As a Digital Forensic Consulting firm, one of the main services we provide is electronic discovery or eDiscovery. What is eDiscovery? Simply put, in civil litigation cases one or more parties may ask for documents such as emails, memos, or other electronic correspondence to help bring the facts out in the case to paint a clearer picture of what may have been going on leading up to the suit. For instance, if GM knew about a potential safety hazard in their vehicles which caused death or serious injury and there was any sort of electronic correspondence between executives at GM about the safety hazard and a suit is filed against GM alleging that they knew about the safety hazard and took no proactive action to correct it, these electronic correspondences may be recovered through the eDiscovery process and presented as part of the case to help prove wrongdoing by GM… by the way, that’s just an example for illustrative purposes. If anyone from GM reads this, don’t file suit on us please.
So how does eDiscovery factor into the world of digital forensics? To illustrate the different levels of digital forensics, we’ll “borrow” an analogy from a fellow examiner which we use often when describing the different levels of services we offer. Think of a computer, tablet, smart phone, etc. as a desk top in your office. eDiscovery would be the forensic equivalent of locating all the important papers on top of your desk which have not been destroyed or altered in any way. Digital Forensics delves a little deeper into the environment and we use quite a bit more training and expertise to locate what may be of interest in the trash can. If you think there’s relevant or important information in the shredder, we can work to recover that too and piece the bits together to present a (mostly) clear picture… but of course, that’s pretty time and labor-intensive and costs more. Using this analogy, eDiscovery is the top layer of information that a legal team may need when putting a case together. It is generally easier to recover and not overly time-consuming, (depending on how much is requested.)
The important fact that some practitioners may overlook is that adhering to the forensic methodology is vital across the board. Bear in mind that eDiscovery items all have evidentiary value whether they are to be used in mediation, deposition or court. Therefore, the means by which they are acquired and presented must be in line with all other digital evidence. Whether the lawsuit is for millions of dollars in damages or the case is criminal in nature with a person’s freedom at stake, the cost of cutting corners can be great. Further (and as stated in previous articles), if the forensic methodolgy when recovering the eDiscovery items isn’t maintained, the credibility of the examiner presenting the information may come into question. That is fatal in our line of work.
So hopefully you now have some idea of what eDiscovery is and its purpose. It’s been said that every time we learn something new, another wrinkle gets put in our brain… hopefully you got another wrinkle or two!Author:
Patrick J. Siewert
Owner, Lead Forensic Examiner
Pro Digital Forensic Consulting