Sep 25 2009   3:41PM GMT

Things You Can Do to Help An Investigation

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Sooner or later, you will be called upon, as an Admin or an Auditor, to assist or address a possible fraud or event pertaining to someone’s computer, laptop, pda or smartphone. People can be very anxious and over-react when an event is happening. Or, just as difficult, proceed to do nothing, because they’re not sure what to do.

Neither approach is truly helpful in investigating digital fraud, theft or other computer-related incident. I was asked to do an exam, a few years ago, of the hard drives of a CFO who had admitted to fraud and was fired. Her computer sat on her desk, and her secretary AND the company admin both logged into the computer over the course of weeks before we were engaged.

The problem? Every time someone logs in, files get changed. The secretary checked her email; the admin was checking something else. If the company had wanted to prosecute, the evidence on her hard drive was hopelessly muddied and would not have stood up in court.

Here’s the best idea: take the computer and LOCK IT UP. Don’t let it just sit there (so the defense attorney can point out anyone could have logged in) and don’t let people use it. Yes, we might use some volatile data in memory, but many times the computer is already turned off.

If events happen quickly, the fraudster leaves the building with/out access to his/her computer for the last time and it’s still running: LOCK IT UP. If it’s in an office, secure the office and don’t let anyone into it. If it’s in an open area, that’s when you’ll need to power it down and lock it up.

Will these rules fit every situation? Probably not. But they will fit 85%. If you know it’s going to be a forensic situation ahead of time, I hope management lines up someone to come in immediately, who can capture data from a live machine. But if not, and you’re first on the scene, the two rules above are the most important.

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