Feeds

Forensic felonies

New law clamps down on PIs

Top three mobile application threats

A new law in Georgia on private investigators now extends to computer forensics and computer incident response, meaning that forensics experts who testify in court without a PI license may be committing a felony.

In the US television show "Medium," Patricia Arquette's character uses her "special psychic skills" to help solve crimes. If a new law passed by the Georgia legislature but not yet been signed by the Governor goes into effect, not only could Miss Arquette's character face legal troubles, but thousands of computer security consultants would face the very real threat of jail time - simply for plying their trade.

The Georgia law, HB 1259, at first seems innocuous enough. It requires all private investigators in the State of Georgia to be licensed. It is intended to prevent people from simply opening up shop and claiming to be PIs. It requires such PIs to pass an exam, be in business for a particular period of time, be self-regulated, and so on. The problem lies in both the definition and interpretation of what services can only be offered by a licensed PI, and how that extends into the electronic world.

According to the legislature, a private investigator is any person who is in the business of obtaining or furnishing, or accepting employment to obtain or to furnish, information with reference to:

  • Crimes or wrongs done or threatened against the United States of America or any state or territory thereof;
  • The background, identity, habits, conduct, business, employment, occupation, assets, honesty, integrity, credibility, knowledge, trustworthiness, efficiency, loyalty, activity, movement, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of any person;
  • The location, disposition, or recovery of lost or stolen property;
  • The cause or responsibility for fires, libels, losses, accidents, damage, or injury to persons or property;
  • The securing of evidence in the course of the private detective business to be used before any court, board, officer, or investigating committee; or
  • The protection of individuals from serious bodily harm or death.

In addition to the aforementioned services, "private detective business" shall also mean providing, or accepting employment to provide, protection of persons from death or serious bodily harm."

Typical "Magnum PI" kind of stuff. The problem is that the statute is written so broadly as to include almost all types of computer forensics and computer incident response – at least when done by outside consultants. After all, when do you need computer forensics, or incident response? Typically, you call in a computer forensics expert when you suspect something "bad" has happened. Thus, you retain the expert to furnish information with respect to possible crimes or wrongs (the phrase against the United States or any State or territory doesn't mean that the State is the victim of the crime, just that it violates the state law.)

You also retain forensic experts to collect evidence about damages and loss to you - from computer viruses, worms, attacks, and so on. You want to know what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. You want to know the, "cause and responsibility for ... losses and damage to ... property". Namely, this applies to your computer network and the information contained in it. You also want the information collected in a way so that it can be used in court or by other investigators later on, even if you do not intend to pursue a civil or criminal case. If information is stolen, you want to know the "location, disposition and [ensure the] recovery of lost or stolen property" namely the intellectual property stored on the computer. For all of these things, you would typically hire not a gumshoe, but a forensic expert. Unfortunately, under this new law that forensic expert would be committing a felony.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.