Cloud computing may be considered to be an advancement in computation history. This technology has various strengths that make it a preferred mode of accessing, analyzing, presenting as well as preserving various modes of evidence. However, it also harbors some limitations such as crime threats. The massive transition by individuals and businesses from the traditional physical storage medial to cloud computing has not only made these parties enjoy computing but also imparted them with knowledge and expertise on how to deal with networks with multiple users. There are legal problems that relate to cloud computing. With this regard, the law enforcement agencies must be on the look out to use the same cloud computing to acquire electronic evidence that can enable them to prosecute these criminals.
There are various definitions that have been adopted for the concept of cloud computing. To begin with, cloud computing may be broadly and in simple words defined as a means using the internet to store data, access data as well as programs that could not have been otherwise accessed using the computer’s hard drive. The concept of cloud computing is opposed to local storage where there is physical storage and access to data and programs. From a different perspective, cloud computing may be defined as the process through which computers share computing resources as opposed to relying on local servers or other personal devices that handle applications (Rountree, & Castrillo, 2014, 5)
Cloud computing has various goals. To begin with, it seeks to reduce cost by enabling sharing of resources. With reference to sharing of resources, the resources are shared by multiple users who have their computers connected to the same server. In addition, resources are economically used according to the consumers demand because cloud computing operates on a pay per use policy.
The concept of cloud computing may be broken down into three levels. These levels include platform, infrastructure as well as software. There are various services provided at each of the levels of cloud computing. Infrastructure as a service commonly referred to as IaaS, is the foundation layer of cloud computing. There are various services offered by cloud computing at this level. Some of these include data storage, back up as well as security. Secondly, we have Software as a service (SaaS) which is commonly used by small scale cloud computing users such as small businesses. The services offered are paid as per the usage. Platform as a level of cloud computing provides frameworks that customers can use in developing their own applications.
Cloud computing is of great essence in today’s world for every success-minded organization as well as individuals due to the numerous benefits it offers. In today’s world, it is very challenging to work with computers that are tasked with computing information themselves. There are various ways through which cloud computing impacts the identification, preservation, analysis as well as the presentation of electronic evidence.
Cloud computing and identification of electronic evidence
The transition to cloud computing has impacted the identification of electronic evidence in a number of ways. To begin with, cloud computing enables the users to identify the various sources of evidence as well as what evidence can be generated using their systems. Cloud computing offers a wide range of sources of electronic evidence. This evidence has specific characteristics that enhance activities in the other forensics process. With the cloud computing technology, forensic scientists can identify various aspects of any evidence provided. For instance, cloud computing can help in identification of voice in telephone conversations (Jiang, 2011, 18).
With the traditional reliance on physical storage media, businesses and individuals could know the exact location on which their data is stored. This is because the physical storage does not involve multiple users like cloud computing and other online services. The retrieval of data was very easy and effective with the physical storage and the electronic evidence conducted was very safe because it did not require a back up storage in case data was lost.
With the massive transition of individuals and businesses to cloud computing and other online services, identification of electronic evidence conducted has become of key significance because of the multiplicity of usage of cloud computing. It is very easy to lose electronic evidence while using cloud computing. Individuals and businesses are required to know the exact location of the electronic evidence they are trying to identify at any given moment. The transition will impact the identification of electronic evidence conducted in that most cloud service providers do not provide their consumers with interfaces that they can use to collect forensic data. This limits identification of data as customers lack the knowledge of the exact location of their electronic evidence. Identification of electronic evidence conducted is complex when individuals and businesses are using cloud computing because some cloud service providers may intentionally hide the locations of data requiring them to have abstractions to identify their data (Furht, & Escalante, 2010, 85).
The increased privacy breaches that have accompanied the transition by individuals and businesses to cloud computing and other online services, the cloud service providers have required these customers to acquire abstractions that will facilitate the identification of electronic evidence. Encryptions have become very useful in safeguarding electronic evidence. When electronic evidence is moving across networks, the encryptions enable only the evidence owners to identify and use it hence locking out many manipulators who would want to identify and use evidence that belongs to other people. With this kind of electronic evidence identification, only the legal owner of the evidence can access and use the data. All other people can only see and locate the server hosting the electronic evidence but cannot have a full view of it because of the encryptions.
Transition to cloud computing and preservation of electronic evidence
The preservation of electronic evidence upon which digital forensics traditionally relied on electronic evidence being stored on physical storage media such as hard disk drives will definitely be impacted by the transition of individuals and businesses to cloud computing and other online services. Traditionally, digital forensics would collect data electronic evidence and preserve it in various physical media such as hard disk drives, file fragments among others. This evidence would be retrieved at any given time and be analyzed in order to facilitate the investigation process. With the transition to cloud computing and other online services, preservation of electronic evidence has been significantly transformed. The transition has impacted the preservation of electronic evidence both positively as well as negatively (Dykstra, 2013, 160)
Firstly, Cloud computing has facilitated the storage of electronic evidence in large volumes compared to the traditional techniques of storage. With the introduction of cloud computing and other online services it is possible to transmit packet of evidence over a network. The implication of this is that digital forensics in different locations can share evidence via a network as long as the computers are connected to the same servers. This has significantly reduced the cost of preservation of electronic evidence as people in different location can share resources through the same network.
