By Page Vault Staff and Alex Schwiebert
If you didn’t get a chance to read our previous blog post, Part I of II: Why Capturing Web Content Through Your Basic Browser Isn’t Secure, here’s a quick recap. A browser is the application on your computer that allows you to browse and view content on the internet. The most commonly used basic browsers include Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari.
Often, legal professionals using these basic browsers along with web capture tools, like “print screen” or “Snipping Tool,” run the risk of endangering the admissibility of the web evidence they collect.
The solution to the local browser and capture tool is remote browser technology (RBT), specifically designed for the legal industry. RBT runs on a computer that is unaffiliated with the user and captures the content on a virtual machine so that the user’s computer is safely removed – thereby rendering it secure and defensible.
Here are 5 reasons why RBT is the preferred choice for legal professionals capturing web content for their cases or as evidence for use in court:
Benefit #1: Preserved Digital Chain of Custody
RBT maintains the digital chain of custody by making sure that the user’s computer never interacts with a website directly—all traffic goes through the remote browser.
It’s vital to find a tool or service specifically designed for the legal industry that uses RBT and serves as a trusted third-party for the purpose of providing affidavits or witness testimony that attest to its secure solution. Having this in place significantly increases compliance with Federal Rules of Evidence 901(b)(9).
Benefit #2: Safe Website Searching
Another benefit of using a remote browser on a virtual machine is that the user is insulated from potentially harmful content on the website being captured.
Your case dictates which websites must be captured, but what happens if the website you need to go to is potentially dangerous? You don’t want to miss the chance of capturing the content the site contains, but you also don’t want to risk exposing your computer to dangerous viruses or malware.
If local screen capture tools or “print screen” are used, then the user’s computer and browser directly connects to the site. Therefore, the user’s computer, and often the firm’s IT system, is exposed to the malicious virus or malware on the target website. In the legal setting, where security and privacy of client information is paramount, why take that risk?
Using RBT, the webpage is viewed on a virtual machine, which insulates the user’s computer from any harmful content. Consequently, to the extent malware or a virus is on the website, the user’s computer is protected by using remote desktop technology to connect to the virtual machine.
The company providing the virtual machines and remote browser maintains them, so a firm’s IT team doesn’t need to worry about wiping and rebooting them to keep the system clean. This allows users of the remote browser to capture content from whatever website the case demands (even those that are dangerous), without having to worry that it may harm their computer.
Benefit #3: Maintain Anonymity While Investigating
When using a local browser on a computer, navigating to a website registers the IP address and can be used to identify the user’s location, company, or even identity. However, in some cases, legal professionals may need to browse a website while remaining anonymous.
RBT solves this issue as only the IP address of the virtual machine that is running the remote browsing session will be registered, and not the user’s personal or firm’s IP address. The virtual machine utilizes non-descript IP addresses that cannot be tracked back to the user or firm. When anonymity is required, remote browser technology is the key.
Benefit #4: Gain Easy Access to Restricted Websites
Sometimes attorneys need to capture web content from websites that are blocked by their firm’s IT system. For example, one may need to capture an image of a counterfeit product on eBay, or capture an image from an unscrupulous, unsavory, or X-rated website, but be unable to access it because of IT restrictions.
With RBT, the actual surfing to the website takes place on a virtual machine that is not under the local firm’s network. Instead of having to ask the firm’s IT team to grant access to that blocked website, a legal professional can simply use the secure remote browser to capture the content. In turn, the firm’s IT team reduces the risk of exposing the firm’s network to potentially dangerous malware or viruses.
Benefit #5: No Manual Maintenance or Patches
Another benefit of using RBT is that because the web browsing takes place from the virtual machine, the maintenance, patches and updates to that machine are done for the user.
Consequently, there is no need to send patches or upgrades to each legal professional’s computer, which can save time if a firm has hundreds and hundreds of computers. Further, there is no need to worry that someone’s software isn’t up to date or that there are inconsistent versions being used.
This increases ease-of-use and prevents fragmentation, leaving more time for the users to focus on capturing web content and working on their case.
Page Vault has pioneered the RBT technique with Page Vault Browser. While the architecture that makes it work is fairly complex, the idea itself is intuitive. Page Vault Browser works by providing the user with a simple-to-use, custom-built web browser (similar to Chrome or Internet Explorer). However, unlike those basic local browsers, the Page Vault Browser is housed on a separate, secure virtual machine in the cloud.
Page Vault Browser ensures that content served from a web server is saved directly to a trusted third-party: Page Vault. It captures the content from the web server (any website the user goes to) and, as that content never travels past the virtual machine, the user’s computer is securely blocked. While the user decides what and when to capture, Page Vault Browser actually makes the capture without the content ever transferring to the user’s computer – thereby allowing the software to preserve the chain of custody over the web capture.
Alternatively, legal professionals can still benefit from RBT with services like Page Vault On Demand. On Demand makes it easy for legal professionals to request that web content be collected for them, with the peace of mind that the content is being captured securely and accurately.