I work at a computer forensics firm. In computer forensics, we investigate digital data and activities. It’s common for me to be requested to uncover deleted data, internet histories, and chat room discussions. Several calls come in to computer hacking forensic investigator about issues on social networking sites.
Social networking is awesome. I am in touch with many of my friends from long ago and can keep up with events, happenings, and have some old fashioned good times. The people who call in to me want the same thing but have found problems.
The first time I had to answer a question in regard to preserving evidence with a user’s problem began an eye opening adventure. The call was from a man who was being defamed publicly, online, by his landlord. As a business person myself, I was bewildered that a landlord would do defame a person and end up losing a renter. Most recently, a caller wanted to find out who started a page dedicated to defaming her. Without a subpoena to the social network, there was not anything my company could do.
The biggest stories, in my opinion, are stories wherein the user’s account password was hacked, or in most cases, guessed. The hacker then takes control of the account and causes havoc for the account holder and their friends.
To resolve issues like these, legal avenues have evolved to litigate against persons who publicly defame, steal identities, and compromise security networks. As computer investigators, we have found ways to assist victims. Still, users need to be proactive towards protecting themselves. Settings on your accounts should be looked at regularly. When policy changes occur within a social network website, settings can change. As well, new options may occur that allow others to access information meant to be private.
On some websites, the option of having a secure connection is available and should be checked. Having a secure connection allows the account and passwords to remain private from persons using spyware locally. Firefox has an add-on, called Firesheep. This program captures this information if a user is not using a secure network.
Today there are ways to bring legal action against perpetrators that hold up in court. Even though huge companies are hard to work with to get evidence of wrongdoing, users can be proactive. The simplest ways to protect yourself is to use settings to keep your information private, don’t put specific private information online (like addresses and phone numbers), and change your password at regular intervals. I know, this sounds like a lot of work, but it is nominal in relation to how much damage might have to be repaired.