Digging out digital evidence from social media

Irish startup firm Cernam is launching a new tool this month for gathering legally admissible digital evidence from online sources such as Facebook, blogs and message boards.

According to a report in the Irish Times, the Dublin company sees a gap in the market for capturing online evidence in a forensically sound way, as this is often presented in legal proceedings using just screenshots and printouts, whereas sophisticated tools and processes exist to collect evidence stored on PCs.

In development for over two years, Cernam Capture Preserve remotely grabs evidence for any item of web content, such as a web page, a web-based application, or postings on message boards, blogs or social networks.

The company says the software has been designed to be easy to use for non-technical legal personnel, investigators or human resources managers. Capturing evidence is designed to be as simple as clicking a browser button and customers don’t need to install software to do so.

“Employees are using personal accounts on social networking sites, webmail systems and productivity tools for business, meaning business records are accumulating in those accounts and may be needed for litigation at some point,” Cernam’s chief executive Owen O’Connor told the newspaper.

Cernam’s software is designed to be used in scenarios where employees consent to having their company conduct limited searches such as all messages from a supplier between certain dates. It also tackles the challenges involved in capturing online evidence in a way that can be presented in a legal proceeding.

“Unlike, say, a PC hard disk, you can’t physically seize online evidence, take a forensic copy and lock away the original. The original is effectively under someone else’s control, which makes the integrity of the evidence collection process far more important,” said O’Connor.