Biohacking

Everyone has heard about computer hackers because of media publicity over the past 30 years. Many people don’t know that most of the early hackers were motivated primarily by curiosity — they wanted to find out how this new technology worked to see what could be done with it.

Many of these hackers had such love and respect for the technology that they would never have intentionally caused harm to the systems they explored. Yet in a lot of cases, unintentional damage did occur while they were learning about a new system.

Although many of today’s hackers still have the same mindset and report security flaws in order to improve technology, currently there is a growing percentage who use their skills to commit crimes. Some members of this new generation of hackers are willing to work for the highest bidder or for even for political activism. Computer hacking has evolved.

With any new technology, there will always be hackers who are driven by their personal curiosity to find out what makes the technology “tick.” Today we are seeing this trend involving biology.

Biohacking, or “DIY biology,” involves experiments across a wide range of projects, including body implants, exoskeletons and prosthetics, brainwave analysis and intervention, and 3-D printing of human tissue – all of which we will explore in future posts.

Another fascinating area of biohacking involves biogenetics. The project to sequence the human genome was officially completed in April 2003 at great cost. Since that time, the costs associated with DNA sequencing in the production of DNA base pairs has drastically decreased. In 2001, the cost of reading one million base pairs was around $100,000. The same cost is about ten cents today.

Currently there are new organizations making biogenetics labs accessible to almost anyone, creating a completely new generation of biogenetics hobbyists. These new biohackers are using their imagination and their curiosity about this technology to conduct interesting experiments.

One of these new labs is Genspace, a nonprofit organization located in Brooklyn, New York. Membership dues are only $100 per month, providing members access to accomplished experts and sophisticated equipment that they might not be able to afford on their own. Some of the expensive equipment available from Genspace includes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, autoclaves, centrifuges, and incubators.

There are many other groups located around the world, and you can find links and resources at DIYBIO.org, “An Institution for the Do-It-Yourself Biologist.” Its website contains a link to “Ask a Biosafety Expert” for biohackers who have safety or security questions.

As an example of just how easy it is to create your own biogenetics lab, a group of journalists did their own research and bought equipment, chemicals, and the biological materials they needed to set up a temporary lab in their office. It cost them only $3,500 euros, just under $4,700.00 US at current exchange rates.

Amazingly, they found a lot of the equipment on e-Bay. With very little training or professional expertise, the group conducted several successful genetic experiments, including cloning the gene for the toxin ricin.

The group was very careful to carry out only legal experiments, and did not actually create ricin from the genetic material, yet they suggested it might be possible for someone to do so.

In 2006, a biogenetics experiment at the Stony Brook University Medical School synthetically produced the poliovirus using DNA.

Dr. George Church, professor of genetics at the Harvard Medical School, sees an unlimited potential for genetics research. Dr. Church said, “We can now replace petroleum for fuels, chemicals, plastics, antibiotics and so forth. We can now start making those with biologically-engineered items.”

There are currently many very large companies like Google and other research labs working on these new technologies alongside groups of do-it-yourself biohackers. What I do not see are investigators talking about the potential these new technologies could create for abuse, and how we might address safety and the law related to this science.

Bio-Assassins like Lisa in our previous blog post don’t currently exist, but as this technology becomes cheaper and easier to obtain, how much longer will this be true?

I agree that more government regulation would probably drive the DIY biohacker underground, and might also discourage people from making positive contributions to biogenetic sciences. I am certainly not saying that all biohackers are evil or irresponsible.

But we also need to discuss what should be done to modify the legal system as well as our own investigative practices to prepare for these new types of investigations for when something does occur.

Because someone will either make an unintended mistake…or might decide to create Lisa.

 

Is it possible to hack your brainwaves? That’s what we will talk about in the next post.

If you would like the links to some of the items referenced in this blog post, contact me by email at Walt (dot) Manning (at) InvestigationsMD (dot) com.

You can also learn about new blog posts if you follow me on Twitter at @WaltManning1.

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Bio-Assassin For Hire?

