Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Aspects of Digital Forensics in South Africa

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Aspects of Digital Forensics in South Africa

Article excerpt


This paper presents a review of the computer forensics (predominately forensics focused on PCs and laptops) and digital forensics (forensics from all digital artefacts, including mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, GPS devices, embedded systems) environment in South Africa. In the paper the authors consider the development and evolution of cybercrime and cyber threats, government legislation in the cyber domain, and academic response (research, course provision) in South Africa in order to illustrate the environment for digital forensics in the country.

This paper is motivated by the perceived need to address the skills gap in digital forensics investigations. South Africa faces numerous challenges related to cybercrime and cyber threats, thus making the ability to investigate such incidents essential. The Norton Cybercrime Report suggested that over 1 million South Africans were victims of cybercrime in 2012.This is due to the lack of cyber security awareness from individuals and organizations and the steps needed to protect their digital artefacts, data and information (Symantec, 2013).

The continued exponential growth in the availability and use of computer and digital technology in transactions and interactions (in South Africa but also across the African continent) in business, industry and social media lead to huge volumes of data in the virtual world. The growth in the use of computing and digital devices has not been matched by a raising of public awareness of the threat of cybercrime or the use of cyber security to promote safe digital activities. Growth in the number of Internet users in South Africa (from 5 million in 2008 to 26.8 million in 2015, representing almost 50% of the population) and the number of people using mobile Wi-Fi (Stork, Calandro, & Gamage, 2014) to access the Internet means that there is an increase in the potential threat from cybercrime. In a report on cybercrime McAfee (2014) suggests that "once a country gets Broadband there is a spike in cybercrime" (p. 6) and the spike is exacerbated when connectivity is via mobile Wi-Fi. In addition to the growth in Internet access there is a growth of related technologies including cloud computing, mobile technologies, unsecured Wi-Fi, social media, and geopositional data. The changing and expanding digital environment means that the amount of data in the virtual world and the type of data that may be of 'interest' to cyber criminals presents an evolving and developing set of challenges for digital investigations and for digital forensic investigators. Simultaneously the ubiquitous nature of computing and digital technology means that potentially every 'traditional' crime, in addition to every cybercrime, has a possible digital investigation aspect to it. Any crime that has a digital artefact associated with it potentially requires a digital forensics investigation that needs to be carried out by investigators with appropriate digital forensics training and competence.

Because all data is potentially of interest in cybercrime investigations there is an unprecedented challenge for law enforcement agencies. There is a need for highly skilled digital forensics investigators to meet the demand and address the challenges facing digital investigations as well as addressing the threat to society. It is argued in this paper that, in order to meet the skills shortage and gap in digital forensics in South Africa and address the growing need for highly skilled digital investigators, there is a need to review provision of digital and computer forensics degree programs available in the country.

The paper proceeds with an overview of the research methodology used. It then moves on to review the impact of cybercrime in South Africa, followed by specialized cybercrime legislation. Next the requirements for developing digital forensic skills and capabilities are discussed, followed by a review of the state of forensic teaching provision at universities in South Africa. …

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