Even the safest, most cautious person is susceptible to cyber-attacks. You might already be prepared for computer viruses, social engineering scams, and Wi-Fi hackers. But for every thwarted hacking attempt, there are one hundred creative methods for breaking into your system.
These six clever methods allow hackers to infiltrate secure devices, cameras, and even cars. Here’s what they are and how you can prepare for deviously intelligent hacker attacks.
Prevent Hacking with These Tips and Tricks
1. Hacking an Isolated Computer-
To protect sensitive files, many companies and people looking to protect their assets store their financial data on a computer disconnected from all networks. The strategy seems logically sound. If a hacker doesn’t have an access point, they can’t get it, right? But tenacious criminals have a workaround for hacking isolated computers.
AirHopper is a keystroke logging app that works by intercepting radio signals from a computer’s monitor. The FM signals can then be converted to text, such as usernames, account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers and social security. Neither direct access nor an Internet connection is required to trace keystrokes, though the device has to be within roughly 20 feet of the target monitor.
Though the hacker has to be close by to infiltrate an isolated computer, new apps like AirHopper prove it’s becoming more difficult to defend against cyber-attacks.
2. Auto-Hacking With a USB Drive
With a little help from a clever USB drive, hackers can break into a locked computer without even lifting a finger. An auto-run program on the drive activates the moment the stick is plugged into a computer. Some install viruses and backdoors to give the hacker route access to a locked computer. Other programs extract data and passwords for the hacker to break into the user’s online accounts.
All the hacker has to do is plug the USB drive into a computer for a few minutes, remove it, and walk away without leaving any evidence behind. Though the hacker needs physical access to the computer, plug-and-hack devices are one of the most effective mechanisms for breaking into a password-protected computer.
3 Using Androids as Hacking Tools
As technology advances, hacking becomes so streamlined that anyone can do it, even someone without any technical expertise. Now anyone can be a hacker just by installing an app onto their Android phone. Criminals can use these tools to hack through Wi-Fi, overload servers, and steal passwords.
While these tools aren’t as dangerous as more complex techniques, it creates accessibility for new hackers to partake in cybercrime.
4. Spying Through Cameras
If you own a laptop chances are it has an inconspicuously small webcam built into it. You might use it to take pictures or speak face-to-face in calls with family, friends, and associates. But did you know someone else could be peering in—even if the indicator light is off?
Hackers can spy on you and your house through any camera that’s connected to your home network. They can record footage or take pictures of whatever they see. But there are steps you can take to prevent and stop criminals from taking control of your cameras. Ensure your network is protected by a secure network, anti-virus software, and a powerful firewall that will block outside access.
Change the passwords on your cameras. They may still be set to factory default settings, which is public knowledge. Criminals can simply search for the password on a forum and gain access to your footage. You should also be sure to deactivate any webcams and cameras not in use.
Stay tuned to Brightstar Investigations for more tips from the experts.
Surveillance is one of the most important services that a private investigator performs. In my experience, surveillance is one of the best ways to the get information that the client needs. Surveillance is a highly rewarding process if done correctly. Every private investigator has their own style and methodology. Listed below are some of the things that have made my surveillance missions have great success.
Surveillance Tips and Techniques from BrightStar Investigations Experts
When you first speak with a client, it’s important to get all of the information you can so that you can have a successful outcome. Investigators often don’t ask enough questions. To be successful on surveillance, an investigator has to ask the client many questions, even difficult questions. Clients tend to give the minimum amount of information to the private investigator.
Pro Tip: If your client can, ask him/her to snap a quick pic of the target the same day as surveillance. This will help you identify clothing and hairstyle, especially if you are picking your subject out of a crowd. If you are following your target from the airport, ask them how many bags of luggage the target took. This will help you determine if the target will get delayed at baggage, which is a great way to funnel the target to his pickup point. Fill out the details during the initial interview. Likewise, ask about doctor appointments, marital status, hobbies and the number of children the subject has.
2. Surveillance Vehicle
Having a working and surveillance ready vehicle is paramount to a good surveillance investigation. There are many vehicles that a private investigator can use. Color and shape of the vehicle are key. A private investigator’s vehicle must blend in with traffic. Choose a dull color and shape that could be considered ‘every man’s car.’ If you go out on surveillance with a bright red hot rod, your chances of getting made have just gone up. Also, having good window tint is paramount. When someone hires a private eye, the client expects results. Having a good surveillance vehicle increases the chances of those results.
3. Check The Scene Beforehand
Prior to the first surveillance, a PI will either check the street set up on satellite imagery (Google Maps/Earth) and/or drive around the subject’s neighborhood. This is important to mission success!
4. Starting Time
Pro Tip: I’m always early. A private detective should always be early to surveillance. I can’t tell you how many times a client protested to me being early, but it ended up saving the case. If the client tells you that your target is leaving the house at 9 am, be there at 8:15. You never know, your target just might decide to leave early.