Lisa looks into a microscope on a worktable she has set up in her spare bedroom. The room is completely dark because every window and door is covered with blackout shades to make sure that no light can penetrate the room during the procedure. Nor does she want anyone to see her temporary biogenetics lab. The lab was easy to set up – she bought almost all of the necessary equipment on eBay.

Lisa is looking at a small amount of gel contained in a petri dish. She smiles when she sees a slight glow coming from the gel. This tells her that she has successfully copied the DNA of her target. Lisa makes several additional copies of the DNA in case she needs them later.

She can now start to work on a mutated version of the Ebola virus, designed so that it will be triggered only when it comes into contact with a unique sequence in her target’s DNA. When completed, the virus can be delivered in powder, liquid, or aerosol form. The carrier will be immune, since the virus works only against the specific DNA of her target.

Two weeks later, the CEO of one of the most important Internet companies is finishing one of his famous product introductions that will once again completely revolutionize the industry. He is one of the most recognized business leaders in the world, and the pre-event publicity always guarantees amazing media coverage. After the presentation, a crowd of people waits for just a few seconds of his attention. Lisa’s carrier is patiently waiting in the group. She knows that the CEO loves to meet and greet his fans. After warmly thanking everyone and shaking their hands, he returns to his office.

Three weeks later, the CEO wakes up during the night with sudden flu-like symptoms – nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The next morning he has his driver take him to the emergency room, where he is admitted to the hospital due to dehydration. The diagnosis is a severe case of the flu. The next day he has headaches and also chest pain and some bleeding from the nose and ears. He is moved to intensive care and additional specialists are brought in. No treatment makes any difference and his condition continues to worsen.

Less than one month after the product introduction, this icon of the business world dies. Celebrities, politicians, and other business luminaries from around the world attend the funeral. The grieving family allows no autopsy.

The company’s stock plummets at the news. Lisa’s client – who arranged for the assassination – made over two million dollars by shorting the stock, spreading his transactions through multiple brokers and companies.

The day following the funeral, Lisa checks one of her anonymous DarkNet email addresses and sees that she has received a transfer of 250 bitcoins, which she proceeds to quickly launder through several of the services that she trusts on the DarkNet. With the value of a bitcoin at $500, Lisa has the equivalent of $125,000 in cash. Some of the bitcoins are sent to pay her suppliers, but she converts most of the bitcoins into currencies in several countries where Lisa had previously opened accounts.

The crime was never detected.

Is this scenario possible today? Probably not, but the technology to engineer DNA and to customize treatments for diseases and even genetically-targeted vaccines is advancing every day. The equipment and materials for conducting genetic research is also getting cheaper, and there is a growing “do-it-yourself” bio-hacking movement.

Is this something that investigators really need to be thinking about? The FBI thinks so. The Bureau has a Biological Countermeasures Unit that monitors the bio-hacking community worldwide to prevent the development of biological weapons of mass destruction.

What impact could this have on the personal security of not just business leaders, as in our fictional example, but world political leaders as well? In the book In the President’s Secret Service, published in 2009, the author claims that Navy stewards collect objects touched by the president – such as bed sheets and drinking glasses – which are later sanitized or destroyed in order to prevent anyone from getting samples of his DNA.

One of the documents released in 2010 by WikiLeaks included a cable from then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instructing U.S. embassies to collect DNA samples from other world leaders. (These previous two references are from an excellent article published in The Atlantic in 2012, by Andrew Hessel, Marc Goodman, and Steven Kotler, titled “Hacking the President’s DNA.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/11/hacking-the-presidents-dna/309147/).

If investigators don’t understand how new technology could be used to commit crimes, then how will we ever be able to solve them when they occur? The time to think about future crimes is now.

If you would like to learn more about bio-hacking, please come back to the blog for future posts or follow me on Twitter at @WaltManning1.

If you are an investigator who is ready to either make a career change, or re-energize your current career, visit us at http://www.InvestigationsMD.com.

After-life Digital Asset Management

What happens to online data after a person’s death?

Have you ever given this any thought?

Think about how your business and personal data is more fragmented than ever today.  How many devices do you own and use — from computers to laptops to tablets and smartphones?  Some people have all of their data synced to one place and others have data scattered across several different services.

