A guide to handling electronic data and digital files....

The ease with which electronic documents can be created, copied, distributed and stored, and the frequency with which networked computers are backed up, means that the volume of potentially relevant documents can be staggering. It is easy to compromise electronic data if it is not handled in the correct way.

As soon as you suspect that relevant data may exist on a device, do whatever is within your power to assure that it remains untouched. It is human nature to want to “check out” possible evidence, but doing so risks compromising the evidence. If the computer is on and there is any reason to believe it might be “booby trapped” to destroy data - if it is not shut down in a certain way, simply unplug the machine from the electrical source.

Even if you do not currently have physical custody of the computer, an expert can help the solicitor explain to the Court how and why obtaining a forensic image of the computer may be crucial to the case. That is, the computer may contain hidden or deleted files that could bolster the case, and an expert can help assess that possibility.

It is important to maintain an audit trail of exactly what actions were taken and by whom. When did you receive custody of the evidence, what handover documents were created, where was the evidence stored and who has had access to it pending investigation? If you have accessed the data, how was this done and who witnessed it. Accessing data can often write further information to the media, so it is crucial to use a write blocker.

Before accessing any data or files, give us a call on 029 2070 6360. One of our consultants can talk you through how to view the data without compromising any future claim. They will gladly discuss your concerns and give you a realistic opinion of whether a forensic investigation is worthwhile.