Once on scene, a private detective only has several chances to get the set-up right. When on the scene, I like to ‘feel the vibe’ of the neighborhood. I can’t explain it, but each individual neighborhood and street have its own mood. On some streets, I feel like I could do cartwheels down the street and no one would care (I would never, though!). On other streets, I feel like the whole neighborhood is watching me. Once you feel the mood of your neighborhood, get set up in a spot that gives you distance, cover, and a good way out. Also, park in a place where the target is most likely going to leave. A private investigator does not want to do a U-turn to catch up with the target right out of the box if at all possible.
6. Meal/Restroom Breaks
Expect to spend the day in the car. Bring a cooler with refreshments. Apples give as much energy as a cup of coffee. But make your meals quick and easy to reach. Bathroom breaks aren’t possible. I won’t mention in this blog how a private investigator takes care of business – if you use your imagination long enough I am confident that you can figure it out 🙂
7. Leave Books At Home and Beware of the Cellphone!
You will miss something important unless you are vigilant. A private detective spends the quiet times running through surveillance scenarios in his/her mind, and examining exit routes. Everyone has a cellphone. It’s a fact of life private investigators check their cellphones. I like to employ the 10-second rule. As I check, I count to ten in my mind and look up. If a private detective follows the 10-second rule, it’s almost guaranteed that they will not lose their target when they leave.
8. Steady Hands Win Out
When a video is necessary, be sure you can hold the camera steady. Your client may not appreciate feeling as though he or she is on a rolling ship when reviewing the scenes. PI services require professional equipment to provide amazing video. I also recommend using Sony camcorders with night shot. At BrightStar Investigations, we try to only use cameras that employ 1080p and 720p high definition. Our client’s feel like they are watching a movie, and if requested, we can use 4K as well.
9. Following In Traffic
A private investigator is ready at a moment’s notice for tailing. When starting a follow, I memorize the tail lights and any distinguishing features; especially at night. Look for bumper stickers, body damage, brake light shapes, anything unique so you can easily spot it. You want to avoid tailgating, but still be close enough to catch the traffic lights with your subject. Traffic follows can be tricky. At BrightStar Investigations, we have three surveillance rules:
- Safety of the Investigator
- Safety of the people around us
- Safety of the person we are following- In fact, as the owner and Executive Investigator, I feel a special obligation to ensure that the subject is safe, never feels distressed, and never knows we are there!
10. Professional Report Writing
Report writing must be clean, precise, and court ready. A private detective must use language that can be read in a court of law. I cannot stress this enough: When conducting a surveillance investigation, or any investigation, a Private Eye must treat the investigation as though it were going to court!
At some point in almost everyone’s life, people need the services of a private detective. If you need answers, BrightStar Investigations is here. You can hire BrightStar Investigations priv
Whether you are conducting a background check on someone your are suspicious or suspect your significant other is cheating, there are many reasons you may want to hire a highly qualified private detective. With estimates of over 1,300 private detectives in Colorado alone, it can be difficult and time-consuming to find a world-class PI for your investigative needs.
Selecting a Qualified and Trustworthy Professional Investigator
Private detectives are trained, licensed and/or regulated in many different ways. Here in Colorado, private investigators are licensed by the Department of Regulatory Agencies. Although there are a number of exceptions under Colorado’s Private Investigator Licensure Rules and Regulations, a private investigator must be licensed in the state if he or she is conducting private investigations in Colorado.
How do you know if the investigator you’re talking to is the right hire? Follow the tips below.
- Confirm the Investigator is Licensed. Colorado’s rules and regulations for private detectives are some of the most rigorous in the country, requiring field work, testing, and background checks for investigators. Contact the state’s licensing division to learn more and confirm the PI you’re interested in hiring is, indeed, licensed.
- Find out the Investigators Success Record. A private investigator’s success record can be more important than how many years experience they have investigating. Just because an investigator may have great credentials in law enforcement or related field doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the private investigative field. Results are what matters!
- Check out Google Reviews. Hearing what other people are saying about a business speaks volumes! This includes private investigators!
- Does the PI Specialize? Whether you’re looking for information related to infidelity, surveillance, or are looking to track someone down, find a PI who has the skills you need.
- Get it on Paper. Whatever service is being provided should be written in a retainer agreement. In the state of Colorado, retainer agreement’s are required (except for emergencies) for all investigative engagements.
- What are their fees? Be sure to get a quote or estimate on what their hourly or day rate is. You do not want to get a surprise bill after all is said and done.
Finding the right private investigator can seem daunting. Choosing a results oriented private investigator that is licensed, bonded and insured can provide tremendous relief in these stressful situations. If you follow these simple guidelines and trust your instincts, there is no doubt that you will find the answers you need!
Movies and Television shows have glorified the profession of the private investigator, and rightfully so. But what the programs fail to show is the hard work it takes to become a private investigator in the first place. Becoming a private eye requires a lot of time and effort as a number of state agencies oversee how private investigators are regulated and licensed. In Colorado, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA)-Office of Private Investigator Licensure handles the licensing of private investigators.
While not all states require an investigator to procure a license, it is vital to adhere to all the rules and regulations appertaining to the field of private investigation in your state before setting up an agency. If you are interested in becoming a PI here are some important things to check off your list.
