Evidence being tampered with in a high-profile case? That's what all law enforcement officers dread facing. And when that evidence is digital, it makes it even easier to tamper with. That's why having evidence manager software to ensure the integrity of digital evidence is so essential.
Evidence tampering is one of the biggest concerns for law enforcement in handling evidence of any sort. According to USA Today, police misconduct, such as falsifying evidence, is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, with 35% of these cases involving some form of police misconduct.
This alarming statistic shows a big problem in how evidence is handled and checked, especially when using old-fashioned paper trails. These methods only complicate finding out when evidence has changed hands.
Given our technological age, the solution is clear: a chain of custody system that records every interaction occurring with digital files on the system. A solid chain of custody shows exactly how evidence was handled, from when it was collected to when it was presented in court.
Doing so helps to identify any unauthorized access or tampering with the evidence. But more importantly, it helps prevent questions about the authenticity or validity of digital evidence.
In this blog, we'll be discussing what chain of custody is, why it's important, and how evidence manager software can help maintain it.
What is Evidence Manager Software and How Does it Help?
Evidence management software is a specialized tool designed to collect, preserve, analyze, manage, and share digital evidence. It provides a centralized platform for handling a wide range of digital evidence, including audio and video recordings, images, and electronic documents.
This kind of software incorporates advanced security techniques to identify any mishandling of digital evidence immediately.
By storing this information in a secure platform, digital evidence management systems ensure the authenticity and integrity of the evidence throughout the investigative process.
Why Does Law Enforcement Need Evidence Manager Software?
Many law enforcement agencies still rely on outdated systems not designed for the current digital age. These legacy systems often struggle to accommodate the sheer volume and complexity of digital evidence generated daily.
For instance, these systems may have limited storage capacities, lack integration with modern file formats, or lack search functionalities. And then there's the issue of ensuring that digital evidence stored on these systems may not be secure and may be prone to tampering.
Of course, manually cataloging and tracking evidence isn't an option for police personnel either. It leaves ample room for errors, omissions, and, most alarmingly, deliberate tampering.
Human error in data entry, chain of custody documentation, or evidence preservation can compromise the integrity of that evidence, rendering it inadmissible in court.
The only solution is to use an advanced and technologically capable digital evidence management system. Digital evidence management systems help reduce manual effort and provide a secure and efficient way to handle evidence, reducing the chances of errors.
What is Chain of Custody?
Chain of custody reports are an essential component of digital evidence management systems. They provide a detailed record of chronological documentation and control of the possession, handling, and location of digital evidence.
Chain of custody reports are essential for maintaining the reliability and admissibility of digital evidence in legal proceedings. They play a crucial role in detecting and preventing unauthorized access or tampering with the evidence.
These reports provide a detailed record of all activities related to the digital evidence, including collection details, individuals involved, type of evidence, and key details like date, time, and location.
What are the Consequences of Not Keeping Chain of Custody Reports?
Not having a chain of custody means there is no authentication for the evidence, where it has been, who accessed it, and where it has come from. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM):
"The chain of custody needs to document every transmission from the moment the evidence is collected, from one person to another, to establish that nobody else could have accessed or possessed that evidence without authorization. Although there is no limit on the number of transfers, it is crucial to keep this number as low as possible."
Evidence may be considered faulty and deemed inadmissible in court if the chain of custody reports are not shown or are incomplete. At best, this can cause delays in the legal proceedings. But at worst, it may end up hampering the case's outcome entirely.
How Do You Ensure an Accurate Chain of Custody Report?
Having an accurate and complete chain of custody reports on digital evidence is tricky, especially if using traditional means of evidence storage. This is why it's important to have tools that can get the job done.
Evidence manager software provides a complete chain of custody reports that maintain the life cycle of evidence, providing a detailed trail of activities performed on each piece of digital evidence. Typically, the following information is provided:
- Username of law enforcement officer/investigator.
- The IP address from where the changes were made.
- Date and time of the event.
- Events that occurred.
- Details of the event.
This provides law enforcement with a detailed picture of what goes on behind the scenes, who accessed what, why, and when.
Chain of custody goes hand in hand with tamper detection, a feature that ensures no changes were made to the original piece of evidence uploaded to the platform.
Using an advanced algorithm, it uses a technique called hashing to compare digital evidence in its current state to the digital evidence when uploaded. This informs the user if any tampering has occurred with the evidence.
Is Tampering With Evidence Common in Police?
Digital evidence tampering is a persistent problem in the US. A recent report shows that out of the 85,000 law enforcement records documented, there had been 2,227 instances of perjury or police tampering evidence.
Why does this happen? The simple answer is lack of accountability. Without a clear mechanism to keep a check and balance, it may prove easier for some bad actors to misuse their authority. Again, this is largely due to conventional methods of digital evidence handling, which are slow and not sufficient enough to detect tampering.
