Did the Russians Hack the Server?

That’s a question lots of people have. But, what about the answer? Is there an answer?

It may surprise our readers that in the work we do for our clients, questions dealing with electronic equipment access often need answers. Forensic computer experts spend hours examining computers and electronic equipment connections for litigation purposes (both civil and criminal cases). We frequently hire such experts in injury cases. You might wonder why?

Sometimes it is important to know if someone was actually texting or emailing or otherwise using their smart phone while driving at the precise time the crash occurred. Was the person who fell on a crack in the pavement at a gas station texting at the time of the fall and not looking where they were walking?

Experts can examine a phone and obtain information about what was happening at the time of an injury. Was the phone actively being used? Was it set to do not disturb mode?

When you think of how you need to go about proving whether someone hacked into a network server it helps to use an analogy. Imagine the server is a house with a door on it. That door might have an ordinary handle and lock. That door might have a series of padlocks all of which have to be unlocked before anyone can get in. Or, the door might be wide open. Evidence of the door being open might be very important to a person charged with breaking into the house, as their defense might be “I just walked in because the door was unlocked”. … A computer hacker might make a similar defense.

But back to the analogy. … Suppose someone is charged with breaking into a house. What would you think if there were a way to trace the alleged perp’s steps from their home right up to the door on the house? What if everywhere we drove our cars, on all the highways and roadways we traveled, we left traces of how we traveled from one location to another, and these traces could be seen be experts with a special kind of equipment? That is pretty much how computer forensics works.

One of the problems with news discussions as to what government actors, if any, may have hacked into this or that server has to do with whether computer forensic experts have had an opportunity to search a compromised server. Why is it important? Back to the analogy: it is like having the ability to trace someone from their home or office to the doorstep of the target house, but the trace ends 30 feet from the house. The proof of who got into the house is incomplete. Worse, how do we know if the door was open? Or, what if one thief used a “method of operation” to make it look like another thief entered the house?

Being able to actually inspect the door and see how, or if, someone actually entered is important. That gives those trying to solve the mystery of what happen what’s called direct evidence. Without that inspection all you have is circumstantial evidence — tracks leading to the door. Is it fatal to a case to not have direct evidence? No. It doesn’t mean the evidence you have is useless. It just means that the very best key evidence is missing. Perhaps several bad actor electronic trails lead to the door. Which one hacked in? Or, did more than one break in?

Why do we share such information?

Well, because it’s what we often do in trying to find the truth of what happened involving our clients. In one work injury case getting all of the smartphone information analyzed was critical to proving our client’s case. The employer claimed the injured employee showed up before work was to start and was “engaged in his own adventure for which the company had no obligation as to his safety”. But, the electronic data showed not only that the worker was there when he was supposed to be, but texts to and from his boss conclusively established that he was working where he was told to work, and doing exactly what he was told to do.

The Law Offices of David W. Holub is a personal injury law firm located in Merrillville, Indiana. We focus on providing efficient and effective client-centered representation. We concentrate in personal injury cases of all types, auto accidents, medical malpractice, and wrongful death litigation. We work to serve each client aggressively and with empathy, and to obtain prompt and favorable results. Call us at +1 (219) 736-9700 if you have questions and would like to speak to one of our attorneys.

Our new book “Fighting For Truth: A Trial Lawyer’s Insight Into What It Takes To Win” is available on Amazon in print and kindle formats.