Do you have data stored in the cloud?

  • Where is your email?
  • Music?
  • E-books?
  • Photographs?
  • Movies?
  • Documents and other files?

How many accounts do you have on social media — Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, or other services?

Have you ever thought about who really owns your social media data?  Is it you or the service provider?

Are you sure?

Who will be able to access these accounts after your death?

  • Does another family member or friend have an  inventory of every online location where you have data?
  • Have you documented all login credentials so your survivors, your attorney, or the executor of your estate will be able to access these accounts?

If you think about it, all of the types of data described above are digital assets under your control.  It might be a good idea to find out if you are legally the owner of this information.  That will tell you if you have the capability of passing on the accounts and the data they contain to your heirs.

Keep in mind that some digital assets could have real value — if you are a professional photographer or writer, for example.  What if you are an inventor?  If you are a scientist, you might have research papers or notes that could be valuable.

You may also want to think about the sentimental value of some of this data from the perspective of your family and friends.

Are your digital assets included in your will and/or estate planning?

Have you specifically designated which beneficiary or trustee will inherit or have control over each of them?

Just as with physical assets, if you don’t deal with these issues now there could be arguments — or hurt feelings — later.

Now you may be asking, “What does this have to do with investigations?”

Think about the people who might be interested in digital assets after a death – even if it is just for the sentimental value and nothing else.  These people will possibly be going through a tough and emotional time.

  • Will they really want to identify and track down the location of the deceased’s digital assets?
  • How would they be able to do it?
  • Even if they identify a provider, what will they need to legally gain access, especially if they don’t have the login credentials?
  • Is there a possibility that a forensic analysis of the deceased’s electronic devices might be able to give them a clue to where digital assets could be located?
  • What apps are installed on tablets or smartphones that might provide useful information? (For example, if a person has a Dropbox or Evernote app on their tablet…)

Since many people are using cloud-based services that they can access from many different devices, managing digital assets after someone’s death has become a much more difficult and challenging problem.

As an investigator, could you come up with a way to help solve it?

  • One possibility might be to work with estate planners and attorneys to develop a package of services and advice for their clients.
  • This could also be a possible topic for a continuing education presentation to a law firm that could help you develop a business relationship.
  • This might also be an interesting topic for a public talk to let people see you as a forward-thinking professional (think any organization that has a monthly meeting with a speaker).

Oh, and before we forget – think about those who you will leave behind.  Make things easier for them by taking care of your own digital asset management…before something happens.

If you would like to discuss the issues and business possibilities of afterlife digital asset management, I would be interested in your thoughts.

Feel free to leave a comment!

Cosmos Computing Forensics

Nanosatellites 4

Almost everyone has heard about “cloud computing”, where applications and/or data storage can be outsourced to different cloud computing vendors. This usually results in lower costs, since there is no need to purchase and maintain an IT infrastructure as large as in the past. These cloud service providers can be located anywhere in the world and many use server virtualization to maximize the efficienty of their hardware. Legal jurisdiction, privacy laws in the country where the cloud provider is located, data preservation in a virtual server environment, encryption, and many other issues are already changing the way we conduct investigations and preserve digital evidence.

But what comes after cloud computing?

I call it “cosmos computing”.

Cosmos computing will be driven by the evolution of 3 technologies: smaller and cheaper space satellites, enhanced wireless transmission capabilities, and new data storage alternatives.

Space Satellites

There are many great programs, such as ArduSat, which was the first open-source platform with the goal of allowing the general public to design and run space-based applications, conduct experiments, and operate a satellite’s cameras. The ArduSat satellites were very small – a 10 centimeter cube (3.9 inches), and weighed only about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). This program was funded on Kickstarter in 2012. (See resource links below for more information.)

An offshoot of ArduSat evolved into CubeSats, and you can now buy a standard kit to create your own satellite.

The technology has now given rise to a new breed to “nanosats”, which is gives us even more alternatives. There was a very good article published recently in The Atlantic Magazine by Robinson Meyer, titled “Silicon Valley’s New Spy Satellites” that gives a great overview of the main companies involved in this space and some of the services they are thinking about. (See link below.)

