Gathering evidence of a cyber incident

As in everyday life, unpleasant situations may sometimes arise between people in an online environment. We might see something we don’t like or that we would want to report to the police. To ensure that the facts of the case are clearly and quickly understood, it is important that we provide straightforward information and retain evidence in case there is a need to further investigate a suspected crime.

The general rule of thumb, when stumbling upon something unpleasant or illegal in an online interaction, is – notice, block, report and share your concern. For example, you can report and block an objectionable person or content on an e-channel. You can share your concerns with a parent, web-constable, teacher, or another adult you trust. In addition to reporting and blocking you can also file a complaint with the police to start criminal proceedings. In this tutorial we are focusing on how to record disturbing/illegal content and report it to law enforcement if necessary. It is important to understand that if you need to use something that was online as evidence, you should first gather and save the evidence and then move on to reporting it. 

Recording evidence

Rules apply to evidence. It’s first and foremost important that the evidence be untampered. When we’re talking about a screenshot as evidence then it is important that the screenshot will identify:

–          The environment where the post/exchange originated

–          The poster/author of the message (i.e. their username in said environment)

–          The time of posting/messaging (date and time)

–          The content of the post/message, if the post/message does not fit on one screenshot then it must be clear without a doubt that it is the same post/message.

As previously stated, it is important that the screenshot contains information which will make it possible to later verify which user, in what online environment and when, and which post/message was sent. The fastest and easiest way to record all the aforementioned factors is to take screenshots.

If you suspect a crime, for example that someone might have used your identity or sent you harassing messages, talk to your parents who can help you report it to the police. You can also file a police report yourself but it’s always easier if a grownup helps you prepare your statement to the police. For information on how to file a police report and on how and when to go to the police, go to If you have any questions, you can also contact the web-police.

The material was compiled by Targalt Internetis

Targalt Internetis (Smart Online) is an initiative by the Estonian Union for Child Welfare. The Union for Child Welfare is recognised as an advocate for children’s rights in society and, for best results, they focus on the most important issues in the field.

Published in the youth information portal Teeviit in 2022.

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