Preserving digital evidence

Whether you elect to have an external or internal team,  having an efficient and quick response in today’s information age is essential. Where twitter, Instagram, Facebook and a number of other social media platforms are utilised to spread news, many of which has been proven to be so-called “Fake news” to instigate disharmony – your brand may be at serious risk.

Organisations should, if they do not have their own in-house team capable of identifying possible sources, securing the information and analysing the information, have a duly qualified expert at hand to assist in these instances.

Information which could be vital as evidence at a later stage must be secured at the earliest possible time and in the most secure manner in compliance with the requirements of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act ,2002, so as to ensure it’s admissibility in evidence.  Pages and posts perpetuating incorrect information/ fake news are known to be taken down as fast as they are posted. In many instances, the damage may already have been done, but the trail to link the perpetrator may already be hidden.

The recent fraudulent MiWay email is an excellent example of how powerful social media is and how in-depth and quick a company’s response capability as well as level of expertise must be to secure the information, limit reputational damage and ultimately identify the person responsible for the false statement.

In this matter, a disgruntled client utilised an email sent to him from an employee in which a claim was declined. The client proceeded to utilise the body of this mail, to author a document purporting to be an internal email between two MiWay employees in which a new racially based decision- making policy is supposedly confirmed. He then posted a screenshot of the fake mail on his Facebook page. The fall-out for brand MiWay was immediate and spread across social media platforms. MiWay, immediately contacted a social media law expert (Dario Milo from WebberWentzel), who in turn appointed Cyanre, the Digital Forensic Lab (Pty)Ltd.

The screenshot itself, as it was presented on social media was secured. Following this, the internal staff implicated in the communications’s communication related information was secured. From here the unfortunate employee’s emails were scrutinised to identify whether such an email could be located on the employee’s  device. From the screenshot, however, certain information was identified to narrow the origin of the source email down to a particular communication chain whitch was then identified as the disgruntled client. It could be proven that it was in fact the email sent to the client that was amended and manipulated to appear to be an internal email.


As a company:

  • Have an active monitoring process in relation to social media and your brand in place
  • Making a screenshot of the offending posting is a start, but will require further supporting evidence
  • Ensure that you know who to contact internally upon identifying any negative social media postings
  • Know who to contact to secure your information (incorrect collection or securing of the information, could prove to be costly during later litigation, not taking into consideration the risk of reputational damage if a post cannot be disproven)
  • Know who to contact to investigate the breech
  • Have clear internal policies on the use of social media by employees
  • Ensure your IT division keep all relevant and sufficient logs (Your IT division should be knowledgeable in which logs should be retained- this is also referred to as Forensic Readiness Audits )
  • Have a clear policy in relation to the investigation and access in case of a breech
  • Ensure regular communication and knowledge of staff in relation to these uses
  • Ensure that your disclaimers on your emails and website are comprehensive to avoid liability for improper use by employees

As a user of social media: 

  • Be vigilant to the reality of fake news, especially if it appears to incite
  • Do not re-post such material unless you are sure of it’s correctness (you may be liable for inter alia defamation by perpetuating false information)
  • Be aware of your companies’ policy in relation to your connection to a certain brand (eg- if you indicate on your profile that you work for a particular firm and post or perpetuate certain posts, this may be a breach of company policy)
  • Be aware of your liability for abuse of company resources.

Contributed by:

Cyanre – The Digital Forensic Lab (Pty) Ltd
Tel: + 27 (0) 12 664 0066


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