I'm currently studying Digital Forensics and a recent bit of google-inspired research lead me to one of the big stories of late last year (which I vaguely remembered) where a Microsoft forensic tool designed for use by law enforcement called COFEE (Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor) was leaked on the internet.

Given the prevelance of computer-based crime and the level of skill required to perform proper forensic analysis, it makes sense for Microsoft (or someone else) to develop a simple-to-use wrapper for what apparently was a number of common forensic tools available elsewhere on the internet.

The reaction to the leak seems to have been mixed, with Microsoft claiming they weren't bothered by the release of the software, although noting it is licenced for use by Law enforcement only, to someone developing a counter-forensic tool called (of course..) DECAF. What was the thinking in creating this counter to COFEE? One of the developers said:

"We saw Microsoft released COFEE and that it got leaked, and we checked it out," the man said. "And just like any kid's first day at the fair, when you walk up to that cotton-candy machine and it smells so good and you see it, it's all fluffy – just so good. You get up there and you grab it and you bite into it, it's nothing in your mouth.

"That's the same thing we did with COFEE. So, knowing that and knowing that forensics is a pretty important factor, and that a lot of other pretty good forensic tools are getting overlooked, we decided to put a stop to COFEE."

This arguement seems fairly disingenuous as COFEE seems to hardly have been aimed to replace any existing tools, but to simply make them easier for a less-well trained law enforcement operator to use in order gather crucial forensic evidence. The fact the tool was released by Microsoft probably had more to do with creating a counter-tool than noble thoughts of 'better tools being overlooked'.

No matter what the task, there is almost always a 'better tool', whose use might not be desirable because of cost, complexity or the expert knowledge required to operate it. Much of the history of software innovation has been designed around making complex tasks easier so more people can perform them, Windows being the prime example as it took desktop computers from the realm of geeky hobbyists to mainstream use in businesses and in homes. While simplifying (or as some may call it 'dumbing down') tasks may grate the nerves of the some, it is an inevitable and in many ways, desirable end goal.

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