Court-appointed trustees and receivers, or fiduciaries, identify, recover and evaluate assets and historical financial information. They are aided by a team of professionals, including attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, appraisers, investment bankers and others, depending on the nature of the matter. In the past, this meant sifting through reams of paper records and issuing subpoenas for bank records and other documents.
Today, about 93 percent of information is electronically created, according to a University of California, Berkeley, study. And with as much as 50 percent of data created electronically never being printed, fiduciaries might miss vital information when relying on conventional discovery alone.
Computer forensics professionals work as part of a fiduciary’s team by taking data preservation and network security actions to preserve relevant business records, including financial information and email. They are able to identify what information is available, where it is located and in what form it is stored.
For example, computer forensics examiners can find email, word processing documents and spreadsheets residing in workstations, laptops, servers, backup tapes and portable storage, including external hard drives, Mp3 players and cell phones. In addition, they can find other critical data in antiquated business applications, phone systems and closed-circuit surveillance systems.
First, this information must be secured to prevent it from being destroyed remotely or otherwise purged. Once critical data has been identified for preservation, computer forensics examiners can create exact copies of the data, while maintaining the chain of custody.
Preserved data may then be mined to produce relevant information in a usable and convenient format. A fiduciary may specify certain keywords that the computer forensics examiner would use to tailor data searches. Such targeted analyses can dramatically lower the price of electronic discovery while increasing the value of the information produced.
Also, data can be extracted quickly from antiquated business applications into user-friendly databases. Email, documents, spreadsheets and other data may be imported into Summation and Concordance software programs for easy manipulation, analysis and sharing.
Fiduciaries, investigators and forensic accountants rely on preserving, mining and producing data electronically to help uncover hidden assets, identify unknown claimants and analyze fraudulent payments or transactions.
Computer forensics is an important addition to a fiduciary’s toolbox, enhancing their ability to achieve successfully their appointed duties.
Arieh Davidoff is the manager of Rachlin’s Computer Forensics group. He can be reached at [email protected].
A similar version of this article appeared in the South Florida Legal Guide.
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