Computer forensics brings more robust security

Elizabeth Millard, The Daily Record Newswire

The sales employee you’ve just hired is a dream come true: Not only were her references excellent, but she also comes with an extensive list of qualified leads that can jumpstart your business toward more growth and competitiveness.

This is around the time your sense of foreboding should kick in.

“We’ve seen a big uptick in this area, where a company that’s hiring is in for a nasty surprise,” says Jeremy Wunsch, CEO at Minneapolis-based LuciData, a computer forensic services company. “They bring on a seemingly great employee, and a few weeks later, they’re hit with an intellectual property theft lawsuit.”

The reason for an increase in litigation is that more companies of every size are realizing that there’s a way to protect their data from being misused, and that strategy is computer forensics, Wunsch said.

Following every data-based rabbit hole

In a very basic sense, computer forensics (sometimes known as digital forensics because mobile technology is covered) involves searching through digital assets, and if there’s a court case involved, the results of that search become e-discovery.

Although both are geared toward finding information that’s relevant to a lawsuit, the strategy can be used even when there’s no litigation. Forensic investigators follow every data-based rabbit hole in an organization and look for evidence of wrongdoing, depending on a client’s main concern.

For example, a CEO might be worried about employees forwarding offensive “jokes” to other departments, creating fertile ground for harassment claims. A computer forensics specialist can find those email threads, even if they’ve been deleted, and pinpoint the source of the issue. Or there may be concerns about whether a network
issue has exposed customer information, including credit card data or enterprise banking information.

Using highly sophisticated tools and detection methods, computer forensic professionals can ferret out usage logs and even determine what company information has passed onto thumb drives, cloud-based data storage applications and home computers.

Focus on internal threats

Increasingly, companies are recognizing the value of using computer forensics as a preventive measure rather than damage control.

“Sometimes, there’s just concern about a certain piece of intellectual property, like a design for a particular product,” says Paul Luehr, managing director of the Minneapolis office of Stroz Friedberg, a digital risk management firm headquartered in New York. “By looking for any communication or data about that design, we can discover whether it’s been leaked, or could be.”

In doing those types of investigations, computer forensic specialists are often able to find security flaws within a system. That insight can be invaluable for a company, adds Wunsch.

“If you don’t have the right safeguards in place, especially for internal threats, it can be an expensive security risk,” he says. “We’re seeing a big push in that direction, with companies asking us to come in and look at their systems to detect any intellectual property movement from inside to outside the organization.”

Internal threats can be a company’s greatest liability. Many enterprises worry about security risks like hackers, when they should be more concerned about whether an employee is taking home files on a thumb drive. Computer forensics helps to minimize these risks, Wunsch says, because an investigation can detect that sort of activity and install the security to keep it from happening again.

Making the case in court

Although computer forensics can help a company to prevent issues that lead to lawsuits, the most common application is when a suit is actually in progress. The benefit to using a specialty firm like LuciData, Stroz Friedberg or Minnetonka-based Computer Forensic Services comes with interpretation of search results, says Luehr.

“Forensics isn’t just firing a tool at a hard drive and coming up with a magical result,” he says. “You also need someone with extensive experience in presenting evidence in court, and who understands issues like evidence preservation.”

Those abilities are crucial because judges are increasingly involved in the nitty-gritty details of e-discovery, adds Michele Lange, director of discovery at Kroll Ontrack, an Eden Prairie-based provider of data recovery and legal technologies.

“Looking ahead, I think courts will have higher expectations when it comes to e-discovery, they’ll want to know more details,” says Lange.

Because so much data is going toward a digital format, she predicts that there might come a time in the near future when technology is used for almost all court documentation. That’s bad news for office supply companies, perhaps, but good news for computer forensics and e-discovery specialists.

“Three to five years from now, document review will look very different than it does now, even in small law firms,” Lange says. “Technology-assisted review is about to explode.”

For both litigation and enterprise operations, it’s likely that computer forensics will be used more by companies of every size in addition to law firms.

“There’s a great deal of value that businesses can get from computer forensic services — from employment protection to data security,” Luehr says.

More resources


Elizabeth Millard has been writing about technology for 17 years. Her work has appeared in Business 2.0, eWeek, Linux Magazine and TechNewsWorld. She attended Harvard University and formerly served as senior editor at ComputerUser.


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »