Transforming GRC and Digital Forensics with AI

By Jonathan Shorter, Vice President, International Technical Engineering, Exterro, a pioneer of Legal GRC
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming Legal Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) by helping to sharpen the focus of digital investigations
Jonathan Shorter

Advanced computer processing techniques, together with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and deep learning, are increasingly being used in disciplines that come under the legal GRC banner, such as digital forensics and e-discovery. However, the practical use of AI has taken another step forward in the legal sector with the rise of the so-called 'virtual partner'.

The general public today regularly comes across intelligent digital innovations which use a natural language comprehension component such as chatbots and virtual assistants. The 'virtual partner' concept applied to the legal sector is similar.

Generally, virtual assistant technology can map user inputs such as conversational, and often quite colloquial language, to an intent, allowing a computer application to interpret human statements and questions and give a matching response. This feat is achieved via a language model, developed via machine learning methods or manually.

The emergence of 'virtual partner' applications in the legal field that assists in case law investigation takes the professions a further step down this road. Typically, this will be by adopting techniques that share many of the same evidence processing and review stages as more common methods of e-discovery - which is making it relatively easy to replicate techniques from e-discovery across these other digital forensics disciplines.

In the forensics process, AI is already being used for tasks such as image labelling to eliminate time spent on repetitive tasks. At Exterro, expect this metamorphosis to give rise to truly smart technology over the coming year. 

An AI-enabled 'virtual partner' that can work alongside the forensic investigator, as if it were an additional member of the team. The 'virtual partner', using data analytics, AI strategies and machine learning to dig through and understand data stored in multiple formats and resources to rapidly locate the required information, promises to transform working practices across the legal sector.  The trend is taking shape already in 2022, in the legal GRC space in particular.

As my colleague Vishal Muktewar has pointed out, the legal framework is changing continuously with respect to governance, regulations and privacy, not least as the proliferation of data breaches brings cybersecurity front-of-mind. One clear result is increased complexity in managing a diverse regulatory environment, with legal executives faced with orchestration and complex interconnection across legal operations, digital forensics, data privacy and cybersecurity compliance.

How AI can expose context-based insights in legal investigations

The 'virtual partner' role goes beyond simply expediting tasks to reveal contextual insights across the data. It can even help guide the investigation, enabling teams to significantly reduce workloads and shorten time to resolution of their legal activities.

In addition, one example of AI enablement can be applied to post-breach incident management, making it easier to demonstrate defensibility based on solid case law and other documentable evidence while freeing up team members for other, highly skilled tasks.

Smart review processes will increasingly enable teams to quickly locate Personally Identifiable Information (PII) within even compromised data sets. The 'virtual partner' will also become more adept over time, applying machine learning to better recognise specific data types and patterns. 

Smart analysis will also enhance the ability to view live data directly at the endpoint speeding up the process of investigations and enabling teams to better target their research and respond even to comprehensive informational issues and data breaches.

Achieving this at pace is becoming essential in order to comply with the assorted and ever-evolving global data protection regulations and directives in a timely manner, such as the UK's and the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) approaches to handling customer and individual data at all times. 

Having the right technology in place, ideally incorporating a suitable degree of automation, means providing legal teams with a fresh route to proactive identification of risks even before an incident happens, categorising these into different levels of consideration for review and action. 

And let's not forget that there's a wealth of information in the cloud available to help fight crime of all kinds through fast, accurate and specific provision of evidence that can solve cases more quickly than hardworking teams have ever dreamed of before.

Exterro was founded with the simple vision that applying the concepts of process optimisation and data science to the way companies respond to litigation would drive more successful outcomes at a lower cost. 

In our survey ‘The Future of the Public Sector’, data collection challenges were reported as the largest issue for cloud-based investigations, alongside data preservation and availability, chain of custody and cooperation with cloud providers, many of which host vast and increasing volumes of unstructured data which must be queried efficiently to be of value.

In future, digital forensics investigators will need to remain diligent and exhaustive when it comes to collecting, collating, culling, categorising and analysing data to produce conclusive evidence for legal requirements, including around GRC. It is becoming ever clearer that it is advanced machine learning that will answer the growing need for greater stability, almost limitless scalability and real-time collaborations, including in the cloud.

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