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Issue Date: March 2003 (es)

The problem with electronic evidence

1 March 2003
Maeson Maherry: NamITech

Any business-related activity has a certain cost, which has to be kept below the revenue generated from that activity, in order for the business to be feasible and profitable.
Risks associated with the business activity like fraud or theft can increase the cost of doing business to the point of incurring an overall loss for the business. While the digitisation of paper trading materials like order forms can drastically reduce the operating costs associated with collection, distribution and storage of these materials, the need is still there to ensure the integrity of the transaction amount and the evidence that the person transacting the amount intended to transact that exact amount. This concept is referred to as non-repudiation.
Non-repudiation refers to the generation and secure storage of evidence to support the resolution of disagreements as to the outcome of electronic transactions. Ultimately, the evidence must be convincing so a third party arbitrator can resolve a dispute without needing to rely entirely on the words of the disputing parties.
The problem with electronic evidence lies in the very temporary nature of digital data. It is very easy to view, copy, modify or destroy a digital record; be it a number, document or image. This is especially easy for any staff that use the systems, do administration or development activities on the systems. The combination of a high percentage of fraud with employee involvement and the possibility that raw data can be modified by an individual with access to the system immediately means that any evidence collected from the system has a questionable and unverifiable level of integrity.
A false sense of security
In most cases, companies have false sense of confidence in the ability of their paper contracts to protect them in the case of a dispute arising from the use of a digital system. To date, the right questions have not been asked when such disputes have arisen due to either false confidence in the integrity of the evidence presented or a lack of understanding of the ability to tamper with digital records.
Next month, eSecure will cover a practical framework to address this issue.
For more information contact Maeson Maherry, NamITech, 011 458 0000,,

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