Last week we posted an update talking about the epidemic of cyber-bullying. Largely based upon psychological assault, cyber-bullying has been spreading through our school systems rapidly. The impact on some children has been so strong that, not only are they afraid to go to school, in some extreme cases treatment is required for a variety of mental disorders including anxiety and depression. In the most extreme cases children are even committing suicide as a result of the cyber-bullying. While our last post served as an introduction to the serious nature of this epidemic, this week we want to talk about the impact our services — in particular cell phone forensics and computer forensics — can have on these cases.
An article from the Star-Ledger was posted on NJ.com on Monday that discussed the need for strong protection against cyber-bullying for our children. For many of us, growing up we found bullying to be almost entirely face-to-face, regardless of whether you were on the receiving or giving end. While technology clearly brings many benefits and has provided an invaluable learning tool for many, it has also brought some negative and devastating repercussions:
Death threats are being made in text messages and e-mails and anonymous notes.
And now there is another complication: technology. In face-to-face bullying, victims know their tormentors. In the murky world of the internet, faceless bullies can do untold damage to reputations and psyches. And, unlike other abuse, cyber-bullying doesn’t stop when the school bell rings at the end of the day.
It’s no longer easy for these children to escape from this torture. It may not be a single bully they’re facing, but a mob of faceless, anonymous voices looking to be as ruthless as possible without any fear, and maybe knowledge, of the consequences. While education needs to be more strongly presented as a way to work towards prevention, there are ways of easily identifying abuses from these seemingly anonymous sources.
As we have noted in the past, not only does your computer store and track bits of information you’re unaware of, it also keeps your files and history even when you “delete” them by emptying the Recycle Bin on your desktop. Your emails, IMs, web browser history, cookies, passwords and more can be retrieved with ease. Some of the files we can retrieve will be years old, files you’ve probably forgotten you ever had. We’ve been able to retrieve partial and whole messages sent through MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites and some of these messages contained incriminating evidence.
A very high percentage of children have cell phones now, most able to send text messages and many able to access email and the internet. Some phones like the iPhone and BlackBerry have applications and programs devoted to messaging and communication, allowing you to communicate with others 24/7, for better or worse. This also means that cell phones have become a goldmine for finding incriminating files for all sorts of crimes and wrongdoings.
For example, the iPhone takes a screenshot every time you press the ‘Home’ key and stores that screenshot on the phone. While this is done so that applications can startup faster and without seeming to delay, it also allows us to see many of the things you’ve seen on your phone. Emails, text messages, web sites, videos, calendar info, your contacts and just about anything else you’ll use your phone for can be found in these screenshots. From a cheating spouse’s secret affair to corporate fraud and theft to child pornography, cell phone forensics has allowed us to find incriminating evidence to a wide variety of offenses. With the increase in cyber-bullying this means many of the bully’s actions can be found through a fast cell phone analysis.
One of the hardware-based tools that we use for cell phone forensics allows us to image and analyze a cell phone within minutes. While the storage space on cell phones continues to grow, they still have only a small fraction of what the average personal computer does in hard drive capacity. The smaller size allows for faster imaging which means, when called into a law firm, corporation or school, we can have call logs, text messages, picture messages, videos, web browsing history and more within minutes.
Ultimately both cell phone forensics and computer forensics allows us to frequently find evidence of cyber-bullying. Whether it’s found in text messages, instant messages, emails, photos, videos or fake profiles, we have the tools to defensibly locate and present the facts in any cyber-bullying case, from middle schools to large corporations.
- Cyber-Bullying: How Cell Phone and Computer Forensics Help (Part 1)
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