Legislative and security requirements of audit material for evidentiary purpose

Allinson, Caroline Linda (2004) Legislative and security requirements of audit material for evidentiary purpose. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This research used the Queensland Police Service, Australia, as a major case study. Information on principles, techniques and processes used, and the reason for the recording, storing and release of audit information for evidentiary purposes is reported. It is shown that Law Enforcement Agencies have a two-fold interest in, and legal obligation pertaining to, audit trails. The first interest relates to the situation where audit trails are actually used by criminals in the commission of crime and the second to where audit trails are generated by the information systems used by the police themselves in support of the recording and investigation of crime.

Eleven court cases involving Queensland Police Service audit trails used in evidence in Queensland courts were selected for further analysis. It is shown that, of the cases studied, none of the evidence presented was rejected or seriously challenged from a technical perspective. These results were further analysed and related to normal requirements for trusted maintenance of audit trail information in sensitive environments with discussion on the ability and/or willingness of courts to fully challenge, assess or value audit evidence presented. Managerial and technical frameworks for firstly what is considered as an environment where a computer system may be considered to be operating “properly” and, secondly, what aspects of education, training, qualifications, expertise and the like may be considered as appropriate for persons responsible within that environment, are both proposed.

Analysis was undertaken to determine if audit and control of information in a high security environment, such as law enforcement, could be judged as having improved, or not, in the transition from manual to electronic processes. Information collection, control of processing and audit in manual processes used by the Queensland Police Service, Australia, in the period 1940 to 1980 was assessed against current electronic systems essentially introduced to policing in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s. Results show that electronic systems do provide for faster communications with centrally controlled and updated information readily available for use by large numbers of users who are connected across significant geographical locations. However, it is clearly evident that the price paid for this is a lack of ability and/or reluctance to provide improved audit and control processes. To compare the information systems audit and control arrangements of the Queensland Police Service with other government departments or agencies, an Australia wide survey was conducted. Results of the survey were contrasted with the particular results of a survey, conducted by the Australian Commonwealth Privacy Commission four years previous, to this survey which showed that security in relation to the recording of activity against access to information held on Australian government computer systems has been poor and a cause for concern. However, within this four year period there is evidence to suggest that government organisations are increasingly more inclined to generate audit trails.

An attack on the overall security of audit trails in computer operating systems was initiated to further investigate findings reported in relation to the government systems survey. The survey showed that information systems audit trails in Microsoft Corporation's “Windows” operating system environments are relied on quite heavily. An audit of the security for audit trails generated, stored and managed in the Microsoft “Windows 2000” operating system environment was undertaken and compared and contrasted with similar such audit trail schemes in the “UNIX” and “Linux” operating systems. Strength of passwords and exploitation of any security problems in access control were targeted using software tools that are freely available in the public domain. Results showed that such security for the “Windows 2000” system is seriously flawed and the integrity of audit trails stored within these environments cannot be relied upon.

An attempt to produce a framework and set of guidelines for use by expert witnesses in the information technology (IT) profession is proposed. This is achieved by examining the current rules and guidelines related to the provision of expert evidence in a court environment, by analysing the rationale for the separation of distinct disciplines and corresponding bodies of knowledge used by the Medical Profession and Forensic Science and then by analysing the bodies of knowledge within the discipline of IT itself. It is demonstrated that the accepted processes and procedures relevant to expert witnessing in a court environment are transferable to the IT sector. However, unlike some discipline areas, this analysis has clearly identified two distinct aspects of the matter which appear particularly relevant to IT. These two areas are; expertise gained through the application of IT to information needs in a particular public or private enterprise; and expertise gained through accepted and verifiable education, training and experience in fundamental IT products and system.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 36813
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Caelli, William, Boyd, Colin, & Hann, James
Additional Information: Several chapters have been removed from the electronic version of the thesis by the author.
Keywords: computer security, evidence preservation Australia, criminal investigation Australia, law enforcement, audit trails, evidence, investigation, expert witness, information security, policy, court, survey, computer, forensic computer examination, digital evidence, auditing, electronic records
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > School of Software Engineering & Data Communications
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:06
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2012 04:20

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