Redefining Digital Investigations: A Collaborative Approach to Mobile Device Forensics
Written and presented by:
Steve Davis, VP of Forensics & Investigations | Purpose Legal
Alex Chatzistamatis, Principal Strategic Solutions Engineer | Reveal
Rick Clark, VP of Strategic Partnerships | CloudNine
Matt Rasmussen, Founder & CEO | ModeOne
In a recent candid conversation with industry veterans, we delved into the ever-evolving landscape of modern data management in the realms of eDiscovery and investigations. The discourse touched upon crucial aspects such as device collections, emerging considerations for forensics, and the imperative need for our industry to explore alternative solutions that comprehensively address the full spectrum of evidentiary requirements.
Richard Clark, Alex Chatzistamatis, Steve Davis, and Matt Rasmussen discussed best practices for data extraction, analysis, and preservation – and how digital forensics can be leveraged to strengthen a case.
The result was a timely discussion that shows just how far legal investigations have come in recent years – and what exciting new possibilities lie ahead.
A key theme of the discussion was the increasing need for multifunctional solutions that can flexibly adapt to diverse and rapidly expanding data landscapes. Gone are the days of rigid, linear frameworks for conducting digital investigations – organizations now require a “proverbial Swiss Army knife” and versatile toolbox to accommodate variables encountered in the field.
With data volumes mushrooming exponentially across many channels and platforms, investigations can no longer rely on predefined sequences of extraction, processing, and review.
Now, no single software solution can meet every investigatory need. Cross-disciplinary collaboration is crucial for holistically assessing cases, identifying the most salient data sources, selecting optimal tools for targeting information and customizing efficient workflows.
The panelists agreed that assumptions and a one-size-fits-all mentality will fail in our complex, quickly-evolving digital era. As Steve Davis summed up, there is no longer a clear-cut black-and-white landscape – organizing and making sense of increasingly gray, messy datasets requires multifunctional teams and solutions.
The experts also delved into the dramatic expansion of data types now in play within digital investigations, spanning well beyond emails and documents.
Crucial data sources can now span a variety of origins – including social media communications, geolocation metadata, smartphone data like texts and photos, slack or messenger threads, and more.
This growing list of data sources poses a challenge for legal teams – digital investigation technology must now be able to easily ingest, process, and analyze these diverse digital artifacts. Without an efficient way to go through the vast amount of disparate data points, making sense of the evidence at hand can become impossible.
Understanding redundancy is also vital. Data such as iPhone backups may persist in multiple locales like iCloud storage, even if a custodian deletes the information or destroys the device. Thinking through these nuances rather than just reacting after-the-fact can uncover pivotal evidence.
The panel pointed to modern document attachments as an illustrative example. Data may not always appear at face value how lawyers expect when presented on screens. Attaching a file in an email or slack channel does not necessarily embed it – it often exists separately in a distinct repository. Reconstructing complete records demands technology and skills for consolidating data shards from diverse digital locations.
With exponential diversity of data types introduced by new technologies, investigations increasingly hinge on specialized expertise to handle mounting complexity. As you can imagine, this calls for an intimate understanding of the applicable laws, products, and services.
As investigations incorporate more data types across platforms, clear communication channels between legal, technical, and forensics teams become increasingly important. Miscommunication regarding collection scopes can severely undermine efforts.
Legal teams may request the extraction of only the most pertinent texts or emails. However, their instructions to technical staff handling acquisitions can get lost in translation, resulting in overly broad dataset captures.
Tight collaboration and dialog between stakeholders, rather than simply outsourcing tasks, allows for joint troubleshooting when challenges emerge with massive volumes of data. Facilitating expertise sharing rather than siloed work enables more targeted, efficient discovery and review.
Consider how evidence from digital investigations now comes under greater scrutiny in courtrooms. Ensuring the systematic, documented handling of devices and data as they change hands between parties lends more credibility to the process.
By promoting cross-disciplinary teamwork, organizations can optimize investigative outcomes, accelerate insights, and reduce risks associated with sprawling datasets in complex, quickly evolving cases.
A common forward focus for nearly every webinar has been the growing role of AI and machine learning technologies in shaping the future of digital investigations. AI adoption is rapidly accelerating, with generative models like ChatGPT demonstrating new possibilities.
The panel agreed – when applied properly, AI promises to supercharge sorting through massive datasets to zero in on key evidence. AI can help collapse timelines from months or years to minutes by automatically classifying documents and identifying critical information.
However, the technology remains imperfect. AI still requires human training and oversight. Organizations should be wary of overautomating legal decision-making processes at this stage.
While AI’s ultimate capabilities remain uncertain, the panelists agree machine learning will significantly augment investigations in tandem with human expertise. AI delivers the most value when accelerating rote tasks, allowing people to focus efforts on higher-order critical thinking.
So while AI may not be ready to fully shoulder legal judgments, continually improving solutions will likely transform everything from eDiscovery review to compliance audits by rapidly analyzing cascades of digital communications.
As data continues to burgeon in the corporate realm, the innovators within the eDiscovery community are rising to the challenge, devising solutions that navigate these complexities. The responsibility lies with each of us to remain vigilant and continuously educate ourselves on the unfolding landscape of modern data management, ensuring our practices align with the dynamic needs of our industry.
Multifunctional teams, tools, and tactics are ascending as the new imperative as datasets fracture across devices and platforms – cooperation represents the connective tissue binding it all together into coherence. With challenges mounting, mutual reliance across disciplines may be the secret sauce for overcoming complexity and keeping pace with unrelenting waves of innovation.
Check out the full webinar online, and learn more from the experts about how to stay ahead of the digital revolution – and keep your legal team well-equipped for success!
Contact a Purpose Legal expert today for a complimentary consultation.