The growth of the commercial satellite industry will be tremendous, and new companies will provide data transmission and storage capabilities within the next few years that don’t exist today.

Consider the possibilities of terrestrial cloud computing providers that use satellite transmission to carry data from remote data centers to their customers, using encrypted digital feeds.

Or, as digital storage technology provides denser storage capabilities (where larger volumes of data can be stored on smaller devices), what about data stored on a satellite, an asteroid, or on the moon?

Enhanced Wireless

Lots of companies and universities are working on different ways to transmit greater volumes of data at greater speeds, and some of these new techniques involve satellites. One of the most recent examples is the CASSIOPE satellite, created by the Canadian Space Agency and launched by SpaceX. The payload of this satellite included the CASCADE system, which is a prototype for a super-fast space-based file transfer system. Created by MDA, a Canadian company, CASCADE is designed to provide download and upload speeds of up to 2100 mbps, which would be blazingly fast. To give you a comparison, Google Fiber promises speeds of up to 1000 mbps.

This type of satellite-based global wireless system could make the concept of “The Internet Everywhere” a reality.

Data Storage

There are many research programs trying to identify the next data storage platform to take us to the next level of storage density and reliability. Briefly, let me mention only 3 interesting examples.

One method coming from the University of Southampton Optoelectronics Research Centre uses lasers and nanostructured glass material. They call their product “Superman memory crystal”, and have demonstrated the capability of storing 360 TB (terabytes) of data on one disk. Their material is also capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, and has an almost unlimited lifetime.

Another group of scientists published a study in 2012, where they also used lasers and nanotechnology to increase the storage capacity of a DVD-sized disk to 1000 TB of data.

Harvard’s Wyss Institute is working on a biologically-based storage system using DNA, which is capable of storing over 700 TB of data in less than 1 gram of DNA material. Now to put this in perspective, a drop of DNA would be capable of storing the equivalent of 233 three-terabyte hard drives.

Conclusion

When you think about the combination of these three technologies, it’s easy to see the possibility of space-based data storage. Who wouldn’t want universal global wireless access at potential speeds greater than fiber, with tremendous data storage capacity?

There are also initiatives to launch fleets of nanosats that will have the capability of communicating with each other, so that data can be transmitted instantly from satellite to satellite, and then to any terrestrial device. That way, no matter where the satellite storing the data is currently orbiting, the data can easily be sent to any destination on the ground.

For the investigations profession, this could take the challenges of cloud computing to another level. Here are some questions for us to think about:

• Where will your evidence be stored?
• How will you be able to identify the provider storing the data, or the carrier transmitting it?
• How will you be able to access the data?
• Will we need new methods to preserve the integrity of the evidence?
• What will need to change in your digital forensics process?
• What is the legal jurisdiction of a satellite in space?
• And if I want to hide data from you, what new options will this scenario provide?

But don’t forget that this scenario also provides a new business opportunity for investigators who educate themselves about these technical trends, and develop investigative game plans to be ready in advance.

The evolving technologies of the future will require that we become specialists.

Which one will you choose?

Resource Links:

Ardusat – Your Arduino Experiment in Space: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/575960623/ardusat-your-arduino-experiment-in-space.

Nanosatisfi: http://www.nanosatisfi.com.

CubeSat: http://www.cubesatkit.com.

Silicon Valley’s New Spy Satellites: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/silicon-valleys-new-spy-satellites/282580/

Planet Labs: http://www.planet-labs.com/

Skybox Imaging: http://www.skyboximaging.com/

5D ‘Superman memory’ Crystal Could Lead to Unlimited Lifetime Data Storage: http://www.orc.soton.ac.uk/5dopticalstore.html

Three-dimensional deep sub-diffraction optical beam lithography with 9 nm feature size: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/130619/ncomms3061/full/ncomms3061.html#results

More data storage? Here’s how to fit 1,000 terabytes on a DVD: https://theconversation.com/more-data-storage-heres-how-to-fit-1-000-terabytes-on-a-dvd-15306

