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Investigating a digital trail

by Josef Kafka

It's certainly true that these days many of us are spending a lot more time in front of a computer, the workhorse of our age where we toil and play – and leave a long digital trail of what we've been up to. Unless we're careful. 

But even if you delete files and electronic footprints from your computer, parts or all of them can still remain on the machine. This is where computer forensics by a private investigator is such an invaluable service in making discoveries and gathering vital evidence. 

There are many areas where a good PI can carry out computer forensics, whether for personal or business reasons. A husband or wife might, for instance, be suspicious that their spouse is up to something; perhaps they spend long hours on the computer and appear distracted at times. It's only natural to start thinking about what they're up to – flirting in a chatroom or on social media, arranging a clandestine rendezvous, or something entirely worse.

In such circumstances, you may be able to search the computer to try and figure out what your other half has been up to, but chances are you won't have the know-how to delve deep into the system and find what you're looking for. A skilled private investigator will be able to probe all parts of the machine’s software to determine if something is going on, and if so, present you with the evidence to use as you wish. 

Companies can benefit from forensic examinations of their computers to see if their employees are spending their time working or playing on them. An office may have a ban on certain time-wasting sites – social media, particularly – but it's impossible to police every computer all the time. So you'll never know what's really going on until you – or a PI – conduct a forensic search. If workers know it's policy to carry out regular checks, it will act as a deterrent and also help to increase productivity. 

On a more damaging scale, a PI can also find out if any of the company's digital assets, intellectual property or sensitive information is at risk, by forensically examining computers. Email exchanges and instant messaging chats that have been stored – likely unbeknownst to the user – may reveal contact with an external party such as a competitor with a view to selling confidential information about a firm that could prove ruinous. 

As always, better very safe than very, very sorry.

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