Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Search

I struggled with writing about how to search for information electronically.  For me, the passwords were given voluntarily and the cell phone was owned and paid for by us.  If you do not own the devices and you don’t have permission, this is illegal.  

There are a lot of things that can be searched and a notebook and pen are tools that are necessary.  You also need a great deal of time and the mental strength to search with neutrality.  If you are too close to the situation or it’s too fresh, asking someone else to do this might be best.  We felt the need to understand just how deep the addiction ran and the parties involved.  The very basics are explored below and you can always asked an IT professional (either at work, socially or online) for additional help.

Cell Phones
It is really hard to delete text messages and software is available online for a low cost.  Once downloaded, it is very easy to retrieve the “deleted” messages.  Cell phones are also a great starting place to look through social media applications and email.  The passwords are typically saved so they aren’t needed to view.  Having the cell phone will also allow you to reset passwords because most alerts will go to text message or email.  Look in the settings and make a list of all email addresses and social media sites.  Look in the address book or contacts – if someone is hiding something the true name of the contact may be listed as something unexpected.  Keep in mind the IPhones are often set to backup to ICloud.  You may need to login in to ICloud from a computer and view what is there.

Login to the email from a computer.  Each email is different in setup but they should all have commonalities.  Look in the deleted emails (trash).  Look in SPAM.  Search through the Sent emails.  There’s also options to look at all of the emails at once and there are search options.  If you are looking for emails to and from a certain person or company, search using those.  You can sort by date, attachment or To/From.  You can find passwords for some sites within the emails (like a welcome email or password reset). Make note of user names referenced in emails.  Look in the email settings for other recovery email addresses.  This is where the notebook comes in handy.  For every password, email, user name, or website you discover, write it down.  Save, Print or Forward emails to another account that you may wish to reference at a later time.  Delete any junk emails that are cluttering up the search.

Social Media
This is not just limited to Facebook, Myspace, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Flikr and countless dating sites.  There’s LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumbler, DeviantArt, and Youtube and many more.  It’s also not just limited to what is being posted or written in private messages.  Searching comments left by others or even the user ID you are searching is important, too.

Search Engines
Use a variety of search engines to look for information.  Use the person’s name or a known online user ID, state or city.  To exclude items in a search use a negative sign in front of the word to exclude.  To search for a specific word or phrase, use quotation marks at the beginning and the end.  To see what a web page (or profile page) looked like on a certain date in time, use the Wayback Machine ( Peekyou can be great if the person you are searching is an active social media user.

A list of popular search engines

DropBox is a free file sharing and storage site.  There are many more (Box, Google Drive, Minus, SkyDrive, SugarSync).  Photos, videos and other items could be stored online for easy access later.  Bank transactions can give insight (location, businesses frequented) and PayPal gave us a clear picture of how and where money was being spent including multiple small money requests asked of many family members on the same day.  This also showed us how the account was consistently overdrawn with same day visits to a gas station that only charged one dollar for the transaction before pulling the full amount a couple of days later.