Private investigator Sean Mulholland opened Mullholland Investigation in 1996.
His clients at the time, mostly attorneys and insurance companies, needed traditional surveillance and claims investigation services. In 2006, he added “and computer forensics” to his company’s name and began providing services, such as searching personal computers and larger business data systems for evidence as part of the investigative process.
He recently established a new division of his investigative firm — information security.
“It’s the fastest growing segment of my business,” Mulholland said.
The first step with a new client is to perform a threat vulnerability assessment by attempting to invade their computer system. If weaknesses are found, they are fixed and then all users are educated as to how to avoid letting a hacker into the system. Mullholland said one of the most basic rules is to make sure you don’t open files you receive if you’re not sure o
f their origin and safety. It’s not just office computers that may be attacked. The proliferation of smartphones has made the amount of what Mulholland calls “electronically stored information” explode. “It’s a computer you carry on your belt or in your pocket,” he said.
According to Pew Research Center, 73 percent of Americans used a smartphone in 2015, up from 35 percent in 2011.
Nearly 65 percent of American adults used social media sites in 2015, up from only 7 percent in 2005 when Pew began tracking those trends. Eighty percent of smartphone owners use them to access the Internet.
Facebook is used by 1.5 billion people each month.
Twitter has 320 million users who send 500 million tweets each day.
Users upload 300 hours of video to YouTube each minute.
LinkedIn has 400 million members and Instagram has 300 million users each month who have shared more than 20 billion images, Mulholland said.
That means more people are posting more information — and sometimes evidence — that Mulholland and his staff can use as a resource for investigations.
“Social media is the first place we look for evidence,” he said. Pearson said in response to the firm’s data being held for ransom, the firm has improved the office’s computer firewalls and installed an isolated server not connected to the Internet that is used to back-up files each day. They’ve also replaced passwords with pass phrases and those will be changed on a regular basis.