Digital evidence has become a ubiquitous part of criminal investigations with a presence that extends well beyond computer-specific crime. Frequent contact with digital devices in every facet of life produces so called ‘digital exhaust’ that can yield important clues regarding associations, location, and intent of both victims and suspects.
Sources of digital evidence may not always be as easy to recognize as a computer or cell phone found at the scene. Automobile navigation systems, video game consoles and other networked devices can also contain extremely important data. Similarly, online user accounts without any physical connection to a crime scene can yield important information about offline activities.
Recognizing and preserving digital evidence is only one intersection with the lifecycle of a criminal investigation. Technical skills and infrastructure must be planned for in advance in order to field robust capabilities that can respond to investigative needs in a timely fashion. Coordination with other elements of the criminal justice system such as prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges are also crucial for employing digital evidence towards a successful prosecution.