Litigation Support - What's Involved With Computer Forensics?

Some litigation support services offer computer forensics as a service to law firms. This field is growing as businesses and consumers alike conduct business and personal transactions on computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. In law cases, digital evidence is often stored on electronic devices. Sometimes the evidence readily available to anyone who looks while other times, the evidence may be hidden or "wiped clean." Either way, computer forensics experts can provide the litigation support that you need by going in and finding evidence.

Why Turn to Litigation Support Services to Search for Electronic Evidence?


If you're in possession of a hard drive, Flash drive, CD, DVD, digital camera, or other media device that may contain evidence, it's important to know where to look. For example, if you're working on a divorce case and suspect that a digital camera contains explicit photos, casually looking at the camera's memory card may not yield results. After all, the images may have been deleted to avoid discovery. However, litigation support services offering computer forensics have the expertise and tools to "undelete" files.


Types of Electronic Evidence


Electronic evidence takes many forms including photos, videos, email messages, text messages, instant messages, word processing documents, spreadsheets, and Internet files. Using computer forensics utilities and techniques, computer experts can provide the litigation support that you need by digging in and finding the data.


Finding Hidden or Erased Data


Computers readily give up secrets. Web histories, temporary Internet files, and cookies are well known for revealing a user's Web surfing habits. Because they are well known for this, many users know how to delete their tracks. However, did you know that some operating systems have what's known as an index.dat file that keeps track of all URLs visited, even if Web histories have been erased? Many users don't know this, but computer forensics do. This is but one example of the many resources available to computer forensics professionals.


Another common tool used in litigation support is data recovery software. Even if a hard disc, portable storage card, or digital camera has been erased or reformatted, data recovery software makes easy work of retrieving the so-called deleted files. Many computer users are unaware of how erasing and reformatting really work. Data isn't actually erased during deletions or formatting. Rather, the data is removed from the computer's index and the hard drive space where the data resides considered "available." Until new data occupies that "available" space, the original data can be recovered.


Computer Forensics Certifications

Certification programs validate the certificate holder's expertise at computer investigations. Many programs exist ranging from general certifications such as the Certified Computer Forensics Examiner and Certified Electronic Evidence Collection Specialist to vendor-specific certifications such as Discover-e Certification and AccessData Certified Examiner. Like other forms of evidence, chain of custody practices are as important as the evidence itself. Choosing certified computer forensics experts helps to ensure that the evidence is gathered, documented, and secured in a manner acceptable to the courts.

While litigation support services have typically focused on more traditional services, some are beginning to branch out into computer forensics. As always, look for demonstrated expertise in the given field. In this case, certification is an excellent starting point.

Have you outsourced computer forensics? Share your experiences...

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