2

Is there a standard procedure when it comes to preserving evidence of a crime committed on a website of a third party?

Let's assume that a crime was committed on a website I visit, like defamation. Other than using the Wayback Machine or browser plugins to save the page in case either the website owner or the perpetrator removes the evidence, is there a better way?

My goal is to be able to prove to the authorities that a crime was committed so that they start an investigation. For not-so-serious crimes unless it's very easy to prosecute - e.g. the evidence is still accessible without the need for a warrant - the police might not even bother.

6
  • I'm not a lawyer or a criminal prosecutor, but I believe that screenshots actually tend to hold up. Just take NOTES about each one May 21, 2021 at 20:16
  • 3
    This is a better question for law.stackexchange.com than here.
    – Xander
    May 21, 2021 at 20:21
  • 1
    @Xander thank you for the suggestion. I initially considered posting it there but would they know the digital tools and procedure involved?
    – Lili
    May 21, 2021 at 20:25
  • 2
    Better than people here would, for sure. Ultimately, you shouldn't look for legal advice for free on the Internet, but if you can get it, lawyers are who you need to get it from, not InfoSec people. Really though, your very best option is to ask your local police (or whatever police you intend to submit your evidence to) what they would want to see, because no matter what any one tells you, if they're not on-board with it, it doesn't matter.
    – Xander
    May 21, 2021 at 21:27
  • 1
    The classic way to grab a web site is wget, linuxjournal.com/content/downloading-entire-web-site-wget . There are numerous other tools listed here geckoandfly.com/32437/download-websites . I've only used wget. May 22, 2021 at 14:55

1 Answer 1

3

Is there a standard procedure when it comes to preserving evidence of a crime committed on a website of a third party?

Screenshots of the evidence are a good start-off point. While the text on the web pages can be modified before the screenshot is taken, it would be a very foolish thing to do so and then to submit it as evidence to the law enforcement. At least that is what is assumed by the cops who take in the initial evidence to file the case, that the submitter is not that stupid.

If you want to take this one step further, you could get the screenshots notarized by an attorney (after the attorney verifies your screenshot with the content on the website and confirms that they match) and then use them as evidence. It is generally assumed that court officials and attorneys would not want to get themselves perjured (since the attorney could need to swear in court under oath that they verified the contents at the time of signature) and hence such notarization would be mostly held as acceptable evidence.

Furthermore, most servers do have backups in some form or the other and if the evidence (screenshots) is submitted to the law enforcement officials quickly enough, they may be able to get actual confirmation from the server webmasters or owners of the site.

Forensic tools and techniques are available to take forensically acceptable backups of the site, but most of such tools are somewhat expensive and are not within the scope of most home users. They may not be needed in most cases unless advised by a lawyer.

Wget is a good tool to scrape websites/webpages but again, it is not forensically acceptable since the downloaded webpages can be manually edited in text editor.

Let's assume that a crime was committed on a website I visit, like defamation.

The jurisdiction matters a lot. Which country are you located in and in which jurisdiction is the site server hosted in (if it's possible for you to know)?

Also, did someone use your "real name" to defame you or just a nickname moniker that you use on forums? That is also quite important to establish certain facts but this is not a part of your question and so I will not into the details.

My goal is to be able to prove to the authorities that a crime was committed so that they start an investigation. Like I wrote above, you may need to prove that you actually suffered damage from that "defamation" before they would consider that a "crime" or take it to court or even files a police report, in some jurisdictions.

For not-so-serious crimes unless it's very easy to prosecute - e.g. the evidence is still accessible without the need for a warrant - the police might not even bother.

Did your opponent use their real names to attack you (using your real name) or was this just some sort of a fight on a platform like reddit where one usually does not use their real names? If real names are not used then the police may not even bother to get involved unless serious threats are made which could endanger life and such (again ths depends on the jurisdiction).

Finally please be aware that in most cases and in most jurisdictions, it would not be possible to file a case without your real name and your details ultimately becoming public data. Only in very few cases which could pose a real danger to the complaining party, the police allow the case details to remain private. Otherwise if and when the case reaches the court, in most cases your details would become public. Are you ready for that?

3
  • Hi and welcome Alex! I think the second half of your answer is perhaps more towards law than security. But the first half is very much on topic and very good so +1.
    – Anders
    May 22, 2021 at 17:10
  • Thanks @Anders I thought that the requester would benefit from the additional info, just in case :)
    – Alex-007
    May 22, 2021 at 17:51
  • Awesome answer!
    – Lili
    May 28, 2021 at 18:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .