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Book review: Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations

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Book review: Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations

Would-be computer criminals be warned, the law is slowly but surely catching up with you.  In Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations, 2nd edition, Ian Walden provides an updated version of his 2007 treatise on legal aspect of computer crime.  One area of interest for IPKat readers will be discussions on online IP crime and the use of computer evidence in computer crimes.

Walden provides a comprehensive explanation of the various key terms and approaches in legal aspects of cyber crime. He classifies crime using the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime categorisation, which divides crime into three areas: computer-related crime (the computer is the instrument for the crime, such as hacking), content-related crime (e.g. copyright infringement and child pornography), and computer-integrity offences (e.g. viruses).

Cat caught in the act
Amelia on a MacBook Pro, Brownpau
As we move to a more knowledge-based economy, the role of intangible assets is increasing.  One of this Kat's favourite subjects is trade secrets. Walden notes a subtle distinction in the protection of trade secret between rights, "granted to trade secret information itself and protections triggered by the means of obtaining the information." Conspiring to defraud, for example, addresses the value of the information (trade secret protection), and computer misuse deals with the means of theft (means).  Walden details the increasing trend of trade secret protection moving from civil to criminal law.

Walden devotes a section to intellectual property crimes, namely infringement of copyright [Merpel notes that trade secrets, ever the poor relation of IP, are in a separate section.] He notes that the Convention on Cybercrime only addresses copyright and related rights infringement, not other IP, details the various cases and statutes, and notes a trend for rightsholders to seek redress via communication services providers (e.g. ISPs.)

Does the evidence add up?
John Thaw by Bill Strin
A longstanding question in online copyright infringement is evidence, as detecting and proving infringement is a challenge.  Walden divides law enforcement techniques into ordinary (e.g. searching on the internet), coercive (use of police powers such as search and disclosure), and covert (interception, surveillance etc.) [Merpel has been nostalgia-watching a lot of Inspector Morse recently, and is happy to note he uses all three techniques.] He describes the chaotic development of cybercrime evidence and evidence gathering. There are number of remaining challenges, including difficulty linking virtual identity to real-world people (identity problem), associating online data to physical locations (location problems) and the amorphous nature of data (its lack of stickiness.) These problems continue to challenge evidence used in online copyright infringement cases.

I found Walden's clear approach to categorising aspects of each topic helpful.  The appendix includes nearly 75 pages of legal texts, including the Association of Chief Policy Officers Good Practice Guide for Digital Evidence. The comprehensiveness of the book makes it both a good reference, and an interesting analysis; it will appeal to legal scholars and professionals, and the odd Inspector Morse fan (not a tautology.)

Walden, Ian. Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2016. ISBN: 9780198705598 Available for £95 in hardback. Rupture factor: High, a hardback with nearly 560 pages.

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