Security Learning its Role in E-Discovery


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The most developed organizations will integrate e-discovery into the standard lifecycle of information management (see "Road to Improvement," below). For example, during information creation, organizations will apply tags to data that help set context and enforce policies. These may include things like "Project: WidgetCo," "Last modified: ," "Business Unit: Manufacturing," and so forth. When data is stored, e-discovery tools may map the location, policies and relevant features of the information. This provides a central means of asking, "Where is the WidgetCo data?" and receiving a concise list of related resources.

Similarly, as data is to be archived, it may be de-duplicated (so there's only one canonical copy), have sensitive metadata removed (such as trade secrets), and be flagged for preservation if a known court case is pending.

A sticking point, however, in information lifecycle management is the important data users often create on their individual systems in an increasingly mobile world. This begs the question: What needs to be done about user PCs?

There are two answers. The first is to discuss the issue frankly with a legal expert. Given that ESI rules are still relatively new, it's not yet clear how courts will respond, and only an organization's lawyers can offer the final word. The second is to evaluate and deploy possible additional

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controls for the user environment. One approach could be improved host policy enforcement, perhaps through content-aware agents, monitoring, or rights-management solutions, but more likely via detective and deterrent effects of random or comprehensive audits. Ultimately, any technology choice must be buttressed with user training and awareness that makes clear the policies and processes, and what's expected from users.

Vendors are responding to e-discovery requirements, but they haven't fully climbed on the e-discovery bandwagon. Many organizations still turn to special (and high-priced) service providers to help them find and produce litigation data. However, many IT solutions are relevant to the storage, location, preservation and production of ESI. The exceptions, perhaps, are pure security infrastructure products, such as antimalware solutions, firewalls and other such technologies. On the other hand, security products can help protect ESI integrity, which is quite important.

This was first published in March 2008

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