Digital forensics under UJ law expert’s microscope

​​​​​​​​​“South Africa is not behind the USA in its fight against economic crime.” This observation was made by Professor Dawie de Villiers of the Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), after he returned from Boston (USA) where he participated in a seminar on Digital Forensics.”

The seminar, organised by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), one of the world’s largest anti-fraud organisations and a major provider of anti-fraud training and education, explored how digital forensics supports the search and seizure of technical equipment that requires very specific procedures and the compliance with legal rules and principles. Digital forensics is also known as “computer forensics” since computer evidence usually is evidence extracted from a computer’s hard drive.​
“Computer forensics has evolved to become a critical component of many economic crime examinations worldwide,” says Prof de Villiers.​


“These investigations, however, go far beyond searching and imaging hard drives. The data can also be found on cellular phones, digital cameras, credit card readers, SD storage devices, MP3 Player devices, watches and GPS navigation systems. The collection of evidence involves specific procedures that need to comply with the country’s legal rules and principles.”

According to Prof de Villiers, South Africa can really stand its ground when it comes to search and seizure best practices and what corporate and law-enforcement requirements are needed. “The Federal rules of Evidence and other legislation revealed, when compared to South African Law, that we have the legal frame work that is necessary. The only important factor, when dealing with new technology in general and digital investigations and examinations in particular, is that many more people in South Africa (and the rest of the world) need to be trained to use the investigative tools that are available,” said Prof de Villiers. He added a multi-disciplinary approach is of the utmost importance. “Apart from lawyers, forensic accountants and general forensic investigators, special experts may be needed. These experts include operating and file system experts, data recovery experts, tape and archival experts and intrusion and malicious code experts. Although the concept “digital forensics” only became known from the mid- to late 1990’s, it is due to the increased demand for digital investigations, that it quickly outpaced law enforcement’s ability to keep up.”

The ACFE has 65 000 members, in 43 countries worldwide. Prof de Villiers has been an educator member of this international organisation since 2004 and received honorary life membership of the ACFE (SA) in 2010.​​​​

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