Original Post Date: December 23, 2014
Pro Digital: Helping Parents Help Kids
As you may or may not be aware, Pro Digital Forensics was forged out of the success of many criminal investigations into the senseless and disgusting exploitation of children on the internet while working full-time in law enforcement. When the company was started, it left somewhat of a void in those areas. You see, technology is a real part of every American’s life. There’s no getting around the fact that most (if not all) of us have daily interactions with technology. One needs to only pay attention to the weekly news to see how technology and its numerous traps can create potential victims from Hollywood to Home Depot. But Children are the most vulnerable and the most precious potential victims. At Pro Digital we firmly believe two truisms: 1) Technology is and will continue to be an integral part of every child’s life moving forward and 2) it is the responsibility of parents to make sure their child is making wise, informed and responsible decisions while online.
In an effort to adhere to our dedication to internet safety and to help parents help their children make better decisions, Pro Digital has launched a service designed to fill the gap between parenting and law enforcement. Surely, every questionable act or bad decision that a child makes is not against the law. However, they may very well be something that a parent wants to know about and law enforcement cannot help with. So in order to help facilitate that knowledge, bridge the gap between parents and technology and help give kids an incentive to make good choices while online, we’re offering our suite of digital forensic & data analysis services to concerned parents at deeply discounted rates. It’s just one way we can help parents know what their kids are doing and keep a watchful eye on their use of electronic devices to steer them toward making better decisions.
How it Works
Pro Digital Forensicsis based in Richmond, Virginia (USA), but we offer our suite of services globally. However, due to the extremely discounted rates (to be detailed later), it is necessary to mitigate some of the overhead costs for these services. Toward that end, Pro Digital will acquire the data on your child’s computer, smart phone and/or tablet on-site within a 25 mile radius of Richmond, Virginia. Beyond the 25 mile radius, we charge the nominal fee of .56 cents per mile to travel via car. If you are at a distance that is not feasible to drive or you simply don’t wish to pay the mileage fee, you may send us the device(s) and we will perform the data extraction the same day we receive the package and return the package to you at our cost in an expeditious manner. While our rates for these services for legal professionals, investigators and individuals are generally much higher, we are offering these services to parents only for $150 total for the first two devices. Any additional devices may be examined and reported at a rate of $50 per device. This discounted rate is designed to be affordable for parents and we make every effort to make the data acquisition easy and painless for you.
What We Can Examine
Most kids these days have at least one portable electronic device, if not multiples. What’s more, they may have a desktop computer with internet access that may allow them unfettered access to the internet and all the wonderful (and scary) things out there. Parents do need to educate themselves about the capabilities of these devices before even purchasing them. For instance, if you bought your child an iPod touch with wireless internet, did you know that the full range of messaging apps is available to them? Free apps like TextPlus, SnapChat, Cyberdust. Kik and Line (to name a few) are all ways that they can communicate online with any other user, as long as they are connected to a wireless network. Those examples are but a small list and we didn’t even mention iMessage, which is built-in to the iPod. The bottom line is, any iPod with a WiFi connection might as well be an iPhone, which brings us to a sampling of devices your older children may have…
Smart phones are the go-to gift and the gift that keeps on giving for the younger generation. They take “selfies”, they text, they chat, they use Skype and any other means to stay connected with friends. Unfortunately, online in any of the above-listed apps, there are also users who may have less-than-honorable intentions. Do you know who your child is talking to on that smart phone? Do you have parental controls over the usage and, if so, do you know if your child can bypass them? Kids these days are extremely tech-savvy and bypassing many control measures is a Google-search away. But if the data is still on the device, our tools can still located it and report it. While some of these apps (SnapChat and Cyberdust) may leave limited or no digital fingerprint behind, their mere existence can tell us something. Our mobile forensic tools can examine most all Android and Apple music players, smart phones and tablets. For some devices, we will require either an unlock code or for you to unlock the device before we can get a data extraction. Please call us to discuss the specific device(s) and what we may need to access the data. However, our tools can also bypass many device lock codes and get the data you’re looking for.
As we mentioned earlier, computers are also an integral part of kid’s lives. If it’s available on a mobile platform, you can bet it’s available on a computer and the digital fingerprint left behind on computers is often much easier to obtain and report (albeit more time-consuming). As a former prosecutor once said, the internet is like a front door to your home. You wouldn’t go to bed at night leaving the front door wide open, would you? Then why would you leave your child with a window to the world without having any watch over their activities? Being an active, responsible parent often means having to check behind your kids to make sure they’re making good choices, whether it’s on a computer or a mobile device. Our tools can extract internet history, images, videos, contacts, emails, documents… anything that can be stored on a computer, mobile device or portable media (i.e., thumb drive, external hard drive, memory cards).
What We Need From Parents
In order to maximize this service for parents, several things will help facilitate our job so we can get the data and report back to you as accurately and quickly as possible. They include:
- Any passcodes or unlock code(s) for the device(s) you want examined
- Any information you may know about messaging apps that are currently or have been in use
- Any parental suspicions you may have about the online activity of your child
- Any past suspicious online behavior, especially where law enforcement may have investigated
- You must have legal rights and authority over any devices that are submitted. This can come in the form of actual ownership, wireless account records or simply through parental domain, but we cannot examine any devices for which you have no legal right to possess
- Your understanding that we may not find what you may suspect. We only look for data that proves or disproves some activity may be occurring.
- … And we do ask that you submit payment for these services up-front, either upon our arrival or when the device(s) is/are sent to us. We will endeavor to make this process as easy and painless as possible, with minimal paperwork and hassle, but in order to do that, we need your good-faith agreement that all of the appropriate criteria have been met.
Through active participation in this process and in your child’s life generally, we can help children make better decisions and, ideally, stop any inappropriate activity before it goes too far.
Finally, there’s the looming question: If you find any evidence of inappropriate or illegal activity on my child’s device, what will you do? The answer is simple. We seek to have a useful, beneficial, transparent relationship with parents about the online activities of your children. However, we cannot conceal any evidence of criminal activity. Not only does that put the Examiners at Pro Digital in a very awkward situation, but it could even lead to criminal liability on our part. Toward that end, the first person we will notify in the (hopefully rare) circumstance we find evidence of criminal behavior is you, the parents. The second responsibility we have is to notify the police. Being owned and operated by former law enforcement, we are innately familiar with the legal process and will do whatever we can within the bounds of appropriateness to help you through that process, but we also have a civic and legal obligation to report any criminal activity.
We hope that this article has informed you about this valuable and useful service and why it may be beneficial for you in the digital age. Most kids are good kids. Sometimes, they just need some help making the right decisions.
If you have any further questions, please contact us at our website and/or phone number, listed below:
Patrick J. Siewert
Owner, Lead Forensic Examiner
Professional Digital Forensic Consulting, LLC
Based in Richmond, Virginia