Digital Evidence Collection Made Easier Through Innovation


The Central Coast Cyber Forensics Lab (CCCFL) and California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) recently engaged with California Polytechnic State University’s Digital Transformation Hub (Cal Poly DxHub) to improve the way investigators collect digital evidence. The team used Amazon’s Working Backwards innovation methodology to re-examine evidence collection in the modern world. Many crimes involve some sort of electronic device that contains evidence that can be used in a court of law to exonerate or convict criminals. To ensure we protect an individual’s privacy and that digital evidence is admissible in court it needs to be collected accurately with ever changing legal guidelines.



The modern crime landscape has thousands of device types, makes, models, and software that store digital evidence. Per U.S. Constitutional Law and State law (CalECPA – California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, SB 178), digital evidence is required to be collected in a compliant way to protect citizen’s rights. If digital evidence is improperly obtained, it will be inadmissible in court. With new devices released weekly, persistent software updates, and constantly changing laws, investigators need a rapidly evolving tool to stay informed of the latest digital evidence collection processes.

Innovation in Action

Cal Poly’s DxHub led the team of subject matter experts through two workshops designed to understand the fundamental problem from the perspective of the customer (investigators collecting digital evidence). The team started by identifying the investigator’s pain points and needs, then ideated as a group to identify the right solution to the problem from the investigator’s point of view. Ultimately, the team agreed on a mobile application that investigators could use to locate the correct digital evidence collection procedures, based on current laws and the device specifications. The following story board highlights the user experience


Cal Poly’s DxHub worked with students to create an interactive digital mock-up using modern design tools. The team was able to iterate (repetitively review and improve) the design without introducing the complexities of building a full-scale application. Throughout the iteration process, the prototype was validated through customer testing with investigators, to ensure the design satisfied their primary needs. Using this rapid prototype design methodology, the team was able to quickly present a solution that the investigators were excited about. The end result was a mobile application prototype that empowers investigators to identify devices (type, make, and model) requiring digital evidence collection, and provides a step-by-step process to properly collect the digital evidence. Below are screenshots of the resulting lean prototype mobile application.


Supporting Documents

Amazon’s Working Backwards process results in several artifacts that help inform and guide the end result. Below is a description of each and their purpose in the process:
Press Release & Frequently Asked Questions During the Innovation Workshop, a fictional Press Release and nonfictional Frequently Asked Questions are drafted. This is a tool that is used to define the solution and why it matters to the customer.
Narrative A document that describes an overview of the process and solution.
Storyboard A series of frames designed to illustrate the problem and the impact of the solution visually.
UI/UX mockup A clickable user interface that demonstrates the solution.

About the DxHub

The Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) is a strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is the world’s first cloud innovation center supported by AWS on a University campus. The primary goal of the DxHub is to provide real-world problem-solving experiences to students by immersing them in the application of proven innovation methods in combination with the latest technologies to solve important challenges in the public sector. The challenges being addressed cover a wide variety of topics including homelessness, evidence-based policing, digital literacy, virtual cybersecurity laboratories and many others. The DxHub leverages the deep subject matter expertise of government, education and non-profit organizations to clearly understand the customers affected by public sector challenges and develops solutions that meet the customer needs.