What is de-NISTing, And What Does It Mean For eDiscovery?

Posted by Paulette Keheley | Mon, Feb 17, 2020

If you find eDiscovery to be an arduous, time-consuming process, you’re not alone. Many lawyers struggle to efficiently conduct eDiscovery, even with the help of clerks or paralegals. There’s an enormous amount of data to collect, preserve, and produce for any given case. A law firm could tie up resources in this one critical process alone for weeks or even longer.

There are many ways to simplify eDiscovery, narrow the scope of your data management requirements and make life easier for your legal team without sacrificing the integrity of your case. One of the first steps any attorney or law firm should take is to de-NIST electronically stored information (ESI) and filter out files that are most likely irrelevant to any legal matter.

For such a fundamental component to eDiscovery, de-NISTing is something of a mystery to many legal professionals. We hope to clear up any confusion regarding what this process entails and how to manage it. So, with that in mind, what is de-NISTing, exactly? And how does it factor in to the broader eDiscovery workflow?

Removing junk files from the scope of eDiscovery

At its core, de-NISTing separates user-created documents from the long list of files and data stored on a machine that are produced by a software vendor or hardware manufacturer. The “NIST” in de-NISTing refers to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That organization maintains the National Software Reference Library, which attempts to catalog every known computer application in use today.

With NIST’s master list acting as a guide, law firms can use eDiscovery software to quickly and easily comb through ESI stored on a computer, smartphone, or other electronic device and filter out irrelevant files. Some of the most common file types that are removed during de-NISTing include system files, executable files, and application files. These “junk files” may be essential for running operating systems and software applications, but they aren’t going to have value for either side of a legal matter.

In essence, de-NISTing removes vendor-produced files that have never been changed from their original factory settings from the scope of eDiscovery. The odds that this ESI - which takes up a lot of disk space - would be relevant to a case are incredibly low, so filtering it out from the outset and reducing the number of files included for document review is an obvious first step.

With that data removed, eDiscovery becomes much more manageable because it is solely focused on user-created data that could potentially offer new evidentiary value. There’s very little risk that de-NISTing would filter out files or information that could prove to be useful in a case, except for specific outliers. For instance, a legal matter involving the possession or dissemination of pirated software is much more likely to find application, system, or executable files relevant to the case at hand.

In most situations, however, narrowing the scope of eDiscovery to files created or altered by users will save law firms a lot of time - and billable service hours - during document collection and review. With the help of dedicated eDiscovery software, the entire process becomes much easier to manage, letting lawyers put together the best case possible. Contact Digital WarRoom today and we would be happy to discuss our tools, processes and services for defensible data reduction throughout your eDiscovery project.

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Topics: Glossary