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Digital Evidence Management—all about security

QueTel highlights the importance of digital evidence integrity


By QueTel

This article is provided by QueTel.com and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of PoliceOne.

Few question the overwhelming impact that digital evidence has made on law enforcement in the 21st Century. It started with point and shoot digital cameras and in car video cameras and has reached an apex with body worn cameras, smart phones, and wireless surveillance videos. Because digital files from these sources is essential evidence, careful attention must be paid to ensure its integrity. Lacking attention to digital evidence integrity leaves the door open to challenge, by a clever defense attorney.

At the heart of ensuring integrity is storing, images, videos, and voice recordings.
At the heart of ensuring integrity is storing, images, videos, and voice recordings.

At the heart of ensuring integrity is storing, images, videos, and voice recordings. You can store digital evidence on DVDs. You can store it on your desktop. Alternatively, you can store it on a folder on a server. Many agencies store digital evidence in their records management system.

At the end of the day, however, the legal concern will only be satisfied, if the processes for handling a file, from recording, storing, and sharing, support its unimpeachable integrity. Is digital evidence merely stored, or is it carefully "managed?" What has to happen, to help the prosecutor respond to a defense attorney who asks: "How do I know the files you gave me in discovery are original and untouched?" The answer to these questions is managing each file through a gauntlet of tests—the core of a digital management system.

It must be able to verify that what is stored and has not been Photo shopped or edited using a tool such as Adobe Premier prior to upload in the source memory.

Any copy routine runs a check sum that all of the bytes copied were received. The system should do more than count because bytes may be corrupted without changing the count. It should assure that every byte, copied with 100% accuracy.

The system should be constructed, so that no user can directly access a file. The software should employ means to allow only indirect access through intermediary software.

This leaves open the possibility of access by a rogue IT technician, so the software should expose or prevent such access, preferably without performance degrading encryption of the stored files.

Of course access to the software should be protected by password protected privileges.

Then there are issues of sharing files. How do you prove to the defense attorney and the court that the shared are true copies of the verified original?

If your digital evidence management software anticipates and deals effectively with all of these issues and answers to these questions, you can help your prosecutor hold defense attorneys at bay.

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