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Digital Intelligence – The Key to Solving Criminal and Corporate Investigations

We live in a digital world where technology is evolving and transforming every facet of life, including law enforcement and business enterprises. Crimes are being planned, conducted, and paid for through our digital devices and crucial evidence of criminal activity can often only be found on them. While gathering physical evidence (the mobile devices, computers, SIM cards and other sources from which digital evidence can be derived) is the first step, acquiring actionable intelligence is a much more difficult task. Digital information is spread across billions or even trillions of bytes of data. It’s not just a needle in a haystack, it’s dozens of virtual needles in billions of digital haystacks.

Digital Intelligence (DI), the ability to lawfully access, analyze, and manage digital evidence, has become a linchpin in investigating, solving, and prosecuting criminal activity. By tracking digital activities across devices such as smartphones, laptops, wearables, and the Cloud, investigators can now solve cases ranging from homicide to financial fraud. DI empowers law enforcement and corporate security personnel to transform digital data in real-time into actionable insights to conduct criminal investigations faster and allow businesses to protect corporate assets and strengthen internal audits.

Knowing where the opportunities lie to better access, manage, and analyze large volumes of digital evidence is key for both law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity professionals. This is why we recently introduced the DI Readiness Navigator. By using a brief questionnaire, the Navigator produces a customized DI Readiness Matrix report to aid organizations in identifying key opportunities for technology and organizational transformation using Digital Intelligence.

Let’s take a look at how Digital Intelligence is transforming both the law enforcement and business sectors.

Digital Intelligence for Law Enforcement

Contrary to popular assumptions, accessing information on devices is not the primary challenge facing law enforcement. In fact, many foresee Apple and Samsung providing “back-door” device access to government agencies in the coming years. The real challenge lies in identifying relevant information and converting that into actionable investigative leads or evidence.

It’s estimated that an average person uses about 5GB of data each month. Consider that criminals are becoming more aware of the importance of their devices to law enforcement and therefore are intentionally hiding far more data externally (on thumb drives, hard drives, or in the Cloud) on the chance their device is seized.

Even when we look at individual devices, there’s simply too much data housed on even one smartphone these days for investigators to analyze and identify relevant data efficiently and in a timeframe that meets the demands of an investigation, which must often be conducted in a tight window.

Our recent annual Digital Intelligence Benchmark Report, which surveyed over 2,000 law enforcement agency personnel from over 110 countries, confirmed this sentiment. The report found that on average, 2-4 phones are analyzed during an investigation, and examiners face an average 3-month backlog as well as an average backlog of 89 devices per police station. It’s become painfully obvious that law enforcement must face the criminal use of technology with more advanced technology.

DI solutions help law enforcement in three different ways when it comes to devices: access, data analysis, and data management and control.

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Investigators need quick access to devices they deem as harboring crucial evidence, whether that are in the field or in the lab. DI solutions are able to lawfully access and extract data in locked devices that law enforcement might otherwise not be able to retrieve, resulting in cases being solved faster. On the other hand, not all agencies have these types of tools at their disposal, which means they may lose evidence that could easily solve a case or have a lead go cold.

Once data is successfully accessed and extracted, DI solutions can help analyze that data. As devices can now contain terabytes of data, it’s impossible for this task to be done manually. DI solutions can automate data analysis with AI to uncover specific connections in the data that could be missed by an overwhelmed investigator, and assist in continuing the investigation, validating evidence.

Finally, Digital Intelligence solutions simplify data management and control processes, improving the way agencies securely access, manage, and leverage data between those involved in the investigation. This not only helps investigators collaborate, but it ensures that compliance and protocols are maintained every step of the way. For digital evidence to be accepted by the courts, this process is critical.

Digital Intelligence for Corporate Investigations

DI tools assist corporate investigators in the same manner they do for law enforcement. Data isn’t limited to desktops and servers in offices. Evidential information is being discovered on an ever-expanding number of devices including personal smartphones, laptops, tablets and even wearables. With many businesses allowing their employees to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of devices that could potentially become avenues for activities has greatly expanded, reinforcing the need for DI solutions. There are 10 billion personal devices in use and 67% of them are used in some capacity for work-related tasks.

DI allows organizations to triage data, then collect all relevant evidence legally available in a forensically sound manner that is defensible in court, while enabling them to categorize and identify actionable items. This comes in handy for corporations investigating IP theft or data breaches.

Companies often struggle with these investigations due to the limited resources at their disposal. This often results in less-than-thorough analysis, and investigations being dropped altogether. With resources burdened and stretched, some investigations are concluded and individuals held accountable with the earliest detection of even the slightest evidence. These incidents can be costly.

As shown by the Ponemon Institute’s 2020 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report, incidents involving malicious insiders cost companies $11.45 million on average. Resource constraints can limit the investigation to only those immediately involved. Ancillary criminal activity, such as those aiding and abetting, may never be investigated, identified, or prosecuted. Were this activity cyber-related, the malicious threat could still remain active as a result of an incomplete investigation. To combat issues like these, DI dramatically improves the likelihood of identifying and apprehending all related criminals.

Conclusion

Digital Intelligence solutions are pivotal for both law enforcement and corporate investigators. More than providing lawful access, they give investigators unprecedented access to information analysis, management, and compliance. Moreover, Digital Intelligence is the only practical means to conduct digital investigations in the tight timeframe needed to successfully identify criminal activity or apprehend the criminals involved. While they’re two drastically different use cases, DI is equally powerful in convicting a murderer or proving an employee in accounting has been intentionally cooking the books.

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