As technology becomes ever more ingrained into daily life, it is only natural that modern investigations increasingly involve some sort of technology. While private investigators may conduct surveillance on a subject to study patterns of behavior in person, it may not always capture the whole picture. This is where a digital private investigator would come in. Digital activity is a world in and of itself, and it requires an additional set of skills that can aid traditional private investigators.
What is a Digital Private Investigator?
A digital private investigator is someone who gathers and recovers digital information for a myriad of cases. They can be used for family law, infidelity, domestic disputes, employment disputes, personal injury, and employee misconduct cases. For any of these, a digital private investigator can recover deleted information or find trace data that is relevant to their client’s needs. This information can include anything from recovering deleted text messages to analyzing someone’s activity on a website.
What Does a Digital Private Investigator Do?
The specific tasks that digital private investigators conduct to uncover information can include a variety of different things. These investigators are quite skilled with a deep knowledge of digital platforms and devices, so the activities that they complete to do their work are wide-ranging. Below is a list of just a few things that digital private investigators do when working with a client on a case.
In short, computer forensics is a field of investigative technology that involves finding and storing necessary evidence from a computer. Much of the activity in computer forensics includes recovering deleted files, preserving information, collecting data, and retrieving information. This type of evidence can be used in cases of computer espionage, cyberstalking, or fraud.
Tracking someone’s web activity can prove to be useful information in many cases. In doing this, digital private investigators can establish a pattern of behavior and discover what websites someone is visiting and how often they are doing so. An example where this can be helpful is in infidelity cases, where the cheating party may be visiting dating or escort service websites.
Cyber Espionage and Hacks
As technology becomes increasingly advanced, so do the methods for online criminals to commit cyber attacks such as hacking or cyber espionage. In this instance, a digital private investigator may come in to trace the location of the hacker, recover file systems for computers that have been hacked, and gather information and evidence in order to prosecute the hacker.
Social media platforms of all types are common ways to communicate in the modern-day. Thus, it is no surprise that these platforms can provide insight for digital private investigators when uncovering evidence. Social media can be used as mediums for communication to plan crimes, people can create fake profiles for stalking, and photos posted to social media may provide evidence to form timelines in various investigations. Learn more about how social media can be used by private investigators.
Background private investigators are licensed to access certain databases that only they have access to. These databases provide a wealth of information, including criminal activity, addresses, and other personal information that can assist with investigations. This data can help to show someone’s past and verify their contact information. With this additional information from this technology, these background reports can help private investigators direct further surveillance or investigations. It may point to associations with other individuals in cases of fraud or domestic cases.
Cell Phone Data
Just because information has been deleted from a cell phone does not mean that it is gone forever. Digital private investigators can uncover numerous pieces of information from cell phones, including text messages, phone records, and photos.
When to Hire a Digital Private Investigator
Digital private investigators may be hired for a plethora of different cases. Of course, in the event of a crime that is committed entirely online (such as hacking), it is prudent to hire a digital private investigator. However, they are not just useful in computer and internet-related offenses. Digital private investigators can also provide insightful evidence in cases of offline problems where digital evidence is relevant. A few examples of these offline cases include:
- Personal Injury
- Offenses against minors
- Family law
These are just a few of many cases where an offline issue can benefit from a digital private investigator. With their knowledge and expertise, there are many more types of cases that could benefit from their investigative prowess.
Training Needed to Become a Digital Private Investigator
An effective digital private investigator needs to have a huge depth of knowledge in a number of fields, so getting the proper training is a must. Many digital private investigators have a bachelor's degree in computer forensics or something similar, and some even have advanced degrees. Additionally, they also need to be knowledgeable in the laws and regulations related to cybersecurity and privacy, encryption algorithms, hacking methodologies, reverse engineering concepts, and anti-forensic tactics – and these are just to name a few. There are a few reputable certificates that digital private investigators can obtain to help advance their career, and practical experience is absolutely essential to becoming an effective digital private investigator.
NITA provides continuing education courses that can help advance your career in digital investigation. Check out our course on Conducting Social Media Investigations to add to your scope of knowledge in the field.
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