Computer and Technology Forensics Expert

As an employer, Human Resources Director, or Risk Management Supervisor, ask yourself this question: “Do our employees think about the legal risk of sending communications over the internet?” If you are like the majority of companies, your answer would be, “It is highly improbable”. It is a very common problem amid the work place, for an employee to believe their electronic communications are transient, temporary and, once deleted, untraceable and therefore, harmless.

The fact is e-mail, faxes and even cellular phones leave a trace. Just one e-mail sent from your employee to the employee of a different company passes through an average of four different computer systems. This creates a trail making e-mail real, traceable, and permanent.

As an industry leader in Computer and Technology Forensics for the past 20 plus years, we have documented, during the examination of electronic systems, employees who frequently say/save things into e-mails or store on a computer, things they would never say anywhere else. Either having an employee delete a potentially damaging or inflammatory e-mail or even an employee deleting an e-mail on their own, does not protect anyone. In fact, it could in the end harm everyone involved.

If a complaint or inappropriate conduct of an employee has risen to the level where you as an owner/supervisor, need to consult a Computer and Technology Forensics expert, one of the first areas checked is for deleted documents and/or e-mails. These items cause red flags during an examination of equipment, and the original items can and most likely will be found and/or reconstructed. It is very important to understand that the intentional destruction of evidence is a felony, and if proven, could land one in jail.

An example of computer message in a court case dates back to the infamous trial of some of the Los Angeles Police being tried in the 1991 beating of Rodney King. One of the officers created a computer message stating, “… I haven’t beaten anyone that bad in a long time.” This obviously became admissible in court.

A more recent example, is one in which we as a company were hired in a libel case. The libeler was using the internet to post messages on a public bulletin board that were both slanderous and libelous against a competitor in the same field. This person felt that by using “anonymous” e-mails and postings, this would increase their own standing within the same professional community. What the libeler didn’t count on was the traceability of the e-mails to their home, cell phone and company computer systems. We were able to locate the electronic trail, and with this information obtain, on behalf of the client, a court order to confiscate the equipment in order to create image copies of the electronic systems. As a result, in order to keep the issue private, the libeler agreed to a significant out of court settlement.

As an owner/supervisor, it is left to you to consider and take great care in educating your employees in what should or shouldn’t be put in writing. In addition, it is also up to you to make your employees aware how the written word is conveyed when read.

We have now asked and answered two very important questions. First, the majority of employees do not consider the legal risk of electronic communications. Second, as an owner/supervisor why it is crucial you understand the potential legal ramifications. The remainder of this article is devoted to assisting you in creating and/or updating your current policies.

In today’s litigious society, company’s both large and small should have company policies. These policies have traditionally covered areas from dress codes to vacation policies. Within the past five years companies have begun adopting IT policies, generally found within the employee handbook. As a professional Computer and Technology Forensics company, when we are called in to examine hard drives and/or servers due to a company suspecting the improper use of systems, we also discuss the company’s IT policies with the appropriate supervisor or IT manager.

In many cases we have found that most policies do not adequately cover what is necessary in the computer and electronic communication age. Companies should have a very clear e-mail and technology use policy. One of the more important ones usually not covered, and unfortunately to the detriment of the employer, is an e-mail retention policy. Since many industries are governed by different and specific federal and/or state statutes on how long information must be retained, your policy should reflect these guidelines.

The policy should be as specific as possible in what types of communications are kept and how long. Make it clear there are both business and legal reasons for the company keeping such information. Information from e-mails as well as other electronic systems can be used in many types of cases, including: harassment, discrimination, antitrust, retaliation, Americans with Disabilities Act, insider trading, accounting fraud, improper trade secret disclosure and more!

REMEMBER- The intentional destruction, of any kind, of evidence relevant to a current or pending lawsuit contained in the e-mail or e-mail attached document, is a felony, and if proven, could land one in jail.

As an owner/supervisor, take a moment to examine your current IT or company’s technology policy. If your company doesn’t currently have an IT or technology policy-get one! While you will need to insure the individual needs of your company are met, following are some topics of what you should consider including in your usage polices:

  • Electronic information ownership
  • Monitoring of technology use
  • Acceptable use of company technology
  • Acceptable content

If you currently hold meetings with your employees or publish a company newsletter, these are excellent venues to use to educate your employees. Utilize these opportunities to let them know there are certain things they should be aware of when sending or responding to e-mails. Employees should be counseled to be cautious and to not make statements that can be considered a legal conclusion. Let your employees know they should utilize the knowledge and expertise within the company by picking up the phone and calling their supervisor or Human Resource Department.

When educating your employees about the content of an e-mail or using other forms of traceable electronic technology, train the employee to ask themselves these simple questions:

  • Should I put this in e-mail or should I call?
  • Would I write this down knowing that it may exist forever?
  • Would I put this on a postcard and mail it?
  • Would I want to see this printed in the newspaper?
  • Would I want this to get into the hands of my company’s competition?
  • Would I want this to get into the hand of my worst enemy?

Computers and Technology

Today’s advancements in computers and technology make many tasks easier than they were years ago. Computers and technology aid us in our personal lives as well as professional lives. Most young people probably can’t imagine a world without computers and technology, and most older people probably can’t imagine going back to that world. Thanks to computers and technology, we work online, we play online – we do just about everything online!

