Gone – but not forgotten
We live in the age of public trials, teams of attorneys that are as expensive as they are expansive and Joe Citizens understanding of courtroom evidence and what it takes to prove a case in court is getting better with each passing trial.
At the heart of many a courtroom these days is technology. Yes, we’re talking about deleted e-mails, formatted hard disk drives and internet browsing history. Welcome to the exciting and often interesting world of Digital Forensics.
Digital Forensics is practiced by a small handful of specialists around South Africa. Typically these are people with an investigative background who specialize in technology as an investigative aid to the legal fraternity and security industry.
For some years now, forensic capabilities have been well documented and used in courts around the world to reveal and review online activities, deleted mails and data from laptops, computers and servers.
So what manner of information does a Digital Forensics specialist work with? The norm these days seems to be cellular handsets. With the advent of smartphones that allow you to use Facebook, WhatsApp, Email as well as SMS, Wi-Fi hotspots and make calls and take photos, these devices hold a wealth of information not visible to the naked eye.
A quick demonstration to a client of the current technology run against my iPhone brought up spider diagrams of who I communicate with, how frequently and of course – the infamous logs. Logs indicating every call made, text received, photo taken (including GPS coordinates) and way more information than what should have been there – deleted images and texts, passwords and locations of all the Wi-Fi spots I’ve used.
Couple this information with the data provided by cellular networks and you’re talking about true insight into the world of the handsets owner and their communication with the world.
Whether the case revolves around proving or disproving someone’s precise location at a particular point in time, recovering deleted images and text messages or exploring their interactions with other people, smartphones carry all the answers – if you have the technology at hand of course to see the unseen.
In today’s society, cellular phones are indispensable and carry vital information of a social and business nature. All too often the interactions people have on their phones become the subject of criminal, civil or CCMA matters and cutting edge technology in the Digital Forensics field is making this very information available to attorneys and investigators alike at a global standard
TCG has always had a forensic capacity. While we haven’t advertised it too widely or promoted it we’ve decided it’s time to grow this side of the business and extend the service offering. Over the years we have resolved and appeared in a number of matters both civil and labour related as well as assisting in criminal matters.
Why would I possibly want my e-mail on the cloud?
Well, I’m always a cautious adopter of new technologies; I like to think them through carefully, weigh up the pros and cons, and of course do a proper cost-benefit analysis. Sure I live and play with technology daily and shiny new gadgets speak to my inner-geek, but I am still running a business and responsible for guiding my clients in their technology investments – so a little pragmatism goes a long way.
A few months ago, spurred on by Eskom (let’s not even go there) we decided to migrate the companies e-mail to a VPS (Cloud) server. The logistics took a little planning to avoid downtime, a few grey hairs developed in the process – but I cannot tell you how happy I am to have made the move. Previously, my mail ran quite nicely on a server in the office. Johannesburg and Cape Town offices both pulled their mail from the server sitting upstairs in the tech-support area. A nice traditional solution that required an upgrade of the server every 3 years, re-purchasing software licences every 3 or so years and of course a little maintenance to keep it on the go – and obviously a connection to the internet with a dash of speed to make it all happen.
While very reluctant to have my mail sitting far away from me, I must admit that the business benefits far outweighed the in-house solution. Here’s how I set about calculating the costs:
On Site Server
Hardware Costs – R 20 000 (divide by 3 to achieve an annual cost) R 7 000.000 (yes yes, I like to work with round numbers)
Connectivity (Fibre over Air) – R 1 500pm (ADSL was just too slow for 20 people’s e-mails, let alone browsing)
Licencing – R 5 000 (annual budgeting against estimated upgrade costs and Rand/Dollar)
Annual on-site costs – R 2 500pm (and yes, I’ve rounded things to keep the numbers pretty)
Cloud Based VPS with Exchange – R 2 300.00
So, there we’re talking nuts and bolts really. A cost saving of R2500 per year, not really worth too much attention. What did get my attention however, was the peace of mind that the VPS is regularly backed up, my mail is stored securely in a state-of-the-art data centre straight onto a fibre line, so that I have fast access to my mail at all times. Add to that the convenience of being able to sync my calendar to my cellphone and tablet and it’s a pretty good deal. Then I started accessing my Outlook from outside the country while I was travelling and I really felt the benefit. Speeds were as good as ever, I had instant access through Outlook, irrespective of where in the world I roamed. No certificate errors, no latency – just quick e-mail on demand on the device of my choice.
