DFI Forensics: processing digital crime scenes
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Except, instead of collecting blood, DNA or hair samples, Hatch and his team of digital forensic examiners gather digital evidence from hard drives, laptops and smartphones.
He tells AdvocateDaily.com the “crime scene” analogy is a great touchstone for explaining the concept of his company to business owners, lawyers, law firms and members of the public on the lower end of the tech-savvy spectrum.
“They start with a crime scene, comb over it exhaustively, and slowly put all the pieces together until they figure out what happened,” Hatch says. “We’re doing the same thing, just with computers.”
DFI’s forensic analysis and investigation are often carried out to boost the cases of lawyers working on a variety of litigation matters, including disputes involving family law, employment law and commercial contracts, he says.
The firm’s specially trained analysts use cutting-edge hardware and software to preserve and analyze digital evidence such as digital artifacts, operating system logs and metadata.
“Communications between parties is a big part of what we do,” Hatch says. “A family lawyer might use us to recover deleted messages from a phone, or to provide context for certain messages that could help determine a custody dispute.”
Companies also frequently make use of DFI’s services when investigating current or former employees whose behaviour has contravened a workplace policy or employment contract term, such as a non-solicitation or non-competition clause.
“Our work has very board applications,” says Hatch, who was previously a litigation lawyer in B.C. himself before departing private practice in 2010.
For a while, he considered re-activating his law society membership but instead discovered digital forensics.
“I just really connected with the work, and loved it,” Hatch says.
After getting involved in business development for a company in the field, he decided to strike out on his own, forming DFI in mid-2018.
“I was determined to provide better value, expand as I saw fit, and execute on my own vision,” Hatch says.
He says his legal background is a perfect complement to his new role, and still comes in useful when connecting with clients — many of them lawyers.
“I don’t have any forensic training myself, but I have a good understanding of what lawyers are looking for, and I can explain our offerings in terms they can comprehend” while leaving the technical work to his team of skilled investigators, Hatch says.
However, Hatch admits that the litigation landscape has changed significantly since he was last in practice.
“I didn’t have much use for digital evidence in my practice, but it’s becoming more and more relevant with the explosion of electronic devices,” he says.
One growing area of practice for DFI is in the realm of data breach investigations, conducting specialized investigations for businesses targeted in cyberattacks, Hatch says, noting that barely a week passes without a major breach somewhere in the world.
“These companies are constantly under attack, and when someone gets in, they need our help to find out what exactly happened, how it happened, what was accessed and whether or not they’re still at risk,” he says.
Hatch says the issue will only grow in importance for Canadian businesses as the country adjusts to the implementation the federal government’s mandatory breach reporting regime under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).