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Digital Evidence: The Explosive New Frontier

June 27, 2024 5 min read

faraday bag for evidence collection

The landscape of evidence collection has undergone a seismic shift. Gone are the days when physical evidence alone held the key to cracking cases. The ubiquity of electronic devices and our ever-increasing reliance on digital communication have triggered an explosive growth of digital evidence - ushering in a new era that demands specialized tools and techniques to properly preserve and analyze this crucial data.

The proliferation of smartphones, laptops, tablets, IoT devices, cloud storage, and social media platforms means the potential treasure trove of digital evidence is vaster than ever before. However, the challenges in ensuring its integrity and admissibility in court have also multiplied exponentially.


The Numbers Tell the Story

Just 20 years ago, digital evidence played a relatively minor role in criminal investigations. However, its prominence has exploded - research from IBM shows digital evidence now appears in over 90% of all crimes committed today. This dramatic shift highlights how central digital data from sources like mobile devices, computers and online activity has become to modern law enforcement efforts.

Recent industry surveys and reports highlight the growing prominence of digital evidence in criminal cases:

  • A 2022 Cellebrite industry trends survey found that 63% of law enforcement agency managers say digital evidence is part of their cases.
  • The same survey revealed that 62% of agency managers pointed to the sheer volume of evidence, including from digital sources, as one of the biggest challenges they face.
  • Notably, 60% of practitioners deem digital evidence has more impact on case resolution than DNA.
  • According to a report by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), over 90% of crimes these days have a digital element.

These statistics underscore how digital evidence has become more voluminous and critical for successfully prosecuting cases compared to traditional physical evidence. While specific figures may vary, the trend is clear: digital evidence is now a key pillar of investigations and prosecutions.


The Challenges of Preserving Digital Evidence

Ensuring data remains pristine from the moment of seizure through forensic analysis is a monumental challenge.

The very nature of digital data - its volatility, vulnerability to remote wiping, and ability to be rapidly transmitted and deleted - presents unprecedented obstacles. Criminals are tech-savvy, often exploiting advanced methods to erase data or track the movement of seized devices containing incriminating evidence. Preserving crucial data like RAM and open documents is critical, yet this volatile evidence is easily lost when devices are improperly handled or powered down.

Maintaining an unbroken chain of custody, preventing location tracking, and avoiding accidental compromise during evidence handling are all vital factors that could mean the difference between a case being airtight or inadmissible. As digital evidence continues its growth, ensuring its integrity has become the paramount challenge in modern forensics.

Innovative Solutions for a New Era

Embracing innovative solutions to address the unique complexities of digital evidence is no longer just a luxury - it's a necessity for successfully investigating crimes in our hyper-connected world. Specialized tools like Faraday bags that can isolate devices from network interference are becoming essential for properly preserving and transporting digital evidence.

In an age where a single smartphone can hold the key to cracking a major case, it's imperative that law enforcement agencies stay ahead of the curve. Investing in cutting-edge forensic technology, rigorous evidence handling protocols, and continuous training for personnel is critical for navigating the new frontier of digital evidence.


The Faraday Bag: Shielding Digital Evidence

The Faraday bag is a specialized shielding enclosure designed to protect digital evidence from external electromagnetic interference that could compromise its integrity. By creating an isolated environment, these bags prevent remote data wiping, signal interception, and unintended modifications, ensuring the preservation of crucial evidence in its original state.

The capabilities of Faraday bags have become indispensable for law enforcement:

  1. Preventing Remote Data Wiping: Suspects are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, often equipping their devices with measures to remotely erase incriminating data if seized. By completely blocking all wireless signals, Faraday bags prevent any remote access that could wipe or alter evidence.
  2. Preserving Volatile Data: Volatile data stored in a device's RAM can contain crucial information about active sessions, open files, and encryption keys. This data is lost if the device powers down. Faraday bags prevent remote shutdowns, preserving this ephemeral but critical evidence.
  3. Maintaining Chain of Custody: Once a device is secured in a Faraday bag, it is completely isolated from any external interference. This unbroken chain of custody from seizure to forensic analysis is critical for evidence admissibility in court.
  4. Preventing Location Tracking: Some suspects use apps to track the location of their devices if seized. Faraday bags block GPS, cell tower triangulation, and all other location tracking signals, preventing unauthorized monitoring of sensitive evidence in transit.
  5. Streamlining Evidence Handling: For front-line officers not trained in digital forensics, Faraday bags provide a simple, reliable way to properly isolate evidence until it reaches specialized examiners, minimizing the risk of accidental data compromise.
  6. Enabling Live Evidence Analysis: Some advanced Faraday bags allow examiners to connect devices to forensic computers without removing them from the shielded environment. This permits secure live analysis.
  7. Countering Anti-Forensic Techniques: Suspects may use "kill switches" that wipe a device if it leaves a certain GPS radius, or "poison pill" apps that delete data if they can't check in with a remote server. Faraday bags thwart these anti-forensic measures by blocking all signals.

At the end of the day, Faraday bags are a critical first step in the digital evidence lifecycle. By immediately isolating devices from all network interference, they ensure evidence remains pristine and admissible from seizure to analysis. As the volume and complexity of digital evidence continues to explode, these specialized tools are becoming an essential part of every forensic investigator's toolkit.


The SLNT Window Bag

At SLNT, we've developed the Window Faraday Bag, a cutting-edge Faraday solution tailored for law enforcement evidence collection. Designed with the needs of front-line officers and forensic examiners in mind, the Window Bag provides advanced shielding capabilities to completely isolate devices from cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS signals. This prevents remote wiping, location tracking, data alteration, signal interception or modifications, maintaining chain of custody and evidence admissibility.

The Window Bag's transparent window design allows visual inspection of device contents without compromising shielding integrity, enabling quick identification and organization of seized devices. Its durable construction and compact design make it ideal for secure transport of multiple devices in the field, streamlining the evidence handling process.


The Future of Evidence Collection

SLNT is empowering law enforcement agencies to stay ahead in an increasingly complex evidence landscape. As the volume and importance of electronic evidence continues to surge, it's imperative that forensics teams are equipped to properly preserve and analyze this critical data.

The growth of digital evidence shows no signs of slowing down. Smartphones, laptops, IoT devices, cloud services, and online platforms will only become more ubiquitous in the years ahead, generating ever-larger volumes of potential evidence that law enforcement must be able to properly collect and examine.

The future of criminal investigations hinges on our ability to master this digital evidence landscape. With the right tools, training, and procedures, we can ensure that the wealth of digital clues left behind can be transformed into ironclad evidence. Faraday bags are a crucial part of this equation, and will only become more vital as we navigate the landscape of digital evidence in the years ahead.