Social networking websites and email accounts can provide useful information in criminal cases which previously rested on one person’s word against another’s. Such information is increasingly being used by both prosecution and defence.
A recent case at Keith Borer Consultants using such information took an unusual twist when we were supplied with printouts of a Bebo profile and asked to investigate their authenticity. Bebo is a social networking site where users create a profile and can upload photographs, blogs and music, add friends and post messages.
The investigation consisted of two parts: firstly we examined different ways of printing web pages. For example, we looked at additional features which may appear in headers and footers when an unusal printing route has been chosen. Secondly, research was required to see how web pages could be tampered with prior to printing. Through experimentation, we identified subtle changes to the web page as a result of different alteration techniques.
During our examination we found several clues indicating that in this case the printouts were not quite what would be expected if a Bebo profile page had simply been printed without amendment. Had the computer also been available, other examination options such as looking at activity on that computer could have been used.
As tampering techniques and skills become more sophisticated, it may become harder for the casual observer to discern if a similar printout has been amended. If you are planning to use information from social networks you may also need to assure the Court such evidence is genuine.
Ross Donnelly BSc(Hons), MCITP, MCTS, MBCS, MIET