It goes without saying but our world is digital. The digital world doesn’t permeate our lives, it is our lives. We get our news from digital sources. We do our research digitally using Google, Yahoo and Bing. We read our books from Amazon or digitally from the local library. Movies, TV and sporting events? On-line. Banking? On-line too. We shop online for everything from gadgets to clothes to even groceries. We interact with our friends and share our lives digitally through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media means.
How this relates to White-Collar Crime
What does that last paragraph have to do with white-collar crime? Quite a lot! When defending a white-collar crime case, attorneys know that the prosecution is going to investigate every angle of the incident and of the defendant. The crime isn’t just what occurred and who did it, the crime is also who knew about it, when they knew about it, did they plan for it and what did they say or do after the crime occurred. The digital world is an avenue into this important information. Actually, the digital world is more like multiple 6-lane highways with multiple exits, entrances and paths to this information. On top of that, from our experience in digital forensics over the last 13 plus years, law enforcement is typically ahead of the curve when it comes to discovering how to use digital evidence to tell the tale of a crime.
Let me give you an example of how a very common attribute of our digital lives was used in an uncommon way for a criminal matter. Everyone is familiar with auto-correct? It is that function which corrects your spelling mistakes (or changes them to a word you didn’t embarrassingly expect). The other part of auto-correct is that it allows you to save uncommon words, usually names, to prevent them from being changed. For example, I’ve had my last name, Kelley, changed to Kelly a couple of times. I can use this feature of auto-correct to see to it that it is never changed again. Seems harmless, right? Well, in our case, it wasn’t. Our case involved an individual accused of insider trading. His alibi went so far as to say that the person from whom he allegedly acquired the insider information was someone he had never met. The information supplier, however, had an unusually spelled name. In examining the defendant’s computer, we found that he had saved this name in his auto-correct database, so it would never be altered to something else.
The above is just one example of digital evidence used in a white-collar crime case. There are a host of others. But usually the defense attorney in a case like this isn’t too interested in finding all the good and bad about their client as they may be more interested in combating all the “bad” that the prosecution is going to dig up. It is in this area that Vestige can be most helpful. From our experience, discovery provided by the prosecution consists of documents, emails, etc. It is the defense attorney’s job to piece that discovery together to understand how it is going to be used. Pretty easy when you are talking about words written by a human being in the form of letters, memos or otherwise. Pretty difficult, though, when you are talking about “word” written by a computer. When presented with discovery from the prosecution that provides information on Jumplists, LNK files, Shellbags, browser history and the Windows Registry, are you going to understand what that means and how the prosecution is going to use it? Probably not, but that is where the digital forensic expert comes in. We can read and interpret that data, understand what it means, understand what type of timeline of activity is being put together and understand what these computer words can say about the defendant. Our experience in working thousands of cases helps us understand how others will try to connect the digital dots and in turn we can provide that consultation to you.
For additional proactive education, or if you suspect white-collar crime, need to conduct an internal investigation or go to court, visit https://www.vestigeltd.com/solutions/white-collar-crime/ .
by Greg Kelley, EnCE, DFCP, Chief Technology Officer at Vestige Digital Investigations