Water Week

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Shutdown of Pentagon’s email system in June by hacking unit “of Chinese Army”: implications for police forensics

Posted by waterweek on 4 October 2007

This month US Defence officials admitted that an emergency shutdown of the Pentagon’s email system in June had been triggered by a covert intrusion, including the planting of trojans, believed to have been mounted by a specialist hacking unit of the People’s Liberation Army of China, reported The Australian Financial Review (24/9/2007, p.6). Implications for law: The German and New Zealand governments have investigated similar incidents. The pitch for new powers to legitimise the use of evidence gathered by trojans in court was a controversial one because opinion was divided over whether the ability to manipulate a suspect’s computer intrinsically contaminated any evidence collected. One issue computer experts warned potentially had grave implications for prosecutors was that trojans technically enabled the planting of evidence on a computer without the suspect’s knowledge, thus bringing the legitimacy of evidence into doubt.

Double-edged sword: Computer forensics examiner and consultant Ajoy Ghosh said the use of trojans was a double-edged sword for police. Although they could yield excellent information, their use could also easily derail an otherwise sustainable prosecution because it could be argued that digital evidence had been contaminated by those collecting it. “The trojans that I’ve actually discovered on defendants’ computers have all been discovered by commercial antivirus software,” Ghosh said, “which raises [the] questions [that] if a [police] computer forensic examiner couldn’t be bothered scanning a computer as part of an examination, what else couldn’t they be bothered doing?”

The Australian Financial Review, 24/9/2007, p. 6


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