Although a large number of police officers abide by a good ethical and moral standing to their duty, a small proportion of them may not choose to do so. Police misconduct, such as tampering with evidence is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the US.
How to Counter the Tampering of Evidence?
Not all instances of evidence tampering are internal. Sometimes, they can come from external sources like cybersecurity attacks. In this case, chain of custody reports may fall short and require additional resources to remedy the problem.
Luckily, most advanced evidence manager software offers functionality and capabilities beyond mere chain of custody reports. Here are some of the additional benefits that you can expect:
Encryption: Industry-standard AES-256 encryption protects data and digital evidence stored no matter what. Coupled with Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2, this infallible system mitigates the chances of tampering with external evidence.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): RBAC is crucial for preventing unauthorized personnel from accessing digital evidence. Granular role-based control allows police chiefs to decide who to share evidence with. This ensures that only trustworthy, relevant personnel are assigned to specific pieces of digital evidence.
IP Restriction: Internet Protocol (IP) restrictions allow law enforcement chiefs to use evidence manager software to ban certain locations. This could include states or certain areas that possess a risk or certain countries or cities that could pose a threat or are notorious for hacking and cybercrimes.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security by prompting users to provide additional authentication via a one-time password/code sent to their email.
Time-bound URLs: Using tokenized URLs that expire based on time or view count can help share evidence without tampering. This ensures that if unauthorized individuals click the link, they can't access the content within it if it has already expired.
AI Redaction: Faces, license plates, weapons, vehicles, and other pieces of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) are common in digital evidence. The redaction of these elements are necessary for compliance with laws and for upholding privacy when releasing it to the public or presenting it in court.
VIDIZMO DEMS Helps You Keep Your Evidence Secure and Untampered
Need to keep your evidence safe from unauthorized personnel? We've got you covered.
VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) is a centralized, secure, IDC-recognized evidence manager software. It's an ideal fit for law enforcement agencies looking to securely ingest, store, analyze, manage, and share digital evidence.
VIDIZMO DEMS offers many ways to help law enforcement agencies securely store digital evidence and safeguard it from tampering or mishandling. Below are a few of the features VIDIZMO offers:
- Encrypt with Confidence: Reduce the risk of tampering with industry-standard AES-256 encryption and TLS 1.2 to fortify data and digital evidence.
- Control Access Dynamically: Prevent unauthorized access through granular role-based control, allowing police chiefs to regulate who can access crucial evidence.
- Secure Locations Effectively: Empower law enforcement chiefs to block specific locations, effectively mitigating risks from unknown areas.
- Fortify with Multi-Factor Authentication: Enhance security by compelling users to provide additional authentication through a one-time password/code.
- Share Evidence Safely: Ensure secure evidence sharing with time-bound, tokenized URLs, preventing unauthorized access effectively.
- Automate Your Redaction: Automatically redact Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in digital evidence, ensuring seamless compliance with privacy laws.
Prevent Evidence Tampering Today
Having a mechanism like chain of custody helps prevent unauthorized access and tampering with critical case evidence. It’s the tool that police departments need to keep everything above board.
Sign up today for a 7-day free trial of the leading AI-powered digital evidence manager software that can help you keep the integrity of your evidence intact.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the chain of custody process?
The chain of custody process involves maintaining a detailed record of the possession, handling, and location of digital evidence. It includes chronological documentation to establish who accessed the evidence, when, and for what purpose. This meticulous tracking ensures the reliability and admissibility of digital evidence in legal proceedings.
What is the digital evidence handling process?
Digital evidence handling encompasses various procedures involved in collecting, preserving, analyzing, managing, and sharing digital evidence. It involves specialized tools like evidence manager software designed to handle a wide array of digital evidence types, ensuring their integrity and authenticity throughout investigations.
How does digital evidence help solve crimes?
Digital evidence, when handled and preserved properly using evidence manager software, serves as crucial material in solving crimes. It provides insights, connections, and concrete proof necessary for investigations, leading to the identification and prosecution of perpetrators.
What is the chain of custody?
The chain of custody refers to a comprehensive documentation process tracking the possession, handling, and movement of digital evidence. This report ensures the reliability and admissibility of evidence in legal proceedings by maintaining its integrity and authenticity.
How to counter the tampering of evidence?
Counteracting evidence tampering requires robust security measures offered by evidence manager software. Encryption, role-based access control, IP restrictions, multi-factor authentication, time-bound URLs, AI redaction, and other advanced features help safeguard digital evidence from tampering or unauthorized access.
What are the 4 types of digital evidence?
Four common types of digital evidence include documents (emails, chats, electronic files), multimedia (audio, video recordings), network data (logs, network traffic), and metadata (timestamps, file properties). These varied types collectively contribute to building a comprehensive case.