For a living, I am a Computer Forensic Expert – OOOOOOOOOOO Yeah, I get that reaction. Don’t kid yourself though, it’s not all CSI and shit. Like many things, it’s often a lot more boring and time consuming hard work than you might think.
My day today started with a phone call from a very panicked client. They had come up with an email that they could not find in the results I had provided. IT SHOULD BE THERE!!! WHY ISN’T IT THERE?? WE NEED ANSWERS NOW!!!
My job – calm the situation, then find the answer (if there is one). I peacefully talked to them, and told them, with the information that they have just provided, that yes indeed, that email should be there. Give me a few moments, let me look into it, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
It took me about 20 minutes, and I had a concrete answer (the email WAS in the results, It just didn’t look they way they were thinking it should). Calm restored.
Of course it’s not always that easy. In fact much of the time it is extraordinarily complicated. As technologically has advanced so quickly, my experience is that most don’t really comprehend how this whole computing thing really works (heck, there are new things I don’t understand yet). It IS complicated to be sure , and it has become my job to try and explain how all this goop (data) becomes something (a picture, video, email, spreadsheet…). There is also all the who, when, where and why’s of it all.
What makes it MORE complicated is that every person is coming from a different understanding of how it all works. This person read an article once, attended a seminar, took some computer classes in college, has a kid who is in IT. It can be maddening.
We are the sum of our experiences, and until we hear each other’s stories, understanding will be difficult.
In doing this computer forensics thing, I am often put in the middle of two very panicked sides. Sides that desperately WANT me to say one thing or the other. It has taken years of being in this line of work to be able to step out of that enmeshed scenario, and bring calm within the storm. Yes, I have been in situations where people’s lives and livelihood have literally hung on the EXACT words I choose. Pressure? Try writing a detailed computer forensic report that goes to the CEO of a fortune 100 company, ten “top” lawyers, the FBI AND a Federal Judge.
My job is to be factual, calm, understanding and descriptive without being too descriptive. One might think that it is all very black and white. Heck, most of the people involved desperately WANT it to be black and white. Sometimes it is, but MOST of the time it is not.
I have had attorneys yelling at me in court, “I DON’T UNDERSTAND, IT’S RIGHT THERE ON THEIR COMPUTER, HOW CAN YOU SAY THEY DID NOT PUT IT THERE? I CAN SEE IT!!!
There is always more to the story. Our own perceptions, our own experiences, our own desires and expectations will often blind us.
Putting a puzzle back together without the whole picture, and without all the pieces is maddening, yet we try to do it all the time.
“I HAVE THE ESSENTIAL PIECE TO THIS PUZZLE!” – Sorry, wrong puzzle
“I KNOW THIS FITS SOMEWHERE!” – You can’t force it
“I CAN PLAINLY SEE IT WITH MY OWN EYES!” – Your eyes have never deceived you?
I could go on, but I think you understand.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because there is SO much pressure today for people to publically take sides and speak up about X. Because we see and hear things that make us angry – to the point of violence. Because ACT NOW DAMN YOU!!! Because HOW can you NOT see it? HOW can you NOT see it MY way??? HOW do you not KNOW it NOW??
Our feelings, especially anger naturally calls us to action. Our hurt, and our frustrations want to lead us down their path. Hate and blame want to take us by the hand to where they want us to go. This does not come from a place of peace and love.
What I have learned most from being a Computer Forensic Expert is just that. Take those steps back. Take the time YOU need to filter through whatever data (facts, emotions, shit, the unknown and possibly unknowable) you need, and sit with that. After all that, if you feel the need to act, look at the best way for you to do so. If you don’t know, start that dialogue.
Why don’t you see my various outrage on social media about all the fucked up shit going on? Because I choose the calm within the storm. I don’t always, and I have to relearn this sometimes. Crucify me if you want for that, but I will go to that cross in peace with my decision.
Peace to you and all yours! We are all in this together.