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Social Media: The New “Go-To” Source for Information?

Written By

Brian Halpin

With more and more regularity, attorneys are asking our team here at Capsicum whether we have the ability to capture social media content from computers or directly from the Internet. It should be no surprise when I say that social media has literally taken over people’s lives on a daily basis. It seems our society cannot live without it, and as it continues to grow in popularity, it will have an impact on everyone, whether we are direct participants or not.  The significant current events of the last few weeks serve to illustrate this very point. Information and updates regarding the Boston Marathon bombings were done through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. While some of the information was accurate and essential in identifying the suspects, quite a bit of the information was very wrong. So much so, that a completely innocent individual was misidentified as the bombing suspect. In another current event, Paul Kevin Curtis, the individual originally accused of sending the ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and other government officials, had several phrases from his social media site quoted in the poisoned letters. This led law enforcement to name him as the prime suspect, causing his arrest on April 17th. After six days in custody the charges against him were dropped when it became apparent someone had wrongfully implicated him. Finally, just a day ago, the stock market took a plunge after the Associated Press’s Twitter account was hacked, falsely reporting that the White House was under attack. The market quickly rebounded when the hack and fabricated report came to light.  Although the disruption was brief, its immediate effect on the market was startling. Advancements in technology and social media platforms will continue to change the way people share, store and access information.  This will result in a multitude of additional avenues that can hold potential information relevant to an computer forensics investigation.  Such things as chat logs, photos, profiles, friend lists, GPS locations, etc. can all be analyzed to paint a more complete picture than ever before.  It’s our job as forensic professionals to continue to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding social media platforms.  So yes, it is no surprise that we are seeing that attorneys and those conducting investigations are turning to social media for insight.