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Phil Beckett

Phil Beckett

Alvarez & MarsalPark House, 16-18 Finsbury CircusLondonEnglandEC2M 7EB

Thought Leader

Thought Leaders Global Elite 2019 - Digital Forensic Experts

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Phil Beckett is a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s (A&M) global disputes and investigations practice in London and leads the pan-European forensic technology team. He brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year for the second year running.

Describe your career to date.

I am a career consultant, having worked for major accountancy firms, US consultancies and small boutique technology firms. I started life within the IT risk team at Arthur Andersen but quickly found my way to forensics and have focused my career in that field ever since. Even though that has been my area of focus I am also a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), winning the ACCA Gold Medal when I qualified in 2001. I have continued to enhance my knowledge with a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and in computer and communications law from Queen Mary University. I am currently a partner/managing director within Alvarez & Marsal’s European disputes and investigations practice where I regularly work with my colleagues across the forensic accounting and economic spectrum, not just technology – although that is and will always remain my area of expertise.

What steps do you take, both individually and as a firm, to ensure you provide clients with a high level of service?

To ensure a high level of client service we have built robust procedures and methodologies. This means melding the following key traits: being responsive to clients; having a passion for quality; having full and transparent communication; and always providing independent and expert advice – even when that may be what they do not want to hear. Our team are experienced and qualified in their fields – they are not “button-pushers” or trained in one isolated element. Their training within the firm and the structure of our teams gives them all full grasp of the entire project from end-to-end and where they fit within that. But it is also really about the people, and I work with a very dedicated and talented team who provide clients with excellent service.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

A combination of the people I work with (both clients and colleagues) and the actual work that we do. I love the challenging nature of my job – hunting down the key snippets of information to help see the overall picture and generating solutions that solve clients’ problems or requirements.

What effect has the GDPR had on the field so far? What impact will it have in the coming years?

GDPR is certainly a hot topic, and this will only increase as time passes. This manifests itself in a number of ways. First, an increased number of incidents being reported, thus needing a thorough investigation; second, providing advice and training on responding to data subject access requests; third, increased scrutiny over cyber controls and GDPR preparedness around mergers, acquisitions and other corporate/private equity deals; and fourth, more regulatory, and therefore rigour, around incidents where there are potential GDPR breaches, turning them not just into a technical problem, but a regulatory and senior management one. All of these are driving both proactive and responsive work and will keep us busy for a number of years.

There has been an uptick in the number of data breaches reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office this year. What can be done to combat this?

I think GDPR has, without doubt, increased the number of data breach reports to the ICO – you only have to look at the latest statistics to see this. I think, though, there are two factors that may impact the true situation: first, there are still many breaches that are not detected or identified – the time it takes to discover a breach can often be months or years; and second, there is probably an over-cautious reaction meaning that many breaches or suspected breaches may be reported when they don’t necessarily need to be. Data breaches, unfortunately, are something executives need to get familiar with as it is impossible to build a system that is 100 per cent secure and still functional. Therefore the focus needs to be on: ensuring appropriate controls and implemented and monitored – especially patching vulnerable systems promptly; developing robust and tested detection controls so that issues are identified as soon as possible; and knowing what to do when the worst happens.

Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?

The future of the practice is one that will continue to evolve to meet client requirements. There are a number of key areas where we are actively driving our practice forward. First, ensuring that we are up to speed with the latest developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning so that we can help clients take advantage of them as soon as they are beneficial. I do not foresee that these will ever make our lives redundant, but they will change the way we work and allow us to focus on ensuring clients continue to receive an excellent service. Second, ensuring the team is well-balanced and made up of more than just technical experts – we need to be able to understand the aims and objectives of clients, and to help them address their requirements without them necessarily knowing what they are looking for. Having a broader skill set, more experience and knowledge from across the forensic spectrum can help achieve this. These two aspects, combined, will help ensure innovative solutions and processes continue to be developed and implemented to help us provide an excellent service to our clients.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

“Seasoned forensic technology practitioner” Phil Beckett continues to stand out as a pre-eminent name in our research thanks to his impressive work on anti-bribery investigations and IP theft, among other areas.

Questions & Answers

Phil Beckett is a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s global disputes and investigations practice in London, and leads the pan-European forensic technology team. He brings more than 20 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. He was named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO WORKING IN THE FIELD OF DIGITAL FORENSICS?

My first project in the field of digital forensics was back in 1998 when I was at Arthur Andersen. It was an investigation related to alleged stock fraud and I was part of the team capturing and interrogating the computer data related to the investigation. I really enjoyed the nature of the work and the combination of technical and investigatory skills that were required to find information that would be useful to the investigation. I found I wanted to learn more about this field and 20 years on I am still working and enjoying the challenges.

