What is the Chain of Custody?
"Chain of Custody" is an archival and legal term worth understanding better.
If data is being archived it must have some potential importance. It may be documenting past activities. It may buttress a claim to intellectual property or be of some potential evidentiary value in the case of a future legal claim.
The Burden of ProofWhatever the reason, it may become important to prove:
- where a particular piece of data came from,
- that this data element has been preserved intact
- data handling has been compliant with legal and regulatory guidelines and good practices
- that the record of its handling can be certified
The ability to generate and document such proofs can become critical if that piece of data becomes involved in future legal action or comes under regulatory scruitiny. You may need to prove the legal integrity of data introduced as evidence, and prove who has had acces to it and under what circumstances. Legal rules of evidence require that there be a chronological record of where a piece of data originated and who has seen or used it, and for what purpose.
This means that this data should be accompanied by an unassailable record of where the data came from, track who has possessed it and how it has been handled. Cases have been won or lost based on whose records had the most unassailable documentation
Since there is no way to know in advance what data may be involved in litigation COLDSTOR Data generates a "Chain of Custody" record for all content it collects for a client. This record documents how the data was collected, stored, accessed utilized and, at the end of its life-cycle, destroyed. It provides proof that proper procedures were followed at every step in content's life cycle. A secure chain of custody, generated by a consistent methodology is necessary for a legally defensible proof that a data sample is authentic and that it was handled properly. COLDSTOR Data generates and preserves the the documentation needed to automatically generate a chain of custody that can withstand rigorous legal examination.
The Digital Chain of Custody
There are several barriers to generating a chain of custody in a digital environment. To begin with, data recorded at the data center is erasable. While it may be possible to do a forensic analysis of the recording media and of the enterprise level data management system, such analyses are time consuming, expensive, and often incredibly disprutive to ongoing operations. Even under the best circumstances it may be difficult if not impossible to prove that a piece of data has NOT been altered or that unauthorized persons have NOT had access!
The passage of time and new technology add complexity. While it may be possible to preserve a record intact on a piece of media, the authenticity of that media may be hard to prove. Moreover, electronically recorded media has only a limited life span. Tape can degrade in as little as 18 months. Optical disks may begin to degenerate in less than a year. Hard disks have variable and unpredictable life spans.
This means that a digital chain of custody must not depend on the survival of a specific piece of media. That chain must remain unbroken even after a pierce of data has been transferred from an aging piece of media to another. That means there needs to be an unerasable digital signature of the original, (preferably multiple signatures, using significantly different processes); there should be multiple copies of the original that can be compared to each other as a safeguard; That when a document is transferred from one media form to another the newly reocrded version should match all digital signatures, and the transaction itself needs to be recorded with its own digital signature!
Disaster-proofing the Chain
The Chain of Custody can be broken by means other than media failure. Fires, floods and other disasters can wreck havoc on any given data center and such disasters do happen. COLDSTOR Data's Digital Archive Platform is designed to guarantee the integrity and the security of your digital content even under these most severe circumstances and make sure it is readily available in an emergecny.