CIOs Should Be Prepared for Litigation Disasters

IT departments usually have plans for handling natural disasters, but also need a litigation-readiness plan to handle ediscovery requests

The phrase "all roads lead to Rome" describes the importance of a city at the heart of an empire. When it comes to modern litigation, all roads lead to the CIO's desk, because information is the lifeblood of litigation.

Just as CIOs should have contingency plans for a network crash, they need a litigation-readiness plan for responding to legal requests for electronically stored information, a process called ediscovery.

Timeliness is critical. Responding inefficiently after notice of a triggering event often results in the loss of data, which can lead to legal sanctions against the company and avoidable costs.

Upon receiving notice, team members must be prepared to immediately identify relevant data sources, communicate requirements to preserve data (called a legal hold), and suspend automatic data-purging operations, such as the routine recycling of tapes or auto-deletion of emails.

In addition, CIOs must have access to tools like litigation-hold-tracking software and software that preserves structured and unstructured data found on the network, including data stored on user devices such as PCs and smartphones. This software must retain data without altering its content or metadata, all while maintaining adequate audit trails.

CIOs should also be able to make a clear-eyed assessment of internal capabilities and figure out when to call on outside vendors such as security incident response experts, computer forensic technicians and ediscovery providers.

An often-overlooked task is managing (and perhaps purging) the stockpiles of ediscovery data after the litigation is over. Neglecting this post-litigation process increases the risk of a data breach and the risk that this legacy data could be swept up into a new legal case.

Finally, the litigation plan can't be static, given the constant change in technologies and data sources. CIOs should regularly collaborate with their company's general counsel to ensure their litigation-readiness plans are up-to-date.

John Curran is executive managing director of Stroz Friedberg, a global digital risk management and investigations firm.

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