Digital Evidence

Updated on March 26, 2024
Article byShrestha Ghosal
Edited byShrestha Ghosal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Digital Evidence?

Digital evidence is a type of evidence that is stored as data in binary form in digital devices. They are used in the court of law and legal proceedings as a form of proof for a specific criminal or civil case. This evidence is usually associated with electronic crimes.

Digital Evidence

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Law enforcement agencies are increasingly employing this evidence to collect authentic and relevant data for all kinds of crimes. Investigators and legal professionals are incorporating the gathering and assessment of this evidence into their infrastructure in an effort to battle against e-crimes.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital evidence is the information stored in binary form in electronic instruments. It is employed in courts of law and legal proceedings as evidence in civil and criminal cases.
  • This evidence is used in financial institutions to discern, analyze, and uncover cyber scams. It assists in establishing infringement incidents like information breaches, fraud transactions, and unauthorized access to financial systems.
  • The evidence helps law enforcement agencies protect data, uphold customer trust, and ensure that there is compliance with the regulatory frameworks.

Digital Evidence In Finance Explained

Digital evidence in finance is the data stored in binary form in electronic devices. This information can be used in courts and legal proceedings as evidence in several types of civil and criminal cases. It is usually gathered, processed, analyzed, reported, and employed to fight electronic crimes.

In financial institutions, digital evidence is instrumental in identifying, studying, and uncovering cyber fraud. It can help ascertain events like data or security breaches, fraudulent transactions, and unauthorized access to financial systems. This evidence allows the investigators to reconstruct such occurrences, recognize the responsible individuals, and assess the extent of the infringement. It aids in data protection, maintaining customer trust, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Types

The types of digital evidence are:

  • Objective Evidence: This evidence type includes tangible or physical evidence like documents, hard drives, and flash drives.
  • Original Evidence: They are statements from individuals who are not a testifying witness. They help prove that a statement was made. Its truth may not need to be proved.
  • Hearsay Evidence: This evidence is the out-of-court statements that individuals have made. They are used in courts and legal proceedings to prove the truth of the case.
  • Testimony: This type of evidence occurs when witnesses take an oath in a court of law and make their statements in court.

How To Collect?

Some digital evidence collection methods include the following:

  • Seizing electronic communication devices: The investigators may seize the electronic communication instruments for gathering evidence. They turn off the devices and remove the batteries to prevent the data from being tampered with externally. They are then sent to the laboratories, where further investigation is continued with the help of data retrieved from these devices.
  • Seizing computers and other digital instruments: Computers and similar devices may store crucial information that can be used as evidence. In such cases, investigators seize these instruments and record all the information available to prevent the alteration or misplacement of data.
  • On-the-scene electronic evidence: Electronic evidence can also be found at the crime scene. Criminals may leave behind digital devices that may be employed to collect, analyze, and expose valuable information in legal proceedings.

Examples

Let us study the following examples to understand digital evidence:

Example #1

Suppose Ryan was put on trial for embezzlement. All his electronic devices were seized for gathering evidence. The investigators went through Ryan’s call logs, text messages, emails, and all other communications to trace his financial activities. They used his mobile device to track all the income and expenses he made during a specific period and used that information as proof for the case. They also tracked his digital footprint to source any reliable information they could find for use in the proceedings. This is an example of digital evidence.

Example #2

Arsenal Consulting, a Massachusetts-based forensic firm, claimed that the digital evidence was planted on Stan Swamy’s computer. He was initially arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case on the basis of this evidence. The forensic firm examined an electronic copy of his computer and found out that a hacker had invaded his computer, tampered with the documents, and planted false evidence against him. According to the report, over 50 false documents were created to fabricate the ties between Swamy and the Maoist insurgency.

Importance

Digital evidence analysis plays a significant role in various kinds of legal investigations.

  • In criminal cases, this evidence can be used to identify an individual’s person’s motive, recognize the co-conspirators, and establish how money was transferred to people.
  • Police body and dashcam videos are types of evidence that are employed in civil and criminal cases.
  • Moreover, the prison call logs, along with other forms of communication, may expose valuable data. In civil cases, the evidence may support a tax evasion case, whistleblower proceedings, defamation cases, and more such instances.
  • In some of the car accident cases, call recordings from insurance companies are often used as they provide some of the initial reports from drivers about what actually occurred.

Challenges

Digital evidence analysis may pose some challenges for investigators and legal professionals primarily because it is difficult to obtain this evidence. Cybercriminals are usually tech-savvy and they are cautious enough to keep their digital footprint to a minimum. Moreover, individuals may take ample steps to ensure that investigators cannot access their data or recordings. Complicated data storage and encryption methods can also make it tedious for investigators to obtain this evidence. Furthermore, using the wrong recovery methods leads to the data being unusable in a court of law. 

Digital Evidence vs Physical Evidence

The differences between the two are as follows:

Digital Evidence

  • This evidence is the data or information that is stored on, transmitted through, or received by any electronic device. It is of value to any investigation.
  • It plays a significant role in criminal investigations, primarily the investigations that focus on solving the e-crimes. However, it can help in the investigation of several civil cases where it can assist in supporting an individual’s defense or in proving their liability. 
  • Some of the common types of this evidence include pictures, videos, text messages, emails, and internet search histories.

Physical Evidence

  • Physical evidence is the material objects that can be found to be present at the crime scene, on the victims, or on the suspected criminals.
  • The evidence collected at the crime scene is assessed, and the results are used in a criminal investigation process to prove or disprove the facts associated with the case.
  • These pieces of evidence are also known as factual evidence. They are the indirect types of evidence and include tangible objects like foot traces, paint, hair, hidden fingerprints, and other biological and chemical components.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How can we check the validity of digital evidence?

The validity of this evidence can be checked by ensuring that there is unambiguous proof about where it came from. It must attest to the fact that it was collected from a specific place or an electronic communication instrument. The evidence must be a complete and accurate copy of the initially obtained evidence, and its integrity must be guaranteed.

2. How do we preserve digital evidence?

To digitally preserve the evidence, individuals must make copies of all the necessary data storage devices. Moreover, the data that they download from these data storages must be documented. Furthermore, the associated digital forensic expert must recognize the hidden data sections and restore all the deleted data.

3. What is the role of digital signatures in digital evidence?

A digital signature identifies the origin of the proof of the message. It employs various methods for verifying the authenticity of the message. The digital certificate owners merge the data to be signed with a private key. Then, they alter the data with an algorithm.

4. Is digital evidence forensic evidence?

Electronic evidence is a crucial element of several criminal activities, and it supports digital forensics for various legal investigations.

This has been a guide to what is Digital Evidence. We explain its types, examples, comparison with physical evidence, how to collect it, and importance. You can learn more about financing from the following articles –

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