Harvard Cracks DNA Storage, Crams 700 Terabytes of Data Into a Single Gram: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/134672-harvard-cracks-dna-storage-crams-700-terabytes-of-data-into-a-single-gram

Writing the Book in DNA: http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/93/

Your future ultra-fast internet connection just launched into space: http://qz.com/129446/your-future-ultra-fast-internet-connection-just-launched-into-space/

Internet Everywhere Will Keep The Satellite Industry Flying: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidewalt/2013/06/05/internet-everywhere-will-keep-the-satellite-industry-flying/

GlobalStar Satellite Spectrum to Increase U.S. WiFi Capacity: http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/netsp/globalstar-satellite-spectrum-to-increase-u.s.-wifi-capacity.html

New Investigations Careers in 2015?

shutterstock_155059442

Today is the beginning of a series to focus on the future of investigations. But first I want to draw attention to two things about the title of this post.

First, the year 2015 isn’t that far away.

Second, technology is changing so fast that by 2015 there will be a completely different list, because the ones we are thinking about today may be obsolete by then.

For every new technology someone usually thinks of a way to twist or abuse it in ways that the inventors never dreamed of.  Could this lead to new types of investigations?

Consider that technology is evolving exponentially, and it will be increasingly hard to keep up. That’s why I think investigators need to specialize, because a growing number of cases will be too technically complex for generalists to handle.

You will need to develop larger networks of other investigative specialists, so that you can put together a team customized with the specific knowledge needed for each engagement.

As a profession, we’ve been mostly reactive, providing services to deal with the types of crime and fraud that have already happened.  Why can’t we be more proactive and think ahead about new trends instead?

If we can predict new trends, then we might be able to start training and developing investigative game plans to have in place when our clients need them in the future.

And 2015 will be coming before you know it.

In future posts, I’ll be thinking about these ideas and what new types of services they might create…

  • Virtual digital forensics – forensics on virtual machines that could be running on everything from cloud servers to consumer devices like tablets or smart phones.  Or smart watches.
  • “Cosmos computing” forensics — a step beyond cloud computing where applications, data and wi-fi could migrate to satellites in space, on the moon, or on other planets and asteroids.
  • Hacking, “hactivism” and cyber-warfare – movements that are increasingly global, social and with more sophisticated electronic weapons for hire.
  • The “Internet of things” – Where sensors will monitor all of the functions of your body, your home, and everything else.
  • Reputation and transaction management – Your online reputation may evolve to become your social and business currency.  How much is it worth and what can you do to control it?
  • Virtual world crime – If a robbery or theft occurs in a virtual world like Second Life, does real-world law apply and who will have jurisdiction?
  • Augmented reality abuse – Products like Google Glass, Heads-Up-Display (HUD) GPS systems, exoskeleton robotics and developments in advanced prosthetics will give humans future capabilities beyond imagination.  But what could happen if these technologies are hacked?
  • Virtual currency counterfeiting and money laundering – there are lots of popular types of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.  Could these new currencies be counterfeited or used to launder money?  Say “Yes!”
  • Digital afterlife management – what happens to your digital and online data after you die?  Who will take charge of or clean up your data stored in the cloud?
  • Biogenetics hacking – the equipment and data needed to alter viruses and DNA have never been cheaper and easier to access.  What about the possibility of designing a virus to target a specific person?  Create a new life form in a home lab?  It may not be science fiction anymore.
  • 3-D printing fraud – 3-D printed guns, cars, spaceships, skin, and human organs are all products being actively developed.  Will we also see 3-D printed fake designer clothing or jewelry? Fraudulent printed items from any recognized brand?  How will you know?
  • 3-D printed medicines and other drugs – If we can use this technology to print food, why not drugs?    Will your home printer now replace your pharmacy? Consider the possibility of “printing” a batch of the latest designer drugs…?
  • Thought and memory augmentation – Studies of the brain and memory have made a lot of progress.  Will we reach the point where thoughts can be injected into your brain or implanted on a chip?  Maybe have a stressful memory erased?  Or replaced with a good, but fake memory?
  • Geospatial skip-tracing – Could you track someone with the right geo-location data from their phone or other devices?  Is there room for new specialists to collate this data from multiple sources and locate any individual on the run?  Or develop a detailed profile of someone’s activities?

