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Forget dusting for fingerprints. Many of today's top investigators are focused on the digital realm. As data breaches continue to make headlines -- from the leaking of the Panama Papers to the hacking of major companies like Blue Cross and Sony -- more and more companies are turning to lawyers to determine what went wrong during a data breach, how to prevent cyberattacks, and what legal obligations are likely to flow from a breach.
When that happens, expertise in digital forensics is a must.
Digital Forensics 101
Simply put, digital forensics is the science of investigating and recovery electronic information, often as part of criminal or corporate investigations. If you need information hidden away on a computer, for example, digital forensics experts can create a mirror image of the machine, bit-by-bit in order to access the data inside. Digital forensics experts can also deal with encryption issues and help recover damaged or destroyed information.
That work is typically handled by specialists. (After all, you're an attorney, not a computer genius.) And many of those specialists also double as expert witnesses. But they're not cheap. Digital forensics companies can charge between $190 and $365 an hour, according to Legal Technology Today, though there are some outfits offering flat fee services.
Why Lawyers Need Familiarity With Digital Forensics
When companies (or worse, law firms) suffer a data breach, one of the first things they should do is head to a lawyer. And, if you're familiar with digital forensics and the law, that could be you. Any data breach creates issues of disclosure and notification that attorneys can handle.
At the same time, law firms will often direct corporate investigations into the cause of a breach and where or why the information may have been taken. That usually means bringing on an expert. According to Michael McCartney, a digital forensics and cybersecurity specialist in New York, 80 percent of his clients are now attorneys and law firms representing hacked companies.
Developing relationships with digital forensics experts can position you to deal with clients' data breach problems quickly and effectively.