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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Christopher Hatfield is a leading name in the market for his top-tier work on “large-scale data collections”, as well as his “excellent communication skills”.

Questions & Answers

The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates or its other professionals. FTI Consulting, Inc, including its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a consulting firm and is not a certified public accounting firm or a law firm.

As a market-leading forensic technology professional with 20 years’ experience, Chris specialises in supporting clients with data challenges requiring a legally defensible methodology. Examples include managing a legal e-discovery requirement, investigating a crisis or cyber event using digital forensic analysis, or proactively assisting clients with privacy and information governance requirements including the defensible disposal of high-risk high-cost data from their enterprise while adhering to regulatory requirements.

What do you enjoy most about working as a data expert?

At the risk of being a little clichéd… I genuinely enjoy the satisfaction of delivering complex and challenging project for my clients.

I’ve learnt over the years that, due to data being such a broad discipline, a single individual cannot possess all the knowledge or experience required to address the most complex client projects. The large pool of multidisciplinary technology experts that I have maintained as a result of my international transfer from London enables me to build a project team with such diversity and depth of experience that I can develop and deliver global leading solutions and methodologies to local Australian clients. 

How has the data landscape evolved since you started your career working with data? 

I think the most marked change is how our clients are now thinking about data not just as an opportunity, but as a risk. As a result of a rush for data sources to feed big data analytics, many organisations now hold massive stores of data that are poorly structured or understood. Companies are now shifting their thinking to seeing these large data stores as a compliance risk and a source of unnecessary cost. The potential value is still there, but clients are now being far more judicious in what data they collect and hold. 

As organisations are creating and storing large volumes of data, how is this impacting the work that you are performing? 

I wear several different but inter-related hats: As an investigator, data is a potential source of truth. Therefore, the more data a company has retained, the greater the chance of finding the smoking gun. Large pools of unstructured data can be a goldmine to add context to known events, but it can be time-consuming to review.

As a dispute adviser, when supporting an e-discovery matter, I find that data can be a significant cost burden to corporates. The over-retention of large volumes of data can lead to massive amounts of data falling within the parameters of a dispute and being subject to legal review. 

As an information governance adviser, I advise my clients to appropriately collect, create, retain, de-identify and dispose of data in keeping with their legal obligations and strategic goals. This is always a delicate balance between data minimisation for cost-efficiency and risk reduction, and data retention for the purpose of analytics and insights.

With increased remote working being adopted around the world including Australia, what has been the impact on how data is managed?

The coronavirus pandemic caused massive disruption. Overnight, enterprise IT was asked to enable millions of users to leave the highly controlled environment of corporate systems and work from home using cloud-based collaboration tools and personal devices. As a result, many organisations did not have the time to apply their usual security protocols and found themselves at increased risk.

Remote working doesn’t inherently pose an insurmountable risk, but poorly configured remote working arrangements are proving to be problematic. Through a series of recent forensic and cyber breach investigations I’ve seen first-hand the ease with which systems are exploited either by malicious employees or by external hackers who are seeking financial gain from launching ransomware attacks. 

To what extent are clients looking to adopt a proactive as well as a reactive approach, in order to reduce the need and impact of investigations?

Increasingly active regulators and a series of recent investigations have highlighted to Australian clients the benefits of modern data management and effective security. Similarly, with the increasing frequency of data breaches, I am absolutely seeing increasing investment in remediating data holdings, uplifting security controls and perimeter security, and building robust data governance processes. 

With organisations facing increased regulatory scrutiny across multiple jurisdictions, what trends are you seeing?

Corporate Australia is uniquely placed in the global market. Businesses here are in many ways technically cutting-edge and agile, while also having the luxury of learning from the missteps of their overseas entities, clients and competitors in countries with more active regulatory cultures.

Our Australian clients are now maturing their information governance, privacy and security postures to meet international client and regulator expectations. This increased maturity is allowing our clients to pursue strategic opportunities, such as mergers, acquisitions, or expansions both locally and overseas. 

What should legal counsel seeking to instruct a data expert be looking for?

In a fast-changing and competitive market, legal counsel should be seeking a data expert that they can trust. For example, in a crisis, they will want to have the reassurance that their data expert is composed, considered and able to make decisions under pressure that best protect their organisations. In a legal dispute, they want to have the confidence that their data expert is sufficiently agile to assess and adopt new and emerging technologies that best serve their needs, such as machine learning, while being adequately experienced to fully understand the downstream impact of decisions and work-flow and represent them in court during expert testimony. In a proactive data management project, the legal counsel needs to see demonstrable experience that their data expert can balance operational and strategic aspirations with the compliance and regulatory risk landscape that they operate within.  

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Christopher Hatfield is a leading name in the market for his top-tier work on “large-scale data collections”, as well as his “excellent communication skills”.

Biography

Christopher Hatfield is a senior director at FTI Consulting with expertise in providing forensic technology solutions to a broad range of clients across multiple industries and jurisdictions.

For over 18 years, Chris has worked in the fields of forensic technology, information security and cyber investigations, during which he has amassed considerable experience in both the technical and strategic application of technology-centric solutions for his clients.

Chris provides proactive and reactive advice to clients in the areas of digital forensics and e-discovery applicable to events such as investigations, litigation, arbitration and regulatory inquiries. His engagement experience includes multijurisdictional investigations and regulatory inquiries relating to anticompetitive behaviour, serious fraud, bribery and corruption related matters and intellectual property theft.

Chris has provided both written and oral expert evidence in court, as well as the submission of written expert evidence to other forums such as employment tribunals and arbitrations.

Throughout his career, Chris has assisted in developing and delivering Master of Science educational programmes tailored to experienced professionals working within the digital investigations and security fields.

During his early career, Chris gained valuable experience working in law enforcement conducting crime scene to courtroom investigations. He investigated criminal offences including offences under the Computer Misuse Act that remains applicable to incident response investigations and intellectual property theft within a corporate environment. It was during this role that Chris was recognised as an expert witness and has since continued to provide expert evidence in criminal and civil matters.

Chris holds a Master of Science in computer security and forensics and is a certified information systems security professional (CISSP).

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