Joel Bowers
Office:
Bay Adelaide Centre
333 Bay Street
14th Floor
M5H 2R2
City:
Toronto
State:
Ontario
Country:
Canada
Tel:
+1 416 361 6742

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Investigations

Joel is the managing director of Duff & Phelps Canada Limited’s global data risk practice, which provides digital forensic investigation, incident response, expert witness, and electronic discovery services.

Joel has personally analysed thousands of computers and has authored dozens of expert reports and affidavits which he has successfully defended under cross-examination. Joel has conducted digital forensic investigations in Canada, the United States, China, Trinidad, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

I learned about the digital forensics field during my undergraduate degree. It was an applied computer science degree from Sheridan College, with an emphasis on information systems security. One of the classes we took was an introduction to digital forensics, which was the first time I had ever heard of the field.

The programme also had an internship component which I spent at KPMG. They hired me as a full-time digital forensic consultant after I graduated. Four years after that, I left KPMG to work on a start-up, which was eventually purchased by Duff & Phelps.

My practice at Duff & Phelps today focuses on three main areas: digital forensic investigations and expert testimony; electronic discovery hosting and support; and digital forensic incident response.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE FIELD OF INVESTIGATIONS?

From childhood, I was always intrigued by private detectives and the noir genre of fiction. I also possessed a natural talent for interacting with information systems. When I learned of the digital forensics field in college, it seemed like a perfect fit.

I love problem-solving and dealing with unusual technical situations, and I don’t think there is a field where someone would experience more unusual technical situations than the field of digital forensics.

I also really enjoy that no two engagements are ever quite the same. It keeps things very interesting working with different companies and different types of systems every day.

YOU PREVIOUSLY CO-FOUNDED A FORENSICS COMPANY BEFORE MOVING INTO YOUR CURRENT ROLE. WHAT ADVANTAGES DOES THIS INDUSTRY FAMILIARITY BRING TO YOUR ROLE AS A DIGITAL FORENSIC EXPERT?

I think the greatest advantage of working on the start-up was it taught me frugality, and that it wasn’t always necessary or important to have the most expensive tools to get the work done properly. Sometimes it can certainly be helpful, and I enjoy that luxury in my current practice, but it’s not always necessary. Having that experience taught me how to think outside the box, and how to come up with innovative solutions, both of which help me provide better value to clients.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE APPEARING AS AN EXPERT WITNESS FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Courtrooms are intimidating because they’re designed to be intimidating. Once you realise and accept that, they lose some of their effects.

It also helps to keep in mind that you were retained as an expert because you’re more knowledgeable about the subject matter than anyone else in the room. You shouldn’t be intimidated, because at the end of the day, you are there to explain the issues to the court, and the court is relying on your help to make the correct decisions.

WHAT MAJOR TRENDS IN INVESTIGATIONS ARE YOU NOTICING AT THE MOMENT?

From what I’ve seen recently, misconfigured Office 365 instances are the latest low-hanging fruit for fraudsters. Every business should hire an external consultant to look over their instance and make sure it is configured correctly. It isn’t that complicated, it doesn’t have to be expensive and could easily end up saving your business.

I also strongly recommend mandatory information systems security training for any employees that have the authority to wire funds, especially pertaining to the existence and recognition of targeted phishing emails.

AS TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES TO SHAPE THE INVESTIGATIONS FIELD, HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF DIGITAL FORENSIC EXPERTS CHANGING?

As information is digitised and paper usage decreases, digital forensic experts are going to be required for almost every type of investigation. At the bare minimum, it needs to be ensured that digital evidence is collected correctly so traditional investigators or review teams can review it. Chain of custody needs to be maintained properly in every investigation, otherwise, the case will be thrown out.

Every day the amount of data generated by people grows. It is constantly becoming more important to work efficiently at dealing with the sheer amount of information that may be available as part of an investigation. Since the amount of data is so great, it is also very important to not get caught up following a red herring. You could easily lose weeks of work following a false lead if the data set is large enough.

WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?

My proudest moments are when new clients return to us for a second engagement. There’s nothing that lets me know that we have made a client happy and surpassed their expectations better than when they immediately return to us on another file. To be at all successful in this field, you need to have client trust and loyalty.

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO DEVELOP YOUR PRACTICE IN THE COMING YEARS?

Recently I have been focusing on developing our incident response team. Mandatory breach reporting is coming to Canada this year. I believe once that is enacted, we are going to see a lot of local demand for that type of service. I need to build up that team so they are prepared to handle anything that comes our way. Digital forensics is an extremely reactive field. We are always playing defence, and we have to be ready for anything.

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