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[] EU develops cyber crime forensics standards,

EU develops cyber crime forensics standards
By John Leyden
Posted: 27/10/2003 at 18:03 GMT
The IT industry has teamed up with academics and the European Union
researchers to develop standards for the investigation of cybercrime.

The EU Cyber Tools On-Line Search for Evidence (CTOSE) project, a
research project funded by the European Commission?s Information Society
Technologies (IST) programme, has developed a methodology that
"identifies, secures, integrates and presents electronic evidence".

According to an EU statement, this methodology enables anyone from
system administrators, information technology security staff and
computer incident investigators, to police and law-enforcement agencies
to follow consistent and standardised procedures when investigating
computer incidents using "computer forensic tools".

The methodology ensures all electronic evidence is legally and properly
gathered and preserved, acting as uncontaminated and compelling proof
that a crime or fraud has been committed to company management,
industrial tribunals, or civil or criminal courts. Backers of the
methodology hope it will be adopted as a best practice standard
throughout Europe.

?This innovative methodology, developed by the Commission, will not only
help combat cybercrime, it will also increase user confidence in
carrying out secure transactions in everyday life,? said European
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin.

The methodology was developed against a backdrop of a rise in
cybercrime. Fraudulent transactions, computer hacking and viruses,
high-tech crime, identity theft and computer fraud have become common

The EU notes that computers can provide essential evidence of a crime as
well as deliver the means of committing crime. Electronic records such
as computer network logs, emails, word-processing files, and picture
files increasingly feature as evidence in criminal cases but there is a
lack of consistency across the EU in how such information is obtained
and presented - hence the need for a unifying project such as CTOSE.

Pooling resources to police cyberspace

CTOSE combined the expertise of French telecoms equipment vendor
Alcatel, UK security company QinetiQ and three research Institutes: the
CRID at the University of Namur (Belgium), the University of St. Andrews
(UK), and the Fraunhofer Institute (IAO)/University of Stuttgart
(Germany), together with researchers in the European Commission's Joint
Research Centre (JRC). The CTOSE Special Interest Group (SIG) also
contributed to the project, which reached completion at the end of last

The project brought together some 50 experts from Europe and the US with
a wide range of specialist backgrounds, including Computer Emergency
Response Teams (CERTs), computer lawyers, computer forensic tool
suppliers, high-tech police investigators, and IT security staff from
major financial institutions. The project partners and SIG members are
now drawing up plans to carry forward the CTOSE's work and ensure
widespread deployment of the methodology and tools developed during the

On-line law enforcement

Tools developed during the project include: a Cyber-Crime Advisory Tool;
an expert system which offers advice on the legal aspects of computer
investigations (called ?legal advisor?); an XML-based specification for
electronic evidence. There?s also demonstrator - a software tool
designed to simulate the effects of cyber attacks (e.g. hacking, website
defacement or organised fraud) on both a typical unprotected website,
and on a site which has followed the project's guidelines on forensic

So how does it all fit together?

The Cyber-Crime Advisory Tool (C*CAT), for example, tells an
investigator, at each stage of an investigation, which procedures to
carry out and what decisions are required. The ?legal advisor? points
out the legal requirements to investigators, to ensure that the evidence
is admissible, convincing, and legally obtained. The XML specification
enables one investigator to package a piece of evidence and hand it over
to another, ensuring a safe 'chain of custody' for all electronic

According to the EU, the tools developed by the project represent the
first complete end-to-end methodology to guide investigators through the
difficult task of computer forensics.

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