85% of the latest investigations depend on some type of digital evidence sourced from a multitude of desktop and handheld devices. Therefore, law enforcers and legal entities, among others, are turning towards tech-driven digital evidence management solutions to ensure accuracy.
The issue is that evidence-collection mediums have multiplied, from CCTV, body-worn, and dash camera footage to various online and offline mediums.
It's a requirement to ensure evidence has remained intact from collection to sharing; this is where an audit trail plays a part by highlighting all interactions made with a piece of evidence.
Besides ensuring evidence admissibility via audit trails, another pressing matter is handling the growing volume of evidence in a manner that it's within one console and retrievable within clicks.
A Digital Evidence Management System can address these complexities and many more that hinder efficient evidence handling.
Also, besides ensuring evidence confidentiality, audit trails prove that the said piece of evidence abides with all required compliances.
With that all said, let's further understand why audit trails are needed and the mechanism behind them.
However, if you would rather see them in action, we encourage you to opt for our 7-day free trial (no credit card required).
What are Audit Trails?
Maintaining audit trails is an essential aspect of digital evidence management. So, what are they?
In simple terms, audit trails are a digital record of every action taken with digital evidence, from the time it was collected to its presentation in court.
They help track who has accessed evidence, when, where, and how. The following paragraph discusses why audit trails are necessary in digital evidence management.
Why are Audit Trails Necessary in Digital Evidence Management?
Maintaining audit trails is necessary for law enforcement and legal professionals, each having different reasons for maintaining them.
We're here to differentiate the two key reasons audit trails must be maintained for effective digital evidence management.
Audit Trails for Law Enforcement
Law enforcement agencies must ensure that they're maintaining comprehensive audit trails, recording every action taken with digital evidence within their agency.
Through audit trials, they can easily track that evidence is being accessed by only authorized personnel assigned to the case.
An article by the International Law Office acknowledges that the auditability of digital evidence must be maintained in evidence handling — investigators should document all actions taken with evidence.
Looking at it from a broader perspective, audit trails help maintain the credibility and authenticity of digital evidence.
This ensures they comply with compliance regulations such as CJIS, GDPR, FOIA, and HIPAA.
Audit Trails for Legal Professionals
Digital evidence is passed on from law enforcement agencies to legal professionals for further analysis. Professionals within the legal system analyze this evidence and present it in court proceedings to resolve criminal cases.
Audit trails must be maintained in legal proceedings to ensure that digital evidence presented in court is credible, authentic, and can be traced back to its collection.
Remember, most courts don't accept digital evidence without proper maintenance of audit trails.
Understanding the Link between Audit Trails and Regulatory Compliance
It is understood that no law enforcement agency can operate without being compliant with stringent regulations, especially when protecting digital evidence.
Digital evidence collected from sources like surveillance and body cameras usually contains sensitive, personally identifiable information that cannot be disclosed and must be protected at all times.
Law enforcement agencies must comply with regulations like Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aim to protect the privacy, security, and rights of individuals whose data is involved in digital evidence.
Using audit trails, law enforcement agencies can demonstrate that they have followed the proper procedures and protocols for handling digital evidence and have respected their profession's legal and ethical obligations.
Benefits of Using Audit Trails for Regulatory Compliance
Let's discuss some key benefits of using audit trails to maintain regulatory compliance:
- They can prevent or detect unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or deletion of digital evidence.
- They can provide accountability and transparency for the actions and decisions of law enforcement personnel and other stakeholders involved in digital evidence management.
- They can support investigating and resolving disputes, complaints, audits, or legal challenges related to digital evidence.
- They can reduce the risk of human error, fraud, corruption, or misconduct in digital evidence management.
- They can enhance the trust and confidence of the public, the courts, and the partners in the law enforcement community.
Evidence Security Features to Ensure Effective Audit Trails
Audit trails must be paired with comprehensive evidence security features to ensure transparency and compliance, which can easily be achieved through evidence management systems.
These protocols keep access restricted and limited. Let's discuss key evidence security features in evidence software:
User Authentication and Access Control
With a digital record of who accessed evidence, audit trails help ensure accountability and transparency. However, with comprehensive security protocols such as access controls, law enforcement can restrict access in the first place, further strengthening audit trails.
Data Integrity and Encryption
Encryption features in evidence management systems help ensure that evidence reaches only authorized personnel.
This is achieved through encrypted codes for information sharing. This feature is invaluable, especially when paired with audit trails, ensuring the highest security and reliability of digital evidence.
Tamper Detection Mechanisms
An essential purpose of audit trails is to analyze if any unauthorized personnel have access to sensitive digital evidence.
With tamper detection mechanisms, law enforcement can verify if their evidence has been tempered by generating unique hashes for original evidence.
This would further strengthen the credibility of audit trails, ensuring there is no room for unauthorized evidence disclosure.
Make Compliance Easy with VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System
VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS), an IDC-recognized platform, ensures your agency's highest levels of security and compliance.
Here's why VIDIZMO should be your ideal choice for an evidence software provider:
- Evidence Security Features: We offer a range of efficient evidence security features like access controls, encryption, tamper detection, and many more. Click here to see for yourself.
- Comply with Regulations: Ensure legal compliances like FERPA, GDPR, FIPS, CJIS, and more.
- Audit Trails: Generate audit trails of your digital evidence through comprehensive audit logs.
- Deployment Flexibility: Explore multiple deployment options suited to your agency's needs and budget.
- Artificial Intelligence: Use artificial intelligence features to enhance evidence search, among other functionalities.
Ready to transform your digital evidence management? Contact us now to see how we can empower your agency.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the purpose of an audit trail?
Audit trails (or audit logs) act as record-keepers that document evidence of certain events, procedures, or operations, so their purpose is to reduce fraud, material errors, and unauthorized use. Without comprehensive audit trails, evidence is not truly reliable.
What is a digital audit trail?
A digital audit trail is an absolute, immutable trail of every step, event, or action taken in a system that establishes the fact of that action, who took it, and when. It is a necessary part of effective digital evidence management.
What is the difference between an audit log and an audit trail?
A series of audit logs is called an audit trail because it shows a sequential record of all the activity on a specific system. By reviewing audit logs, systems administrators can track user activity, and security teams can investigate breaches and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
What are the objectives of audit trail?
Audit trails can provide a means to help accomplish several security-related objectives, including individual accountability, reconstruction of events (actions that happen on a computer system), intrusion detection, and problem analysis. They ultimately help ensure evidence reliability for court proceedings.