedures, members may therefore be mandated to performonly the necessary parts of established routines, provided that theydo not deviate from the overall society’s code (Computer Forensics2014).
Thus,as a whole, the professional code laid out in the question is fullyapplicable in the computer forensics society, currently managed byThe American Society of Digital Forensics and eDiscovery (ASDFD), inall matters to do with digital information retrieval, andestablishment of fraud trails in cases of data erasure manipulationor omission from any computerized IT systems.
SocialContract and Kantian
Socialcontract theory basically implies the existence of an arrangementbetween an individual and the society that establishes thesovereignty of the society over the individual. Social contract ismainly implied, rather than explicitly negotiated, between members ofa society and the governing authority. Social contracts start from astate of nature, where there are no rules and the only determinant ofhuman behavior is their conscience and power. As a society attainsorganization, people become willing to give up their rights in orderto achieve a long term goal for the greater society. Kant believedthat a person’s inner will in performing an action was moreimportant than absolute, unquestioning obedience to a greater course,in this work the greater society’s will. Personal freedom is innateand born of free will, yet still outwardly expressed through a socialcontract. Rousseau’s element of a social contract is concerned withsocial order as a result of laws, not will (Washington.ed, 2013).
Thefirst point of the professional code is to observe all the provisionsof the constitution of the society and all other regulations madehereunder. This point implies conformity to a predetermined set oflaws, without question or interpretation. Therefore, this point ismore of a social contract than a Kantian ethic, as it does not attachany importance to the way the examiner feels about the code of ethicsset by the society, and only requires unquestioning obedience. Thus,it is a social contract point (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,2007).
Thesecond point in the code is that examiners must conduct themselveshonorably in the course of performing their duty (Ameriks and Höffe,2009). This point does not give any written or implied source of thestandard of honor, and only pre-supposes that all examiners have anintrinsic sense and measure of honor, and that there is a generalconsensus in the entire membership regarding the concept of honor.The lack of a higher moral code with which to align a member’sbehavior implies that a personal standard is needed. Thus, this pointis a Kantian contract element as it emphasizes a person’s judgmentof right or wrong as a determinant of how they interact with a widersociety (Washington.ed, 2013).
Thethird point requires that a member promotes to the utmost of theirpower the interests of the society. This point implies that themember has no right to implement their own will or to follow theirconscience so long as their conscience is not the same as that of thewider society. Thus, in situations of conflict, the member must bewilling to give up their own rights to act, and to follow the demandsof a greater authority- in this case the society. Therefore, thispoint is entirely a social contract, with no single element of aKantian ethic (Washington.ed, 2013).
Thefourth point is to maintain the dignity and welfare of the society. This point also tends to emphasize the good of the society over andabove that of the individual. In that respect alone, therefore, it isa social contract element. However, the point also talks of dignity,an item which cannot be absolutely measured, and therefore one thatcannot be universally enforced, since it has no standard. Dignitydepends on the individual’s interpretation (Stanford Encyclopediaof Philosophy, 2007). Therefore, the point seems to combine both theKantian contract concept and the social contract concept. The pointdemands that the member, in performing their duty, uses their innatemeasure of dignified action to unquestioningly perform the duty ofhelping the society realize its welfare. The point qualifies as acombined Kantian and social contract (Ameriks and Höffe, 2009).
Thefifth point is to have special regard at all times to the publicinterest and to the maintenance of the highest standards ofcompetence and integrity. In the first part, the statement mentionspublic interest. Public interest is entirely the good of the widersociety over and above the good of the individual. Pursuing publicinterest implies forfeiting the free will of a person whenever anysuch will is inconsistent with the will of the society, and acting tofulfill the will of the society (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,2007). For a member of computer forensics, such a scenario would meanabandoning a course that would lead to material or professional gainfor the member insofar as that course would lead to a loss for thesociety. This element is purely commensurate with the idea of asocial contract. The second part of the point mentions competence(Ameriks and Höffe, 2009). This word means ability for one toperform one’s duties as required by a certain standard. This wordhas no direct implication with respect either to Kantian or socialcontract, as in itself it does not imply an action, and a contractpresupposes an action (Washington.ed, 2013). The last part mentionsintegrity. This concept is entirely a property of internal will,rather than an outward manifestation of obedience. It is a propertyof free will, and cannot be implied even when an outward actionresembles a positive free will so long as the internal will is notpositive. This is a Kantian contract property. Thus, the fifth pointis a combination of social contract, Kantian ethic, and anon-contract element (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007).
Thesixth point requires that members must only undertake any activitycommensurate with and in the field within which they are registeredor accredited by the Society. This point eliminates the members’free will or right of association with others, or right ofperformance of acts of free will. This point emphasizes theforfeiting of one’s will for a greater good of the majority.Therefore, this point is essentially a social contract element, andhas no Kantian property at all (Washington.ed, 2013).
Thelast point states that in order to fulfill their duty under this Codeof Conduct, Members shall give due attention to any general guidanceon the subject of professional conduct and advice on specificquestions and shall conform to any rulings thereon that may beapproved and issued from time to time by the Council of the society(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007). Like in the majority ofpoints above, this point emphasizes the obedience of a member inplace of following one’s conviction. The required obedience here isintended to fulfill the society’s general guidance regardingprofessional conduct. Professionalism is a concept that combineswritten regulations as well as acts of will. For instance,professionalism requires courtesy. But a mere change of tone maychange a statement from one of courtesy to one of sarcasm. Therefore,this point is dominantly one of a social contract, but with deepintrinsic reference to a Kantian contract element.
Thesecond part of the seventh point expressly requires obedience andconformity to the rulings that maybe deliberated and approved by thesociety. The use of the word obedience eliminates any element ofindependence in decision making, implying, for instance, that amember who, during investigations realize that some information isavailable that could be used for the investigation but is not coveredin the terms of the contract, cannot proceed to incorporate the useof that information, even when in the investigator’s opinion, theuse of such data could reduce costs and strengthen the case. Thus,the second part is entirely an element of a social contract, with noreference to Kantian ethics. Therefore, the majority of the points inthe code are elements of social contracts.
Ameriks,K. and Höffe, O 2009, Trans. Nicholas Walker, Kant`sMoral and Legal Philosophy,New York: Cambridge University Press.
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