4Discovery and CES selected to conduct homeland security training
4Discovery announced on December 3 that it joined partners Computer Evidence Specialists (CES) to train the State of Vermont’s Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security officers.
Chad Gough, a founding partner of Computer Forensics firm 4Discovery in Chicago, IL and Blake Haase, an attorney and Social Media Investigation Specialist at CES of Jacksonville, FL were picked to lead the team. The training, conducted during three days in early November, provided Vermont law enforcement officers with an overview of the computer forensics and social media aggregation investigative tools available today, and how law enforcement can leverage those resources to fight terrorist cells at the state level.
During one of the learning segments, Gough provided officers a sampling of digital evidence recovered from a smart phone that was purchased in used and damaged condition from eBay. The phone, a “broken” device which had been traded in for a new model by its owner, contained confidential information about the user, text messages, emails, GPS data, calendar events, “to do lists,” and even explicit photos. The data recovered from this phone was used by Gough as an example of the highly-valuable nature of cell phone evidence in investigations of all types. “The amount of relevant digital evidence unknowingly created by users of smart phones is staggering”, claimed Gough, and these digital fingerprints can be used to piece together a time-line of the activity the criminal was engaged in.
Blake Haase of CES then led the group of law enforcement officers in an exercise demonstrating the powerful social media aggregation software tools available to law enforcement. The CES proprietary methodology searches and aggregates open source social media content (Twitter feeds, blog posts, etc.) and pulls that data into a comprehensive story board about the target of the investigation. By compiling and “linking” data related to various parties in an investigation, a bird’s eye view of activity and trends can be observed and analyzed, illuminating criminal activity like never before.
Terrorists and other criminals are increasingly reliant on computers, smart phones, and social media to communicate and carry out their activities. While they attempt to do so covertly, they often leave behind digital clues that can be recovered and analyzed. Grass roots law enforcement officers can be highly-effective resources in observing telltale terrorist activities if they are aware of the digital artifacts that are unwittingly generated by these criminals. The training provided by 4Discovery and CES experts in Vermont recently is an excellent example of how the private sector can help with this important cause.