Certainly there are other benefits that come with an in-house server, but there are as many benefits with a hosted solution. To me the main problem solved all the way around, is that with or without load shedding or Telkom working on the lines, I have my mission critical business e-mails all the time flowing to my phone/tablet or laptop. As a business decision, it’s all about continuity, stability and reliability. Those three stacked up well and I’m as happy with my VPS based mail as can be with a fixed monthly cost that is independent of the exchange rate.
If your company has more than 15 users, I would strongly advise that we talk about the features and benefits of cloud based e-mail and file access.
RSG Interview with Craig Pedersen
Yesterday morning, Craig Pedersen was on the radio station RSG, where he chatted a bit about the vicious CTB Locker virus outbreak. If you didn’t catch the interview, to put it simply, what the virus does is take your files hostage, and then claims that if you pay a certain ransom amount they will be released.
The horrible truth is that once your computer is infected it is literally impossible to get your data back, even if you pay the ransom. To find out more about the CTB Locker virus outbreak, listen to the interview here.
Oculus Rift is definitely the technology company to keep your eyes on. Initially started as a concept company seeking seed capital, Oculus has soared well above expectation as a business, but also as a state-of-the-art tech development company.
In a nutshell, Oculus is developing the “holy grail” of entertainment and gaming devices in its virtual reality headset. A headset that sits comfortably on you head – obviously – and drops a viewing panel before your eyes to provide a truly immersive experience for gaming and movies – for now. And this is where things get interesting. Sure, plugging the device on your head and being able to navigate through a game would provide an exceptional experience. Watching a movie in your own larger than life wrap around cinema would be as much fun as you could want. But what else could this mean – and why was Facebook so quick to buy up this company and drive capital into it?
Well, the world of virtual reality is one shrouded in science fiction really. It’s a world where you can interact with digital objects using your sense of touch and natural body movement instead of a keypad and mouse. The applications within the fields of engineering, architecture and medicine are mind blowing. With the appropriate development, a surgeon could virtually walk through a patient’s arteries in minute detail with incredible field of vision – from a world away from the patient and scope. An architect could literally walk through the building he’s designing, climb stairs, navigate hallways and develop a true sense of space.
An Engineer with Oculus Rift headset and the appropriate software could walk across the bridge he’s planning to understand the movement and motion dynamics and yes – that’s just the start of it. Virtual reality is cutting edge technology and has for many years been elusive. Certainly there have been developments in motion control sensors on your wrist replacing a mouse, or early VR headsets that could interact with a handful of games, but left you with a headache after an hours play time.
Make no mistake, early indications are that Oculus have finally cracked it and developed a headset that works, is wearable in a development or home environment and has software developers eating out of their hand to get an early bite at testing their technology with it.
Every industry will be impacted by the technology as it evolves and every industry can benefit in terms of businesses staking a claim to more market share with the advent of this technology – the question of course is whether your business is already thinking in that direction – and if not, are your competitors?
Pro Ed House IT Infrastructure
Dear Brian and crew,
A huge thank you for the fantastic job you guys have done. My internet is flying and I have a bunch of happy teachers. You guys were professional and dedicated to the task at hand and are absolute assets to the company.
On a separate note is it possible to order a tenda wireless access point or something similar for my senior class room. Once again many thanks for the fantastic job you guys have done.