Preparing for a Complex Future in Digital Investigations
September 19, 2022
As the business world continues to transform digitally, new apps, devices, and platforms complicate the work of investigators looking into suspected corporate violations. To collect the data they need, investigators must take a forward-looking approach and harness their intuition.
Digital transformation of both business and government has fundamentally changed the way the global economy functions. There are new ways to engage customers, new mediums for moving capital, and new methods for implementing and enforcing regulations. Digitisation offers new methods for investigating suspected regulatory violations. This is a major advantage for investigators, who today can apply an unprecedented level of sophistication to the task.
But even with the latest tools at their disposal, investigators must think more broadly about how they approach discovery — the initial phases of an investigation when involved parties are required to provide relevant records and evidence related to a case. Data can be scattered across multiple locations; investigators need to be aware of even the most obscure apps organizations are using and keep up to date on the latest software platforms. At the same time, there is no one-size-fits-all solution: because each new app generally has its own structure for organising data, investigators must sometimes develop their own methods for gaining access to the data they seek.
A cross-border investigation brings additional requirements, including awareness of data privacy issues and security concerns in the jurisdiction where the investigation is occurring.
All this means that investigators need to prepare a detailed overview of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, including all of the apps and devices it uses, before launching into discovery.
The Evolution of E-Discovery
The process of discovery has traditionally included everything from interviewing individuals to reviewing paper documents such as memoranda and invoices. Technology plays a key role, as investigators use tech to look at everything from transactions data to who viewed a particular document.
As the information landscape has evolved to include enormous volumes (and varied types) of data, technology becomes ever more integral to the electronic discovery (“e-discovery”) process. Investigators need to look anywhere data might live on corporate systems, including servers, hard drives, personal devices, and cloud-based platforms as part of the e-discovery protocol. Corporate collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Trello and Telegram are also key sources.
In effect, investigations are now technological processes, much like the many other processes revolutionised by the digital transformation.
The Focus on Personal Devices
While mobile and personal devices are not new data sources for investigators, they continue to be highly relevant.
With an estimated 6.5 billion smartphone subscriptions active in the world, data flow has largely moved to mobile devices. The typical social media user engages with an average of 6.6 social media platforms, with many using these platforms for work-related communications. This development is likely to increase as younger generations — who have never lived in a world without social media — make up more of the workforce.
The rise of users tied to both mobile devices and social media platforms means data relevant to the discovery process will increasingly come from outside traditional data systems. Identifying where this data resides and gaining access to it is a growing challenge for investigators.
The Future is Arriving Now
In this constantly evolving landscape, it’s not enough for investigators to focus on the most popular apps or social media platforms alone. They must exercise creative thinking to stay current — or even one step ahead — of the trends in technology. Otherwise, they may very well miss that one piece of data that could make all the difference in a regulatory case. Success favors the prepared. The most effective investigators will be those who not only have their fingers on the pulse of digitalization but see the big picture.