A popular trend today is the act of purchasing insurance policies online. Health insurance, life insurance, automobile insurance – you name an insurance, and it can probably be purchased online thanks to computers and technology. This is a great convenience for some folks. Think about it: who wants to make a detour on their commute home from a long day of work to talk with an insurance agent about purchasing an insurance policy? Wouldn’t most people rather go home to spend time with their families and relax before the next day begins?

While computers and technology make it much easier to spend more time enjoying these kinds of leisurely activities, they also make it much easier for us to lose connection with real people. By purchasing insurance online, you’re saving time and effort, but you’re also losing the important, yet overlooked, benefit of speaking with an insurance agent one-on-one, face-to-face. At the very most, the only human interaction you’re going to have by purchasing insurance online is speaking with a representative over the phone.

This isn’t to say that you should avoid the perks of today’s computers and technology, such as purchasing insurance online; however, you should make sure you have the chance to get some one-on-one time with an insurance agent – even if that one-on-one time is only over the phone. Rather than the conversation consisting solely of a brief synopsis of the coverage and your credit card number, ask specific questions, and make sure to get thoroughly detailed answers.

How To Keep Up To Date On Computers And Technology

Reading articles online, written by people who know what they are talking about, is perhaps the best way to stay up to date on any subject, especially computers and new technology.

With computer components getting faster and more demanding everyday, it’s a wonder that anybody ever has an up to date computer. And technology as a whole is moving at such incredible speeds, every day is literally the most advanced human beings have ever been.

So with this in mind, you probably wonder how you can stay completely up to date on it all, while still learning about current technology. The fact is, basically in the field of technology you have to learn and practice at the same time.

How to Find Great Articles on Computers

Using the search engines to find information is something just about everybody does, but usually a search returns somewhat old information and pages with the information you are looking for scattered all over.

The best way to find high quality articles and article directories that have very informative information is to put the word “articles” along with your search term. This way the search results that you get back will most likely be just articles and article directories that have related information to the rest of your search term.

Staying up to Date on Current Technology

While you can use the same method as I stated above to find computer information and articles, you can do the same with technology information. The problem with that though is you can never really be sure the author knows what they are talking about.

Usually at the end of an article there is a resource box with a link to the author’s website, but even then it is still hard to tell who knows what they are talking about.

What I do is usually one of two things. I double check what I am reading by searching for the same words on the search engines, and see if other authors say the same thing or not.

You can also use highly popular, but also ever changing, social voting news websites, like Digg or StumbleUpon. Do a search for those websites, and when you visit them you will see that other members like you can vote on information and articles that they know or believe to be true.

While sometimes people can be deceived and false information gets posted, it is much less often then regular websites owned and operated by Joe Anonymous.

So in a nutshell, the best way to stay up to date on computers and technology is to use the search engines, and continue to use websites that you know to be truthful, at least for the most part.

Why Companies Should Consider Leasing Computers

Many companies are not aware of the significant benefits related to acquisition financing in computers and technology segments. The proper term for this type of financing is ‘ Technology lifecycle management ‘. Most business owners simply consider the following question: ‘Should I buy or lease my firms new computers and software and related products and services?’

Two old adages related to leasing still ring true when it comes to the technological aspect. That is that one should finance something and depreciates, and one should buy something that appreciates in value. Most business owners, and consumers as well know very well that computers depreciate in value. Systems we paid thousands of dollars for years ago are now hundreds of dollars. Walk into any ‘ big box ‘ retailer and see the dramatic moves in technology.

Business owners who finance technology demonstrate a higher level of cost effectiveness. The company wants to reap the benefits of the technology over the useful life of the asset, and, importantly, more evenly match the cash outflows with the benefits. Leasing and financing your technology allows you to stay ahead of the technology curve; that is to say you are always using the latest technology as it relates to your firms needs.

Businesses that lease and finance their technology needs are often working better within their capital budgets. Simply speaking they can buy more and buy smarter. Many companies that are larger in size have balance sheet issues and ROA (return on assets) issues that are compelling. They must stay within bank credit covenants and are measure often on their ability to generate income on the total level of assets being deployed in the company.

Lease financing allows those firms to address both of those issues. Companies can choose to employ an ‘ operating lease ‘ structure for their technology financing. This is more prevalent in larger firms, but works almost equally as well in small organizations. Operating leases are ‘ off balance sheet ‘. The firm adopts the stance of using technology, not owning technology. The lessor/lender owns the equipment, and has a stake in the residual value of the technology. The main benefit for the company is that the debt associated with the technology acquisition is not directly held on the balance sheet. This optimizes debt levels and profitability ratios.

At the end of those operating leases, which are usually 36 months long, the customer has the option of:

1. Returning the equipment
2. Buying the equipment ( not likely though )
3. Negotiating an extension of the financing for continued use of the computers, technology, etc.

Companies that have recently acquired computers and technology can in fact negotiate a’ sale leaseback ‘ on those same assets. This financing strategy brings cash back into the company, as the firm has employed a leasing and financing strategy building on our above noted them – using technology, not owning technology.

In summary, the key benefits of computer and technology lease financing are:

* The company can stay ahead of the technology curve
* Computer leasing and financing has significant balance sheet and income statement benefits
* The firm has flexibility with respect to buying new product, returning existing technology, and generating cash flow for purchases already made

Many of the benefits we have discussed relate to leasing in general. However, technology and lease financing are very perfectly suited to the business financing strategy of leasing.