Social Media Investigations, Part 1: Down the Rabbit Hole From Pursuit Magazine

  image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user “Szater”

Investigators: You may not have a “spirit animal” or know much about rodentology, but the best investigators I know are experts at “ferreting out” needed information.

As it happens, the analogy to this lithe, highly intelligent carnivorous mini-weasel is particularly apt when it comes to professional digital forensics and to ensuring the capture, ongoing collection, and presentation of relevant in-depth social network data. With their long, lean build, and inquisitive nature, ferrets are very well equipped for getting down circuitous holes and chasing elusive critters out of their burrows–just like us persistent investigators.

In part one of this series, we’ll be looking at how, on our journeys down those burrows, we may be neglecting to retrieve (or lacking the best tools to retrieve) crucial nuggets that could make a real difference in the case at hand.

Following a Digital Trail

Take a look at your current caseload. You may be researching, helping litigate, or otherwise investigating in a criminal defense, civil, workplace, insurance, or fraud case. Regardless of your caseload’s makeup, you hopefully know that digital evidence is now a factor in every case.

With our highly surveilled, connected, and electronically-mediated environments, one would be hard-pressed to find a case where digital evidence didn’t play some role. You may have a sense of this growth in your own work if you’ve been in practice since the fax machine (remember fax machines?), but most of us don’t fully understand the full scope of the phenomenon.

The folks who track data proliferation globally, IDC, found in their recent study (and their archive of past years’ installments of the study)  that 2.8 zettabytes of data were created and replicated in 2012.

Most of us don’t have a good sense of what 2.8ZB is, exactly. Take a look at that nice little 4-inch terabyte USB back-up drive sitting on your desk. Yes, that one. Don’t unplug it! (You’ll interrupt that crucial backup.)

Now, multiply it in your mind by about 3 billion. If you lined those disks up, they would stretch 110,479.6 miles, or wrap around the equator more than 4 times.

There are more places than ever where data relevant to our case could be hiding.

By comparison, in 2005, there were about 130 exabytes of data created or replicated on all the computers and computing devices worldwide. Today the figure is 22 times larger than that. In 2020, it’s expected to rise to 40 ZB, or 315 times larger than it was in 2005.

Certainly much of that data is junk. But the point is that now, there are more places than ever where data relevant to our case could be hiding. So as thorough and diligent as we professionals are, there’s likely to be more digital evidence out there we’ve not yet uncovered.


About securityteknews
Ralph Thomas is author of over 32 books on various aspects of conducting investigations, founder and director of The National Association Of Investigative Specialists,CEO of Thomas Investigative Publications, Inc, The Spy Exchange And Security Center and SpyTek Wholesale Imports. Thomas is a member of the Executive Security Council of Griffith Colson Intelligence Service, a private intelligence agency. Thomas's latest project is NAIStv on the Griffith Media TV Network. He has also developed A Native American Store in Georgetown Texas called Tribal Impressions. You can review his person home page off of:

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