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  • Chris Cassar

Dealing With an Untimely Death in a Digital World

The genesis of CMC Dataworks’ Digital Estate Management Service

In December of 2003, I received a call from one of my closest friends. His dad needed someone with coding, database, project management and forensics experience to assist with a company problem. I agreed to help and began collaborating with my newly acquired customer in early 2004. I was excited to take on the role of consultant, with a focus on reviewing and documenting their current system, and by 2005 the decision was made to design and build a customized management program, to replace the current hodge-podge system.

Three years later, in May of 2007, the CIO called with dire news, the forty-year-old son of one of the founders had passed away in a sudden and freak accident. This son had been involved in many entrepreneurial ventures, but unfortunately his father knew little about them. I was asked to review the son’s laptop and phone information to sort out his business affairs. This began the complicated and overwhelming task of gathering the bits and bytes of a stranger’s life, trying to piece together and build a comprehensive and coherent narrative, so that a grieving father could continue his son’s dealings.

With little information about the contents, passwords, accounts, or other aspects of his son’s digital life… I started with his laptop, hoping that the lion’s share of his business affairs would be stored there. Even with my extensive years of IT experience and the proper tools and training in data forensics, I faced a dauting task; I needed to build a thorough history of his son’s endeavors. Working with a forensic image of his laptop’s hard drive, I began following the digital breadcrumbs to uncover key documents and information in his digital affairs. I took the necessary precautions to ensure that the methods used, and information uncovered, would be admissible in court.

Following several weeks of intense effort, scouring every document, every entry, every shred of data to paint as complete a picture as possible, I delivered the information and source material to his father. He was extremely pleased that I was able to complete this task in a timely manner, and from the results, he was able to continue his son’s pursuits.

This situation was the catalyst for the creation of digital life or digital estate services. I was sure this would be a valuable service to other people in similar dilemmas. Should you be faced with understanding and sorting a family member’s or a business partner’s digital life, where would you begin? How would you gather the information? How would you make sense of it all? In today’s world, most of us have tens or even hundreds of on-line accounts, and most of us are not good about documenting our digital lives. This is where CMC Dataworks Digital Estate Management Services (DEMS) can help. We can gather, organize, and deliver the details of someone’s electronic artifacts, to help make sense of it all.


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