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By Debora Motyka Jones, Esq.

Published on Sun, July 17, 2011

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Co-authored by Pankaj Verma

What is Cloud Computing?

Technology has no boundaries, and the emerging market of cloud computing is proving it to be true. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” These are the magic words for any company in this economy—you pay only for what you use.  Cloud computing is not a new technology, but a new way of providing IT infrastructure to organizations as business demands them.

Challenges in Cloud Forensics

Although cloud computing promises simplicity and delivers a number of benefits, it is full of surprises and challenges to the digital forensics world. Traditionally, companies own storage servers, workstations and the physical location where data resides. Cloud computing has virtualized that environment where Electronically Stored Information (ESI) can be stored anywhere and accessed from anywhere on any platform. Typically, the physical location is unknown and is not provided to the data owners by the cloud service providers.  Even if one is able to determine the physical location of the server (which could be anywhere in the world), it is difficult to find the precise data location on the server as each server is shared by numerous organizations.

Once the data location is identified, the next challenge is how to acquire it?  Data could reside in multiple places located a few miles apart or in entirely different countries. The Data Privacy Protection laws in place in other countries may or may not restrict forensic professionals from collecting the data.

Adding to the complexities, there is no fool-proof method of acquiring cloud data forensically (bit-by-bit).  Cloud forensics is a combination of computer forensics and network forensics.  The active data can be collected using traditional computer forensics tools to protect its identity and metadata. In addition, you have to use network forensics tools to capture additional data not captured by traditional IT or  forensics tools —such as activity logs  (e.g. network logs – specific to data sent or received over the network).  These activity logs can cause authentication issues because they are constantly overwritten in the cloud.  In other words, by the time an expert is testifying about these logs in court, they have been overwritten and there is no proof of their existence.

Cloud computing is pushing digital forensics to new limits.  This opens up an opportunity to create new standards and policies that will evolve with the technology until they both mature and reach a point of stability.  It will be an interesting evolution to watch.

This blog post only scratches the surface of issues that can arise in cloud computing, if you want to discuss your experiences or other issues you’ve encountered please email me at djones@lhediscovery.com..

About the Author
Debora Motyka Jones, Esq.

Vice President

As Vice President, Debora plays an essential role on the company’s executive team by collaborating around new markets, and bringing a customer-centric and pragmatic approach to achieving corporate and customer goals. She is responsible for building out a robust team of legal and technology experts in the eastern US, driving forward partnerships focused on delighting clients, and expanding the company’s brand through thought leadership events and new relationships. Debora’s background as a litigator and buyer, as well as her vast client-facing and operational experience will enable Lighthouse to provide the high-caliber, consultative client experience, the company is known for.

Debora has been with Lighthouse since 2009 and has made a significant impact on the company’s growth and business strategy during her tenure. With a background in litigation from practicing at law firms in both Washington D.C and Washington State, her expertise and deep understanding of complex ediscovery matters enabled her to create a resonating brand and architect the innovative products and services that keep Lighthouse at the forefront of the ediscovery market. She led the execution and implementation of the company’s rebranding in 2012 and developed the marketing department from the ground up. In addition, she has been instrumental in spearheading the company’s strategic technology partnerships, driving the formation of Lighthouse’s product strategy, and the evolution of Lighthouse’s SmartSeries. She also instituted and continues to maintain a client advisory board to ensure strong alignment with market demands. Finally, in 2015, Debora lead the company’s expansion to the eastern seaboard by managing the development the New York office and team, as well as expanding upon the company’s current set of services and clientele.

Prior to joining Lighthouse, Debora was a Complex Commercial Litigation Associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in Washington, D.C. where she worked on matters such as the WorldCom and Enron bankruptcies. Her practice also included multi-million-dollar commercial and securities litigation, and internal investigations. While at Weil, Debora was recognized three times for her dedication to pro bono service. Debora also practiced as a litigation Associate at McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren PLLC. Her practice included commercial, employment, and securities litigation, as well as legal malpractice defense.

Debora received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Washington where she graduated magna cum laude. She received her law degree from The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. She is admitted to practice law in New York State, the District of Columbia (inactive membership), and Washington State. Debora is Level II Pragmatic Marketing Certified. Debora is actively involved in the legal community as the former Director of Women in eDiscovery, as a mentor with Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association of Seattle, as an Advisory Board Member for the Organization of Legal Professionals, as the former Chair of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)'s New to In-House Committee, and as a former board member of the Washington Women Lawyers (WWL). Debora was also recognized for her contribution to the ACC and was named 2012 WWL Board Member of the Year. Debora is a frequent speaker on eDiscovery strategy, a former instructor for the Organization of Legal Professionals, and a regular Lighthouse blog contributor.