If you tell enough stories, perhaps the moral will show up.


Computer Investigation is not about Images of Children. Mostly.

This is just a rant really. I can't justify what I'm going to say, but it's been growing on me for a long time, and some publicity material at Infosec tipped me over. (You'll have to forgive me some circumlocutions, as I don't want to skew Adsense towards the P-word.)

As far as I can see, the whole field of computer forensics is obsessed with sexual images of children.

Is that fair? The material exists, and is just as vile as it seems, or worse. It fuels hideous organised violence and abuse. And the investigators are, after all, sincerely trying to shut down the obnoxious trade. So what can I object to?

I object to the way the topic is used.

  • Used to stifle argument: "We must accept any invasion of privacy, because otherwise an abuser might not be punished (which is definitely not a matter of police convenience -- oh no.)"
  • Used to garner prestige: "My work helps to protect society from this filth (and is definitely not one of the duller branches of system engineering or forensic accountancy.)"
  • Used casually -- it always seems to be the first example picked.
I'm not an experienced investigator. But I've done a few, and everything I've done has been related to the text, dates or addresses of documents or email, or activity from attack tools. I've never so much as once had call to open a JPEG (GIFs as web design elements are another matter...)

Bridget Jones called it mentionitis: when fascinating topics — even un-admitted ones — keep cropping up. That was fiction but the effect is real, and I think it's what's happening here. So this is the challenge: if you are writing about computer forensics, lay off that area.

This stuff exists. It's a danger to my children. We're all against it, and some people have to investigate it. But there's no need to let it take over our un-thought thoughts. It's never necessary. If you want to talk about file types and signatures, take examples from Excel accounts disguised as DLLs. If you want to talk about image content, talk about copyright violation, or even voyeurs. If you want to talk about the rewards of the job, talk about the email bully forced to apologise. You'll feel better for it.

No comments: