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What is data forensics? The surprising role of digital information in law

| Written by Altlaw

As the world becomes more entwined with technology, modern legal cases rely more heavily on digital evidence. Data forensic teams play a key role in collating and presenting evidence that can be used in a case and are often a key contributing factor to a verdict.

So, what is data forensics? And what processes do data forensic teams undergo to gather potentially case-winning evidence? In this blog post, we’ll discuss:



What is data forensics?

Data forensics is the investigation of digital data and its creation and use. Data forensics — also referred to as computer forensics — can involve the recovery or tracking of phone call logs, texts or emails.

The term ‘data forensics’ is relatively broad. It can refer to any action that identifies, preserves, recovers or analyses data. Think of it as part of the wider scope of forensics, with evidence collected and studied to investigate an alleged crime.


What do data forensic teams do?

It’s vital for members of data forensic teams to be highly trained in forensic evidence preservation, analysis and reporting. Just like physical evidence, digital evidence must be handled with care and expertise.

Data forensic teams usually begin their work when an investigation starts. There’s an urgency to alleviate the possibility of digital evidence being accidentally lost or purposefully deleted. The role of data forensic teams is to acquire digital evidence, examine it, analyse it and then create a report to present.


A data forensic expert will also preserve the integrity of the evidence. Much like physical evidence, preservation of data is vitally important. There are strict guidelines to adhere to and the handling of data can affect the original evidence state.


A common request from legal counsel to a data forensic team may be to investigate which individuals accessed a specific file within a particular window.

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What is forensic data collection?

It’s rare to find a modern case that doesn’t involve some sort of data. Forensic data collection occurs at the beginning of an investigation and involves gathering electronically stored information (ESI).

Whether it be from computers, mobile devices, tablets or cloud services, forensic data collection sets a solid foundation for an eDiscovery case. Data collection is vital — lost or destroyed evidence can be the difference between winning or losing a case, so effective and meticulous forensic data collection is crucial.

ESI is a vital litigation and investigation asset. Our expertise, combined with leading technology, allows us to manage and identify data throughout legal proceedings.


The forensic data process

The forensic data process typically involves four stages. 

  1. First, forensics teams must collect all relevant data they believe may be useful in a case. This can be data relating to a specific event or from a certain device during a particular period
  2. Data must then be processed and examined before all relevant pieces of information are extracted for analysis
  3. The evidence is then analysed to derive useful information that could be beneficial for the use of legal counsel
  4. Forensics teams then report the findings of their investigation, which are then taken forward into legal proceedings

It’s becoming increasingly rare to find cases that don’t involve forensic digital evidence. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of valuable tools which manage and analyse data.


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