The Information Commissioner’s Office has set up an in-house IT forensics unit to back up its data protection enforcement role.

John Rackstraw, IT manager at the ICO, said the new team was being created to support the watchdog’s investigations unit.

Investigators looking into an organisation’s handling of data often needed to copy the data from its computer equipment, he explained.

“That has to be done in such a way that it can be used as admissible material in a court case”.

Previously, the ICO had used external specialists from fraud management and investigation specialist Focus to carry out the work, but Rackstraw said, “We are seeing what we can cope with in terms of internal resource.”

The aim was to cover “80% of the bread and butter cases” through the new internal team, retaining Focus for larger or more complex cases. “People could be using any technology – it’s not practical for an organisation of our size to keep up with all the technology.”

Rackstraw also confirmed that the ICO’s newly signed £7m five-year IT services deal with Alfred McAlpine IT Services contained both efficiency targets and built-in flexibility to allow for service improvements in future.

The McAlpine contract replaces the ICO’s previous managed services deal with Fujitsu, which could not be renewed under procurement rules because it had already run for 10 years.

Alfred McAlpine will provide service desk support, network management, server management, desktop management, application management, hosting, disaster recovery and security management for around 280 staff across the ICO’s six offices.

“It is to meet our known needs,” Rackstraw said. “There are within the contract some contractual efficiency gains, but also we’ve built in a process to pick up service improvements.” These could be suggested by either the ICO or the contractor, he said.