Paperless Paper Trails: Establishing a chain of evidence in cybersecurity cases

Bookmark and Share In old procedural shows like Dragnet, early episodes of Law & Order, Hill Street Blues, Magnum P.I., they always talk about the paper trail. This is the chain of signed documents and verified contracts and letters and memo that, on TV at least, usually lead us right from the first clue all the way to the guy who committed the crime. Paper trails can also be used to frame an innocent third party or prove one's innocence, showing that someone was "nowhere near the scene of the crime" at the time of the arson.

In cyber-crime, the chain of evidence, the paperless paper trail, is actually much easier to track than the kind that's actually printed and written on sheets of paper. Here are a few things not everyone knows about how evidence is tracked from computer to computer:
  • Documents and programs can be traced back to their computer of origin
Every time you send off a .doc file, your computer leaves an impression on it as sure as the signature imprint left on a bullet by a registered firearm. If you post a photo to the internet of yourself at a crime scene, law enforcement can download the picture and trace it back to your computer. A GOP lawmaker actually got busted for libelous emails some years back when the emails were traced back to his wife's computer.
  • Word documents save every single revision
If you type a word and then backspace over it, the Word file will remember you doing that. This has actually been brought up in some pretty high profile cases. For instance, the Invasion of Iraq.
  • Deleted files leave clues behind
Even if you manage to delete every trace of evidence regarding your cyber-crime, the computer may still show a log of what was deleted, when, and by whom. Combined with a little bit of conventional detective work, this can make it quite easy to figure out what was going on.

You can get rid of a paper trail by shredding it and burning the scraps. Paperless paper trails are a little trickier. If you've sent any compromising documents out into the web from your computer, then it's too late. The evidence is already out there, and zapping your computer with a magnet and smashing it to bits isn't going to do you any good. With the right cyber-sleuth on the case, a single photo from a hacker's phone can be as good as a signed confession.

Don't Void Your Warranty...

Bookmark and Share It can be tricky to know what will and what won't void the warranty on your phone, your PC, your tablet or your laptop. You probably have a manual laying around somewhere that can lay this out in more detail, but feel free to rely on this as a quick FAQ on some of the more common questions on what will and won't void a warranty on an electronic device:

DIY Repairs

Some do-it-yourself repairs will void your warranty, some won't. As a general rule, repairing cosmetic damage almost never voids your warranty. If you have to replace the screen on your phone, for instance, then your warranty will remain valid as long as you let them know that you've replaced your own screen. Replacing the entire shell casing, on the other hand, might be a bit of an issue, but luckily, your warranty probably means that you can go have your casing replaced for free.

Rooting Your Phone

If you take a ROOTed phone in for repairs, they're going to tell you to hit the bricks. Here's the good news: you can just unROOT your phone. There's an app called Universal Unroot that can do the job for you quick and easy.

This applies to a lot of mods and hacks for your phone or tablet: they're reversible. You may be able to bring your phone in for repairs by simply restoring it to factory conditions and collecting on your warranty.

Customizing a Desktop or Laptop Computer

Even though they're built as all-in-one units, if you have a Mac, you're probably going to wind up adding more RAM to it. It varies from brand to brand, model to model, but most sellers and manufacturers will honor the warranty even if you've added some bells and whistles to its hardware within certain limitations.

Cosmetic Modding

A general rule of thumb for cosmetic modding of a phone or a PC is: If you need more than a screwdriver to crack the casing open, then you're probably voiding your warranty. They sell stickers and decals specifically for cosmetic modding of your devices, and you can go ahead and put your PC in a custom case, but once you're peeling open the parts that weren't meant to be exposed, you're doing potential damage that will definitely void your warranty.

We've provided some general guidelines here, but some companies are more or less strict than others. When in doubt, shoot them a quick email and see what's covered.

Can Robotics Be Hacked?

Bookmark and Share If you can plug it into a wall, you can hack it. The question is not so much whether or not industrial robotics and so on can be hacked, but under what circumstances, and whether or not it's a serious threat.

Something worth acknowledging up front is that hacking is a crime of opportunity. It's rare that a victim of hacking or cyber-crime is specifically targeted. Certain high-profile organizations and people are, of course, at a greater risk, but not so much because they are being targeted by single, brilliant cyber-crooks. Rather, a high-profile individual or company is at risk because a lot more people are attempting to hack them. It can take one person a hundred years to guess your password, but it might take a thousand people only a weekend.

Hackers are looking for vulnerabilities anywhere they can find them. They're not picky. If they can't hack into a bank account, then they'll use some bots and algorithms to try credit card numbers. If you work with robotics in your business, you're not a target because of your robotics, you're a target because a hacker thinks your security is weak.

If your robot is hacked, then what's the worst that can happen?

In sci-fi movies, we see hacked robots rob banks on behalf of their new masters or, at the very least, they put cars together all wrong. The reality is far less exciting.

It's possible for a hacker to bring production to a halt by cracking into a robotics system, but a robotic arm built to attach car doors is not going to be reprogrammed to pickpocket factory workers. Rather, the robot provides a means of cracking into whatever network it's attached to. It could be a webcam or a tablet or USB drive. All the hacker cares about is that it's an opening to load viruses, spyware, etc. Anything that's connected to your network can be used to attack anything else that's connected to your network.

Again, hacking is a crime of opportunity. This means that if you have decent security measures in place, then you're going to be a low-priority target for a hacker. Hackers are not usually spending all week, or even a full hour, trying to crack into any given system. They'll try for a few minutes, and then move on. Just having security measures in place at all makes hackers reluctant to bother with you.

Slow Internet Issues Could Be Serious

Bookmark and Share You pay premium prices for business class Internet, and it winds up leaking through the Ethernet like honey off of a spoon. In 2016, you need high speed Internet in order to run a successful business, so getting it back up to speed when it starts to slow down is a top priority. Here's a quick troubleshooting guide to help you determine whether you can apply a quick fix, or if you might need to make a phone call:

Boosting Your Wifi Signal

The issue might not be your Internet connection, but your Wifi signal. It doesn't matter how fast your web connection is when you're too far away from your Wifi router or it's putting out a weak signal. Plug directly into your Internet with a wired connection. If it runs fine, you may simply need to buy a more powerful router, switch to wired connections, or rearrange your office space so that your router can reach everyone who needs it.

Someone's Doing Some Heavy Downloading

Let your employees know that business-class internet doesn't mean "Go ahead and do all your bit torrenting at the office from now on." Downloading twenty eight movies at once while uploading fifteen others is going to slow you down.

Do a Security Check

Your network may be infected with a worm. More so than most viruses and malware, worms can really drag your connection down to a crawl. A network scan will be able to help you root out the intruder if this is the case.

See if Someone is Stealing Your Wifi

Places of business are an easy target for Wifi thieves. You can check your router device list to see if someone is connecting without permission. If so, you can change the password, and/or switch your security settings to WPA2-AES.

Call Your Provider

Call your provider and ask there are any issues in your area. It may simply be a temporary issue that they are already hard at work rectifying. And if that doesn't work...

Start Shopping Around for a New Provider

Your provider might just not be up to the task of providing you with top-notch business grade Internet. If there are competing ISP's in your area, don't hesitate to get some quotes and compare download speeds. Brand loyalty is all well and good, but you don't owe it to an ISP that isn't providing.