Archive for April, 2010

Social Media, Travel, Speeches and FourSquare

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

As much as I try to avoid business travel anymore, the more I seem to do.  Although travel is not bad it can get overwhelming at times and seems to just put me further behind. I did recently in my travels have the opportunity to speak, on an as of late favorite topic, and that is the use of Social Media by law enforcement. Specifically I was speaking on the lack of policy by agencies starting to use Social Media, not only as a community policing tool, but as an investigative tool.

Recently I was asked to present at the first annual SMILE conference or Social Media in Law Enforcement conference in Washington DC. This was a great gathering of various law enforcement professionals interested in Social media and its implementation within law enforcement. My specific piece was on the policy decision behind using social media as a law enforcement tool.  I spoke about the need to have policy to protect the law enforcement officer as much as the agency. I was able to speak with some great talent in the field that are adapting social media for investigative and communicative reasons.

I also had the opportunity to speak at the Massachusetts Attorney Generals Cyber crime Initiative quarterly meeting. The Mass AG sponsors a meeting quarterly on various cybercrime topics. She brings in investigators from all over the state to discuss cybercrime. I was lucky enough to speak on the investigation of social media, and of course hit the topic of policy for law enforcement.  The crowd of over 200 Massachusetts law enforcement investigators was eager to understand more about investigating social media especially as it applied to Cyber bullying cases.

During the two weeks I was gone, connecting to so many investigators in person, I wanted to be sure not to lose touch with my online contacts — not just customers and prospects who email me, but also Twitter and Facebook followers. So, as a smartphone user, I downloaded a new app and signed up for a new program called “Foursquare”. The use of FourSquare allowed me to stay connected on the road from my phone.  I could and did update my Facebook page and my twitter account from my phone with a few clicks of the keyboard.

I found this to be a simple and easy use of the media and received numerous comments back regarding my updates. Many were interested in my travels and found the topics I was speaking on of interest.

Why am I mentioning this? When I talk to groups like these, I want to be sure they understand the value of social networking in their professional lives — not just from an investigative standpoint, but also from the standpoint of being able to network and share ideas with one another. Our increasingly interconnected world makes this an absolute necessity.

Are you on Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Please feel free to connect with me.

How people socialize online

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

By now, news stories about online criminal investigation are commonplace, from finding graffiti taggers to collecting gang intelligence.

But where do the social network users come from, and how do they use their favorite sites? These are important questions, whether you are trying to understand your community’s overall demographics, or specifically address criminal activity.

From spectators to creators

ladderIn 2007 think tank Forrester Research came up with the graphic on the right (explained most recently in this post). Rather than showing segmented user groups, the Social Technographics Ladder demonstrates a progression of behavior, from “inactive” (bottom rung) to “creators” (top rung), so that behaviors overlap.

What does this mean for law enforcement? Lots of things. Although it’s generic (Forrester has completed profiles for specific companies and industries about their customers), it’s a good start for investigators and administrators who want to understand victims and criminals alike.

First, only 17% of U.S. adults who are online are inactive in social media. From the standpoint of victims, they’re still at risk from email phishing, for instance, or other forms of identity theft.

But they’re not as at risk as Facebook or Twitter users, for instance, who are more exposed to “bad” links that send them to phishing sites, or surreptitiously download keylogger and other malware to their computers.

Criminals, meanwhile, are becoming bolder and more active. They may not so much be “curating” content—collecting, say, tips and techniques—as sharing and creating it, largely for the sake of having “bragging rights.” Witness the copious photos of drug and gun stashes on MySpace.

A full spectrum of social networks

convoprismembedThe other graphic law enforcement can make use of is the Conversation Prism, a graphic designed by public relations professionals Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas. The Prism shows not just the wide variety of social networks out there, but also groups them into categories by use type.

The circular spectrum is a good way to visualize how social networks fit and the many ways users have to create and share content, according to their behavior as shown on the Social Technographics Ladder.

Additionally, at the Prism’s core are shown the value of these uses: ongoing feedback and insight, crisis communications and PR/marketing and customer support, all revolving around an organization’s brand. This is important to law enforcement agencies, but also valuable when applied to criminal organizations, such as gangs or narcotics networks.

And no, investigators do not have to create or maintain accounts on every single one of these sites. That would be cost-prohibitive. They should, however, maintain awareness—of these and of new popular sites—and be prepared to go where the investigation leads.

What online networking behaviors have you observed among criminals you investigate?

Christa M. Miller is Vere Software’s marketing/public relations consultant. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at christa at christammiller dot com.