Secondly, the transition to cloud computing has facilitated the preservation of large volumes of potential electronic evidence. Forensics largely rely of the quality as well as the quantity of evidence collected and preserved during an investigation. With cloud computing, it is possible to preserve evidence in numerous files in just a single computer. This is because the computing of the evidence is done outside the computer that the individual or a business is using (Dykstra, 2013, 162)
On the contrary, the transition to cloud computing and other online services has also negatively impacted the preservation of electronic evidence. Firstly, the electronic evidence preserved may be easily contaminated. All electronic devices are prone to some challenges from time to time. For instance, during a system breakdown, some of the traces of the electronic evidence may be lost. Since vast quantities of information are preserved through the use of cloud computing, the businesses and individuals using this technology are likely to suffer significant loses because some of these evidence may be automatically removed during the breakdown. Contamination of evidence is also very possible with the use of cloud computing. There are so many computer specialists who use cloud computing with the aim of gaining access to other user’s information. In some cases where private keys of the users where used in launching virtual evidence preservation platforms and machines, hackers may gain access to these keys through their malicious ways. When the keys are not in possession of the legitimate owners, the hackers can flood the websites that host these virtual machines by launching more machines that not only flood it but also take it offline (Kerr, 2005, 550).
Transition to cloud computing and impact on analysis of electronic evidence
The transition to cloud computing has impacted the analysis of electronic evidence positively. The use of hosted servers to analyze electronic evidence presents the users with a better opportunity to conduct an effective analysis of the evidence collected as opposed to reliance on local networks. Cloud computing allows for identification of any unusual files of evidence that might have been collected. The service provider is able to detect whether there are any usual processes that are running unusual files and alert the users. In addition, the transition has made it possible for identification of the status of the patching process. The patching process is of great significance when it comes of analysis of electronic evidence. The system notifies the user whether the patching process is updated and effective, a factor that is not possible when analyzing electronic evidence stored on physical storage media (Prosise, & Mandia, 2003, 102).
Cost-wise, the transition to cloud computing and other online services have made the process through which electronic evidence is analyzed faster. Once data has been acquired, an individual can get assistance from the internet to help him or her understand it better. When electronic evidence has been acquired, a computer user can use various search engines to search for relevant data to find out the perception that was adopted by the other researchers in analysis. This will be helpful as it will provide insights on how the present electronic evidence can be analyzed (Degnan, 2011, 155).
In addition, the transition to cloud computing has facilitated faster and an in-depth analysis of electronic evidence. Through the use of cloud computing, it is very possible to analyze various areas of the acquired electronic evidence. Some of the key areas that can be analyzed using cloud computing include encryption, tenancy, compliance as well as trust. The various areas of cloud computing relate to its security. While analyzing the electronic evidence, it is important to look into the security of the cloud. This scrutiny is of importance as it helps in identifying whether the evidence may have been contaminated as well as distorted. It is very possible to track the security of a cloud as opposed to physical storage media. This is because any security check conducted by the cloud service provider is stored in the system and can be retrieved and accessed by the users.
Transition to cloud computing and presentation of electronic evidence
The transition by individuals and businesses to cloud computing and other online services has positively impacted on the presentation of electronic evidence. To begin with, this transition has enhanced the speed of presentation of evidence. Traditionally, the physical storage media would use memory in presentation of evidence. This usually took a lot of time especially in the retrieval of the evidence. With the cloud computing technology, presentation of electronic evidence is very fast because the memory in which the evidence is preserved is connected to other functionalities that increase its speed of evidence recovery (Dykstra, 2013, 172)
Secondly, the transition has facilitated large presentation of electronic evidence. In cloud computing, individuals and businesses can preserve large quantities of data. During presentation of the evidence, these large volumes can be retrieved. This is opposed to the traditional physical storage media that could only store small quantities of electronic evidence hence limiting the quantity to be presented.
Thirdly, since cloud computing facilitates storage and access to data from anywhere in the world. Performing tasks in the forensic field has been very effective, faster and cheaper. This is because, while carrying out investigations, electronic evidence can be shared by forensic scientists in different locations. This facilitates faster analysis and decision making which is important in carrying out investigations. Through the fast and available network upon which cloud computing is based, presentation of electronic evidence becomes easy. With the traditional physical storage media, it is not possible to access data across the world hence posing a limitation in presentation of electronic evidence (Vacca, 2005, 80).
Cloud computing is a very effective technology when it comes to the acquisition, preservation, analyses as well as presentation of electronic evidence. Cloud computing is of great importance in every individuals’ life as it simply make life better and more enjoyable. Despite its advantages and benefits in all areas of life, this technology has some short comings that ought to be addressed in order to make it friendlier. However, where there are benefits, it is almost impossible to avoid threats. Cloud computing has been associated with serious threats and crimes that can lead to lose of important data and evidence. All users need to be very knowledgeable and careful in their selection of cloud service providers and be careful to meet the entire compliance requirements in order to enjoy cloud computing to the latter.
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Dykstra, J. (2013). Seizing Electronic Evidence from Cloud Computing Environments. Retrieved from edu/~dykstra/Seizing-Electronic-Evidence-from-Cloud-Computing-Environments.pdf”>http://www.csee.umbc.edu/~dykstra/Seizing-Electronic-Evidence-from-Cloud-Computing-Environments.pdf, 156-185.
Furht, B., & Escalante, A. (2010). Handbook of cloud computing. New York: Springer.
Jiang, L. (2011). Proceedings of the 2011 International Conference on Informatics, Cybernetics, and Computer Engineering. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=pFezSDB3B18C&pg=PA229&lpg=PA229&dq=identification+of+electronic+evidence&source=bl&ots=3bk8d9-JCS&sig=3otWZA5JoRXsOWZXfDhT55HJQcA&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=identification%20of%20electronic%20evidence&f=false.
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