These are only a few examples out of a long list that I’ve been thinking about lately.  Yes, there is still a lot of need for what you might call traditional investigative services.  But if we are going to evolve the investigations profession, we should think about how our cases will evolve.

And we need to find the new skills and tools we’ll need to be ready for them.

What do you think about this list?

Are there other possibilities you would add?  Give me your ideas in a comment!

Medical Identity Theft – A Life-Threatening Crime

In keeping with our philosophy of making investigators aware of new trends and possible business opportunities, we are honored to have a guest author, Rebecca Busch, who is an expert in medical identity theft (MIT).  As you read her blog, think about your friends, family and clients who might benefit from this information!  Also consider how this type of crime might provide you with new business and career options.

Your Wallets Stolen, What’s next?

Your wallet is gone and you immediately call your credit card company to report your credit cards are missing (with their thousand dollar limits).  Did you also call your insurance company about your Medical ID (with its $1 million limit)?

Medical identity theft is now considered to be one of the fastest growing crimes in America, according to the Ponemon Institute, affecting 1.5 million Americans to the tune of $28.6 billion dollars!  Medical identity theft (MIT) shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can seriously impact your pocketbook, your health and your credit rating.

Medical identity theft is when a thief uses your medical information to receive medical treatment, pharmaceutical services and claim coverage.  Imagine a California woman’s surprise when she received a $12,000 invoice on her healthcare plan statement for liposuction and didn’t have the thighs to show for it.

The average cost associated with the crime is $20,000 and victims may have to pay out-of-pocket expenses to have their health insurance and records restored.  On top of the costs, a lot of time is spent dealing with “friendly insurance representatives” to resolve false claims and possible denials on future claims.

Unfortunately, most MIT is not even noticed until a year or more after the fact.  Consider the ramifications of medical treatments, surgeries, blood and other tests being erroneously added to your medical history — the very history your caregiver is going to use to determine future treatments.  Scary.

While not completely avoidable, there are steps to take to prevent MIT, the most important being EARLY DETECTION.  If you don’t have a Personal Healthcare Portfolio (www.mbaphp.com) then keep a log of your doctor visits, tests and prescription services.  Thoroughly read your claim statements and cross check them with your log.  Keep your claims and medical records in a safe place that can’t be accessed by others.  Be cautious about sharing your Social Security number on the phone and over the Internet.  Finally, shred your old documents.  It’s not beneath a thief to go through your garbage.

If, unfortunately, you are a victim of MIT report it to the police and the Federal Trade Commission (which works to address and prevent consumer fraud).  Obtain copies of your medical and health insurance records and scrutinize them for errors.  Exercise your HIPAA right to correct errors in both your medical and billing records.

Most importantly, the next time you lose your wallet, do yourself a favor and call your insurance carrier immediately before your healthcare records take a hit.

For more information see: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt10.shtm

Healthcare Advocate
Rebecca S. Busch,
RN, MBA, CCM, CFE, CPC, CHS-III, CRMA, CICA, FIALCP, FHFMA
CEO, Medical Business Associates
580 Oakmont Lane * Westmont IL 60559
630.789.9000 ex.5011 * fax 630.789.9009 * www.mbaaudit.com
Twitter: @HealthCareFraud

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Sink or Swim?

The little boy stood on the side of the swimming pool in the middle of a group of other kids. The teenaged swimming instructor was standing a few feet out in the shallow end of the pool. That end of the pool was only 4 feet deep, but when you’re only 3 feet tall, that seemed to be pretty deep. The exercise was to jump into the pool and get a penny from the bottom. One by one, the kids jumped in and some came up with the penny and others didn’t. Now it was our boy’s turn. He was scared, but didn’t want to be the only one not to jump in. So he closed his eyes and jumped…and water went straight up his nose and down his throat. He came up coughing and spitting — and with no penny. The experience was so bad that he wouldn’t go swimming for the next fifteen years.

