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Modern Private Investigators Must Embrace Digital Forensics

Private investigators will always need to track down witnesses, tail suspects and stay alert through long stakeouts, but these days they need to add even more skills to their repertoire – digital skills.

Digital forensics examiners can dig into cell phones, tablets and hard drives to extract crucial details of timelines, conversations and geographic locations in a wide variety of criminal and civil cases. Done properly and expertly documented, this work establishes crucial, often incontrovertible, evidence.

A private investigator – or anyone looking to become a private investigator – needs to find a way to leverage the power of computer and cell phone forensics to stay ahead of the game.

The data on electronic devices, once unlocked, can answer questions with remarkable certainty. Digital artifacts from messaging, texts and social media can reveal a surprising level of detail about a person’s motivations, attitudes and activities, shedding light on covert behavior.

Texts, emails, instant messages, images and video often are associated with metadata – the dates, times and other logged information related to digital activity. By unlocking and analyzing that metadata, our engineers can create detailed timelines of activities, locations and conversations.

A private digital investigation can answer a lot of questions:

Which cell tower handled a specific call or text message?
  • What numbers did the user call? How long did they talk?
  • Who did the user text or chat with, and what did they discuss?
  • What websites have been visited?
  • What has been downloaded? Uploaded?
  • What photos or videos were sent in texts and emails?
  • Is the suspect’s vehicle the one shown on surveillance video?
  • Who is the speaker on a recorded phone call?

The skills to investigate cell phones and computers are not common among private investigators, but they are nonetheless crucial. That’s why we partner with PIs to provide computer forensics expertise, while PIs put their important fieldwork skills to use where it matters most.

A computer forensics analyst can examine, among other things:

  • Text messages, including photo messages
  • GPS location logs
  • Call logs
  • Photos and videos
  • Emails
  • Chat history
  • Deleted or hidden data
  • Audio files and voicemail
  • Calendar information

As the world grows more complex every day, private investigators are called upon to handle an ever-growing variety of cases. Computer forensics tools need to be in a PI’s toolbox.

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