REVIEW: "A Guide to Forensic Testimony", Fred Chris Smith/Rebecca Gurley Bace

Discussion in 'Computer Security' started by Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Jul 29, 2003.

  1. BKGDFOTS.RVW 20030604

    "A Guide to Forensic Testimony", Fred Chris Smith/Rebecca Gurley Bace,
    2003, 0-201-75279-4, U$49.99/C$77.99
    %A Fred Chris Smith
    %A Rebecca Gurley Bace
    %C P.O. Box 520, 26 Prince Andrew Place, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 2T8
    %D 2003
    %G 0-201-75279-4
    %I Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
    %O U$49.99/C$77.99 416-447-5101 fax: 416-443-0948
    %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201752794/robsladesinterne
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201752794/robsladesinte-21
    %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201752794/robsladesin03-20
    %P 509 p.
    %T "A Guide to Forensic Testimony"

    The subtitle explains the book more fully: "The Art and Practice of
    Presenting Testimony as an Expert Technical Witness." However, those
    with expectations about the form of technical literature should note
    that the style of this work follows that of the legal profession and
    case law: it primarily teaches by using examples rather than pointing
    out a specific methodology.

    The preface illustrates another difference between the technical and
    legal worlds. Computer work generally involves finding an answer to a
    problem: if the code works, background study and documented analysis
    is generally irrelevant. The legal profession, on the other hand,
    absolutely depends upon advance preparation, and an answer is almost
    useless unless the reasoning, background, and process is not only
    chronicled, but properly and legally obtained. Thus the authors are
    aware of the twin needs to inform technical experts about the
    requirements of the legal world, and to instruct legal professionals
    in aspects of technology that may be relevant to the pursuit of a
    case. The introduction notes the possible tragedies that can result
    if either the trial attorney or the technical expert attempts to act
    as ventriloquist to the other's dummy.

    Chapter one gives examples of expert witnesses, starting with a
    fictional example from a movie. Normally this would not be very
    instructive, but the authors are careful to point out, from the
    fictional story, important legal points to be aware of in regard to
    the possibilities and limits of expert testimony (and also the legal
    restrictions that would prevent some of the story points from
    happening in a real case). The rest of the chapter then goes on to
    introduce legitimate and recognized experts, and present their
    opinions and advice in regard to the practice of expert testimony.
    Chapter two is supposed to promote both the idea of becoming an expert
    witness, and of preparing for the experience. In fact, most of the
    material deals with Bill Gates' first deposition in the antitrust
    litigation, and the mistakes that he made. The example does make
    valid points both about the value of preparation and the need to
    testify whether we want to or not, but the message is not always
    obvious. Using testimony to provide a story about what happened is
    presented in chapter three. The example, though, is the tracing of
    Kevin Mitnick's intrusion on the systems managed by Tsutomu Shimomura,
    and therefore the testimony, which never happened, is simulated, which
    weakens the lessons the text intends to convey. Chapter four outlines
    the rules of testimony and the legal process, and is the section that
    technical people should probably study most thoroughly. Although
    there are important points to be made in regard to the dangers of
    reasoning beyond the facts, chapter five reads more like an editorial
    inveighing against pseudoscience.

    Ethical issues are discussed in chapter six. The early material
    involves a great deal of text from two case decisions, but eventually
    there is a review of codes of conduct, and even examination of some of
    the moral aspects of court battles. Chapter seven deals specifically
    with the matter of bias. The gatekeeper function of American judges,
    who must decide not only whether a witness is truly expert, but on
    what the expert may testify about or to, is covered in chapter eight.
    This material also reviews important points about the qualifications
    for experts and the characteristics of good evidence. Credible and
    convincing evidence and presentation is described in chapter nine, and
    this is extended to visual exhibits in chapter ten, demeanour in
    eleven, and non-verbal communications in twelve. Chapter thirteen
    contains examples of, and advice from, some experts who have extensive
    experience in court testimony.

    The book sometimes flows rather oddly, and it would be easy to take
    issue with a number of the topics or the emphasis given to certain
    ones over others. Even so, this work *is* important, and information
    security professionals; and certainly those in management or
    consulting roles; should seriously consider it. The text is written
    with the technical worker in mind, although legal professionals would
    undoubtedly find the research, advice, and explanations to be helpful
    in preparing for technical cases. Litigation involving technical
    topics is increasing all the time, and new (and therefore unfamiliar)
    technologies are now as constant a fact of legal life as forensic
    concerns are in technical work.

    copyright Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKGDFOTS.RVW 20030604

    --
    ======================

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    Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Jul 29, 2003
    #1
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