Digital Evidence: A Short Guide

Digital evidence is far from a new term in law enforcement, but we know with the continual development and evolution of technology, solutions, and categories even, of digital evidence, a short guide on the terms can be a great tool for you! Read up on the three major forensic categories of devices where digital evidence is found today, why and when it’s used and how it’s done.

What is digital evidence?

In the conversation around evidence, digital evidence in some ways is similar to other types but in many ways distinct. The National Institute of Justice defines digital evidence as “information and data of value to an investigation that is stored on, received or transmitted by an electronic device.” What’s more, digital evidence is distinct from other types of evidence because it is marked by the following features highlighted in this guide:

  1. Digital evidence is latent or hidden (like fingerprints or DNA evidence
  2. Digital evidence crosses jurisdictional borders quickly and easily
  3. Digital evidence can be altered, damaged or destroyed with little effort
  4. Digital evidence can be time sensitive

What major devices is digital evidence pulled from?

Digital evidence can be pulled from any device that stores digital information, including even common household appliances such as refrigerators, but in the broad picture of criminal justice, digital evidence is typically retrieved from devices that are divided into three categories:

  1. Internet based
  2. Stand-alone computers
  3. Mobile devices

Internet Based Devices:

It was during the mid-90s when we were launched into the Age of Access that it became possible for individuals outside the academic world to connect to a world of information and resources in a way unmatched by any other form. That, of course, opened up the path for both good information and information that could damage, be composed of illegal images, information and even be used for espionage.

What’s essential for those dealing with Internet-related crime is for investigators, laboratory and technical personnel to understand how the process works and to stay closely engaged with advances in software and tracking technologies, something which varies from state to state.

Stand-Alone Computers:

Computers have been with us for over 50 years now and so also has computer-based crime. In fact, in this Simplified Guide to Digital Evidence,

A single computer can contain evidence of criminal activity carried out on the web, or the criminal use can be contained in the computer itself, such as pornography, copyright infringement, extortion, counterfeiting, and much more. Digital evidence is located on the computer’s hard drive and peripheral equipment, including removable media such as thumb drives.

Mobile Devices:

Then there are mobile devices and millions of them. With the number of cellphones in the US exceeding the US population, it’s no surprise that it’s become that much more important to for law enforcement agencies across the full spectrum of specializations to develop the ability to detect, track and download digital evidence from these devices.

When is digital information used?

Few if any crime these days are committed without some tapping into of digital information. From child abuse to extortion to property crimes and terrorism, what’s most important when it comes to collecting and using digital information for law enforcement is targeting the pre and post crime data from these devices. Within the process of collecting digital evidence, it is absolutely critical to follow proper procedures for storing and sharing that evidence. The last thing any investigator wants to learn when his case is brought to court is that his evidence is inadmissible or cannot be used due to a break in chain of custody.

How Prepared is Your Police Agency?

How savvy are your law enforcement agents and investigators when it comes to dealing with digital information? What about your equipment? Are you utilizing the most updated tools to detect, download and preserve digital evidence?

Let iRecord walk you through what’s most current and ensure you’re department doesn’t lag behind technology—or behind the next criminal tapping into that same technology! Talk to us today to learn more!

Contact Us