You may have guessed that I was that kid. In college, I finally made myself learn to swim after avoiding it for years. How much fun did I miss growing up because I was too afraid to get in the water? How many awkward situations were there when I heard my Mom or Dad say, “He just doesn’t swim…”? I don’t blame my parents or the swimming instructor – my fear wasn’t their fault. It’s silly when you look back at it through the eyes of an adult. It’s also a shame that there wasn’t some other person who could had talked to me about my fears and helped me get past them sooner than I did.

Lots of people have similar “fears”, or think that there is something that they just don’t do well enough. Some investigators are great following down leads and closing a case, but they say that they can’t write well enough to do the report. Other people are afraid of testifying in court. For some it’s public speaking in front of an audience. There are investigators who can’t see themselves selling their services to a prospective client.

Some people think that sales and marketing is like the stereotypical used car salesman, or the vacuum cleaner saleswoman, or the people going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions that you really didn’t need or want. Marketing your practice is nothing like that – and it shouldn’t be. If you are good at what you do, you should be proud and even eager to talk to other people about what you do. It should make you happy that you have skills that can help someone else. And that’s all marketing is — telling another person what you do, why you do it, and how you can help them solve a problem.

The good news is that you do have someone who can help. Investigations MD can talk you through the fears that may be holding your career back, or help you to deal with whatever is keeping your investigations practice from making the big jump.

And we can do it without getting water up your nose.

Responsibility

I’ve thinking lately about personal responsibility.  When you look at all of the problems in the world today, a lot of them would change if everyone would just say this (and mean it):

I AM RESPONSIBLE.

When you think about it, if people would say these 3 words in every situation where they have some control, the world might be a different place.  When you say:  “I am responsible,” there is nobody else to blame for your situation in life – not your boss, not your parents, not society, not the economy, and not your lack of education – only you are responsible for what you do (as well as for what you don’t do).

When it comes to your career…take responsibility.  If you aren’t happy with your job, think about why you feel that way and come up with alternatives to change it.  Could you change your approach and your attitude and make things better?  Should you change companies, or go out on your own?  How about coming up with a new idea to attract more business or improve the quality of services you are already providing?

Start taking responsibility and take action to make your vision reality.  Lots of people stay in their “comfort zone”, even if they’re not completely happy there.  It’s always easy to find an excuse why you can’t make any changes right now.  And it will be just as easy to find another excuse tomorrow…and the day after that.  The final excuse will be when you run out of time, and then all you’ll have left is the regret that you never made the time to go after your dreams.

There is always something you can do right now to make things better.  Just make something happen.

Investigators Need A New Vision

Why should you think about a new vision?

Because technology and globalization are changing the demand for services from your clients.

Have you thought about the effect these changes could have on your practice? For example, if your clients use cloud computing for any of their data processing or storage needs, do you know enough about this technology to identify and preserve potential digital evidence? What if the data is stored in another country? Do you have local contacts that know the legal environment and can they help to find, preserve and send the data you need?

Smart phone technology, the explosion of tablet computers, the trend of allowing employees to use their own electronic devices to access corporate networks (called BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device”) are also causing problems for investigators trying to find electronic evidence. Many portable devices now allow the user to create their own “hot spot”, allowing other people to connect to the Internet and private networks through the user’s device. Do you think that some of your clients might be interested to know about some of these new risks?

Social media is a significant new source of potential evidence in one of your investigations, but it could also be valuable (and discoverable) in civil litigation. Many companies already review Facebook profiles of prospective employees to dig a little deeper. Looking at social media posts may give them different information than the potential employee would provide in a resume or face-to-face interview. But social media is constantly changing, and what you see today may not show what a person posted 6 months ago. Is that data archived anywhere, and could you get it, if needed? Are you using social media in your investigations now? Can you think of a client who might need this type of help? Could you provide this type of service, or do you know someone else who can?

You need to be thinking about how you can solve some of these new problems for your clients, because that will confirm that you are looking out for their best interests. If you concentrate on solving their problems, it will go a long way toward maintaining your relationship…and retaining their business. Who knows? They may also tell their co-workers and friends about the investigator with a vision, and that can be some of the best publicity you can get.

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