YOU HAVE A WIDE-RANGING PRACTICE. ON WHAT SORTS OF MATTERS DO YOU FIND YOURSELF MOST FREQUENTLY OCCUPIED AT PRESENT?

The matters that I work on are varied, but always have a common nexus between technology and contentious legal issues – be it litigation, investigation or regulatory. There are three common themes that appear: theft of intellectual property investigations, which vary from source codes to client lists to confidential data; investigating data breaches, whether it be an internal or external issue, or indeed a hybrid of the two; and managing large datasets that need to be mined to identify relevant intelligence and information for a matter.

HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR GIVING TESTIMONY IN LITIGATION AND ARBITRATION?

Be prepared. You must know the details of the matter you are giving evidence on – not just the headlines, but the details that are the foundations. Also, I always think about how best to present and communicate very technical concepts in a manner that can be understood by someone who does not have a technology background – otherwise, the point can become “lost”.

HOW HAS THE FIELD OF DIGITAL FORENSICS CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED PRACTISING?

In some ways everything has changed and in others nothing has changed. The three most fundamental changes are data volumes; the range of devices and sources of information; and underlying technologies that manage data on devices. Technology has forced us to adapt methodologies and approaches, ensuring that forensic principles are adhered to. However, the objectives and nature of what we look for during an investigation have not changed too much.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE HUMAN ELEMENT IN THE APPLICATIONS OF DATA?

It is essential. Every case has unique circumstances to it, so there is no magic button to find what you need. Therefore, it requires a combination of experience and knowledge to deploy the right tools and approaches to meet the specific objectives of a case. It is the ability to really understand what a client wants and how to put that into action that makes the difference. It is not per se about which tool to use, but how those tools are applied and used in different scenarios. You also need to take into account the difference between how computer systems should be used (according to IT) and how they are actually used by the people themselves, to make sure all the relevant data sources are covered – especially when certain technologies are not officially sanctioned. Above all else, it is about following your nose and not just going through a standard set of motions to ensure the client gets the service they need.

HOW CAN CLIENTS GET THE BEST VALUE OUT OF DATA?

Clients need to understand what they are seeking to get out of the data and have business goals and objectives in mind when interrogating it. The intelligence and information contained within any given dataset is incredibly vast and varied, therefore clients need to be focused. They also need to ensure that they do the simple things right. Too often hyped-up phrases such as “artificial intelligence” and “deep learning” get referenced as solutions. Yes, they have a role to play, but doing the basics right is fundamental to success. Within an investigation, it is also important to recognise the smoking-gun document may not be either there or easily accessible. In most investigations, it is a case of working closely with the client, the lawyers and the wider investigation team to gradually build a picture of what has been happening. Sometimes though you do have the “Eureka!” moment and find the smoking gun.

WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR IN A SUCCESSFUL DIGITAL FORENSIC EXPERT?

It goes without saying that they must be an expert in their field with the ability to deliver what is required. But it also about being able to communicate in a way that can be readily understood, as well as being able to see the bigger picture and how digital evidence fits into the overall case. Client service is also a crucial element – ensuring that you are available when required, responsive to requests and honest in the delivery of results. Finally, it is important to have an expert who understands the requirement and really thinks about how to approach the matter, considering alternative lines of enquiry to ensure where appropriate – not merely following a standard, fixed approach.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING A CAREER IN THE FIELD?

Don’t focus too quickly – for example, you do not need to do a “forensic” degree to pursue a career in this area. In fact, I would prefer to see candidates with a more general computing degree though, of course, you’ll be expected to gain specific qualifications in this area during your career.

Attention to detail is critical – a small error can cost a lot and prevent you from a successful forensic career.

Have an open mind and try to keep all your avenues open – you never know where they may take you.

Never stop learning – always challenge yourself.

Global Leader

Data - Data Experts 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

"Seasoned forensic technology practitioner" Phil Beckett focuses his standout practice on providing clients with high-quality advice and hands-on expertise in relation to digital evidence.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year for the second year running.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Phil Beckett stands out as one of the foremost digital forensic experts in the region. His top-tier practice spans a range of matters including investigations and IP theft.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 20 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. Mr Beckett leads the forensic technology team across Europe and was named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Phil Beckett is a first-rate forensic technology, investigations and disclosure expert with 15 years' experience advising major international clients across numerous industry sectors.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 20 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. Mr Beckett leads the forensic technology team across Europe and was named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

"Seasoned forensic technology practitioner" Phil Beckett continues to stand out as a pre-eminent name in our research thanks to his impressive work on anti-bribery investigations and IP theft, among other areas.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year for the second year running.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

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