It was our first night in the suburbs, and we learned the hard way why raccoons wear masks as we surveyed the carnage they had made of our garbage. We were drilling eye hooks into the wall so that we could rope off and secure our garbage cans against further raids when a neighbor came up and asked “When you’re done with all of that, will you still be able to get into your garbage cans?” “Of course,” we said. “Then,” our wise neighbor replied, “so will the raccoons.”

Hackers are to computers what raccoons are to garbage cans. And the problem is that hackers don’t limit themselves to taking stuff out, they also put garbage in. Because we know this — because courts know this — the admissibility of computer-stored information can be a far more complex proposition than we might first think. During discovery, you assemble e-mails with all sorts of juicy facts, computer records from which you can easily compute damages, and copies of Web pages from various sites that support your theory of the case. Your work is done; you are ready for trial. But are you? Will you be able to get all of that great electronic material admitted at trial? The time to consider that question is now, while discovery is still open.

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