Peers and clients say:
"Davin has an extremely strong work ethic, responds promptly and is highly reliable"
Davin Teo is a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s Disputes and Investigations practice in Hong Kong and leads the forensic technology team across Asia. He brings more than 22 years of forensic technology, electronic discovery and IT audit experience to numerous national and international corporations, government bodies and regulators. Mr. Teo specialises in digital investigations and electronic discovery matters. His primary areas of expertise are fraud and misconduct investigations, electronic discovery, dispute matters and data recovery requests.
What motivated you to specialise in digital investigations and e-discovery matters?
I graduated as an accountant but always had an interest in the digital world of computing. During my time with one of the Big Four, I took an opportunity to join the IT audit team and became part of the first forensic technology team in Australia. This opened my eyes to the world of digital forensics and investigations. Then when I moved to the UK in 2003, I had a chance to explore the world of e-discovery and have never looked back since.
What is it about your role as forensic expert that you enjoy most?
I wouldn’t be where I was today without my team. As a forensic expert, whilst I have a lot of experience and knowledge under my belt, at times I need to rely on team members who have certain specialised knowledge or experience. Working collaboratively with my team globally is something that I value a lot and ultimately gaining that additional knowledge and adding it to my experience is something I find very valuable.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a global practice?
There are numerous advantages of being part of a global disputes and investigations practice. Being with the firm over 13 years, I’ve been able to get to know and call some of the smartest people in our global team friends. Having the benefit of pooling together resources at the drop of a hat, asking for advice on areas my team or I may not know locally or just discussing strategies in the various jurisdictions around the world has and continues to be super beneficial.
There are no disadvantages to a global practice, except for the fact that when a global conference call is setup, usually in Asia you’re doing the call late at night, but it’s all part and parcel of being in a large global practice, which I love.
How has the role of a digital forensic expert changed since you first started practising?
The world of digital forensics is constantly changing. When I got into the field over 22 years ago, the data sizes were small indeed. We were forensically copying hard drives in computers that were 20GB in size and it would take a few hours. Nowadays, the sizes of hard drives we face are sometimes 2,000GB in some laptops (100 times the size of what I saw 22 years ago) and it still only takes a few hours to forensically copy. Data sizes have advanced but so has the forensic technology. Additionally, there continues to be a proliferation of many different types of electronic devices where evidence can be stored, and which you need to analyse from a digital forensic stance.
What challenges has the shift to remote working presented from a digital forensic standpoint?
From my experience conducting a number of digital forensic investigations in the new “work from home” era, there have been several challenges. Firstly, staff using their personal devices for business and staff saving company data on these personal devices. Secondly, work computers or personal computers that are being used for work that are not up to date with anti-virus software and are vulnerable to cyber-attacks could compromise company data. Thirdly, in conducting a digital forensic investigation, we have had to modify our forensic collection capabilities to forensically copy data, at times, remotely but still maintain chain of custody and ensure that data is sound for evidentiary purposes for the matter.
What are the biggest data threats your clients currently face, and how are you helping tackle them?
One of the business threats our clients face is on the cyber side. Our clients need to be online to do business and this makes their data vulnerable to attacks. Our role as digital forensic experts is to proactively educate and proactively ensure that our client’s systems are constantly updated and robust enough to face these attackers. Additionally, data sizes continue to exponentially grow and grow. My role should a client face a dispute is to ensure that the discovery exercise is proportional to the matter at hand and that I use all forensic tools and experience at my disposal to minimise costs for our clients whilst ensuring an efficient discovery/disclosure process.
In which direction would you like to steer your practice in the next few years?
My forensic technology team across Asia is one of the largest in the region. I’m proud to see the growth of the practice over the past nine-plus years in Asia and the trust our clients have had in me and my team. I foresee a continued need for forensic technology as domestic and cross-border investigations and disputes increase and therefore having a significant local presence with local expertise is essential to our practices’ growth in 2022-2023.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming practitioners starting out in digital investigations?
Always learn and listen to those around you. Surround yourself with people in the field that have been around for a long time as they have a wealth of experience. Embrace technology and the changes that come along with it. Always keep up-to-date with the latest technology out there as you just never know where data might be residing the next time you need to do a digital forensic investigation. Lastly, always provide a high level of quality in your work product, “if you think you’ve finished your work, check it again” – there is no room for errors or mistakes in our world of forensics!