The value of fraud committed in the UK last year topped £1bn for the first time since 2011, prompting a warning about increasing cyber crime and the risk of more large-scale scams (as recently reported in The Guardian). But what happens when you need to defend a cyber crime case? How can you be sure the final figure is correct?
We have seen a number of cases where the prosecution has got it wrong and have failed to forensically assess cyber crimes correctly, potentially leading to much higher cyber crime values (and therefore judgments) than deserved.
Assessing the true value of cyber fraud committed requires not only a forensic expert who knows what they’re doing but also has proven ability to:
- access new technologies and systems;
- analyse and handle huge amounts of data to gauge the reality of the crime;
- translate that data into a readable and understandable format for barristers, solicitors and judges.
The eternal development of advanced technologies both creates opportunities for fraudulent activity and prevents access to the data that would expose such fraudsters.
Marc Clifton, our forensic Cyber Crime guru, outlines some of our recent cases involving the latest hot potatoes: bitcoins and accessing mobile data via advanced locking systems.
Hot currency: Bit Coins
Bitcoins are traded in an opaque online world (‘the dark web’) of code and technology that can beguile even the most astute police forensic department. Opportunities for criminal activity are perceivably high but to us, it’s just another series of code and data chains to unpick to see what’s really going on.
What are Bitcoins?
Bitcoins are perhaps the most well known crypto-currency (a type of peer-to-peer digital token) on the market and they are akin to digital gold. There is a finite supply that can be ‘mined’ every year, by using sophisticated software called blockchain technology.
Earlier this year we were asked to look into data on behalf of a defendant – a young man who created and leased the use of sophisticated software to attack websites and disrupt users’ internet connections. When more conventional online payment systems, such as PayPal, refused to handle payments for him, he accepted bitcoins as a method of payment for his software service. He had been accused of making nearly £100,000 worth of criminal profit. We were asked to look at the way in which the prosecution had assessed and used many thousands of datasets to come to that conclusion.
The result of our investigation found that, instead of about £100,000 worth of coins there was only just over £1,000 of bitcoins in the account.
This is a prime example of how well you need to understand the codes and how bitcoins work in order to interpret the available data and verify the contents of bitcoin transactions. The Scenes of Crimes Officers (SOCOs) have to understand this and so do we.
There are growing complications with bitcoins, and forensic analysis in this field is not for the uninitiated. We have found, on a number of occasions, that SOCOs are missing elements and new issues in the use of bitcoins and, as happened in our case, this lead to a significant overestimation of the value of fraudulent bitcoin mining.
How did we help?
Frenkels Forensics assisted the Court in handling, analysing and checking huge and complex data in a forensically sound way.
We provided a court-ready narrative to help show a judge the process we used.
We also showed how we used exactly the same data that was stored on the device and that at no time had our work affected the data captured.
We are proud to work in accordance with the ACPO guidelines that regulate how we capture and handle digital data.
Sidestepping Fingerprint Locking
We recently helped a client who had split from her husband and business partner. She accused him of sending business to a competitor but needed to prove it. Our client had access to his business phone (which had a broken screen) – she was actually paying for this, but she couldn’t unlock the fingerprint access lock – so she gave it to us.
The client had provided us with proof that she was the co-owner of the phone and we thus knew that we were working within legal hacking rules.
We were able to remove the lock and access the relevant data to provide our client with the evidence she needed.
Ever had a cyber fraud case that has completely stumped you?
It’s almost impossible for lawyers to predict next generation technology, coding developments and opportunities for fraud.
This is why it’s so important to partner with forensic experts who are just as ‘geeky’ as the fraudsters and therefore able to stay one step ahead of developments to open up a wealth of data to support or defend fraudulent claims.
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