ETSI releases standard for cyber digital evidence bag to confirm integrity of data in legal proceedings

Sophia Antipolis, 21 April 2020

The ETSI Technical Committee CYBER has recently released a key standard for digital evidence bag (DEB). ETSI TS 103 643 covers “techniques for assurance of digital material used in legal proceedings” and provides a set of extra tools for those wanting to demonstrate the integrity of digital evidence.

Our legal systems depend on a court being able to have confidence in the material that is used during legal proceedings i.e. confidence in the integrity of the data to make sure it has not been changed, and the origin of the data, namely where it came from and when it was produced. This is essential for the proper functioning of society - to have confidence that people are being found guilty or not guilty on the basis of accurate information.

There have been for a long time various physical measures in place to preserve the integrity of information - for example, a police officer's record book would be a continuous, contemporary record, perhaps signed by the officer, and physical evidence would be put into bags which were sealed, dated, signed and stored securely.

Increasingly we are seeing digital material being presented in evidence as part of legal proceedings. This might be a file from a hard disk, video footage from body-worn video cameras, a screenshot or a digital record from a database. It is important that the techniques for preserving evidence are kept up-to-date as the formats of data evolve. ETSI TS 103 643 helps provide these techniques. Assuring evidence usually contains human components such as whether the people involved were properly trained and competent or whether the technician tested and calibrated equipment correctly. But it also contains a software or machine component and some questions may be raised: Were the algorithms used strong enough? How were hashes used and stored?

This new ETSI specification helps provide confidence around the software/machine aspects helping people write appropriate software that will be able to be used in court and will stand the test of time,” says Alex Leadbeater, Chair of ETSI TC CYBER. “It aims to provide reassurance to critical court material in a cost-effective way and saves time for those involved in the process.”

About ETSI
ETSI provides members with an open and inclusive environment to support the development, ratification and testing of globally applicable standards for ICT systems and services across all sectors of industry and society.  We are a not-for-profit body with more than 900 member organizations worldwide, drawn from 65 countries and five continents. Members comprise a diversified pool of large and small private companies, research entities, academia, government and public organizations. ETSI is officially recognized by the EU as a European Standards Organization (ESO). For more information please visit us at https://www.etsi.org/.

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