How to Become a Private Detective
Do You Meet the Minimum Requirements for Licensure?
Since private investigators are licensed and regulated at state level, minimum requirements may differ between states. Normally, candidates seeking to be private investigators must meet the following standard requirements.
• Be at least 25 years of age (In Colorado it’s 21)
• Be a citizen or lawfully present in the United States
• Have at least a high school diploma or GED certificate
• Have no felony convictions or other crimes appertaining to moral turpitude
• Must not have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S Military
Colorado’s licensure procedure differs slightly from what other state requirements are. For a list of Colorado’s licensure requirements, please see the Private Investigator rules and regulations.
Do You Meet The Education Requirement
Most states do not require one to have a four-year degree for them to qualify as private eyes. However, it is still highly recommended for people without related work experience to complete at least an associate’s degree in accounting, criminal forensics or law.
In Colorado for instance, where a degree is optional, a two-year degree conferred by a college or university eliminates 1000 hours of work experience from the 4000-hour requirement. Conversely, a bachelors and a master’s degree eliminates 2000 and 3000 hours respectively.
What is Your Experience
In some states, Investigative experience is a requirement. Many states require a minimum of two years’ experience. Some of this experience can come from your previous careers such as military or law enforcement. If you do not have any prior investigative experience, some states may require that you work under another investigator’s license to gain the necessary experience before you get your own. Colorado does not require that an individual work under someone else’s license before investigating on your own.
Pass the State Licensure Exam
Some states, such as Colorado, require that you pass the state jurisprudence exam for you to qualify as a private detective. These exams, which are normally completed during the application process, evaluate candidates on procedural protocols and laws specific to the state in which they will be practicing.
Once you receive your PI license, it is vital that you keep it current to legally practice. In Colorado, PI licenses must be renewed the 31st day of May every year. However, if your license is issued within four months of the forthcoming renewal date, you do not need to renew until the 31st day of May of the following year. We also recommend joining a professional association to make connections and elevate your career.
Stay tuned to BrightstarInvestigations.com for more industry tips and trends.
Cyberbullying is a growing epidemic among our youth. In recent years we have witnessed an explosion of Social Media and the Internet as a platform by which teens (and adults) communicate. The wild frontier of the Internet and Social Media has given friends and family instant access to their loved ones. Unfortunately, that instant access is also available to CyberBullies as well.
The social and emotional ramifications of Cyberbullying can be catastrophic. According to two psychologists who spoke with Bullying.com, “Victims of bullying can suffer from social difficulties, internalizing symptoms, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.” In fact, teen suicide as a result of Cyberbullying is a growing epidemic. The Internet is full of real cases that involve teen suicide as a result of Cyberbullying.
What to do When I Discover my Child is Being Cyberbullied?
Perhaps you noticed that your child has withdrawn recently. Or, perhaps you have noticed that your child does not want to go to school. Maybe you checked your child’s online behavior on your home computer. Maybe your child told you himself.
No matter how you found out that your child is being Cyberbullied you know that you have to do something about it. BrightStar Investigations specializes in getting key evidence to stop Cyberbullying. It will be crucial that you hire an investigator with the experience and technology to get the bullying to stop. Listed below are several steps that BrightStar Investigations will take on your behalf to stop Cyberbullying.
1)BrightStar Investigations will Preserve Evidence
The strongest evidence that exists against a Cyberbully is the information that is online. Preserving this evidence in the first 48-72 hours can be crucial. Information can be deleted from the Internet. And despite the fact that information may be stored on a server somewhere, you as a parent will not have access to that data without a court ordered subpoena. BrightStar Investigations responds to Cyberbullying cases immediately to preserve the damaging evidence that has impacted your child
2)BrightStar Investigations will Find Patterns of Abusive Behavior
After evidence is collected pertaining to your child, BrightStar Investigations will scour the Internet for other areas where the Cyberbully has attacked other victims. This is a crucial step because if you decide to file a lawsuit or go to the police, having significant and detailed patterns of behavior of the Cyberbully will be a major advantage in winning your case.
3)BrightStar Investigations will Write a Dynamic and Compelling Report
When all of the evidence is collected, the next critical step is having a dynamic and compelling report written. The reason that this is so important is because a school administrator, law enforcement officer, or attorney will be able to make faster decisions if the evidence is presented to them in a format that is visually appealing, logical, and is written in a way that makes sense to them.
4)BrightStar Investigations will Present the Evidence in Person
Evidence has been collected. An impacting report has been written. BrightStar Investigations does not stop here. We go with you to present our findings to a school administrator, law enforcement official, or an attorney. In addition, if the other party is willing, we confront the Cyberbully.
Bottom line: BrightStar Investigations will get the Cyberbullying to stop.
If you are a parent whose child has been the victim of Cyberbullying, don’t wait. Take Action and call BrightStar Investigations
During the past 10 years we have witnessed a worldwide explosion of how information is shared, how much of it is shared, and who it is shared with. Let’s be honest–20 years ago, would you have taken a picture of your food and shared it with 1 million strangers?
Why Internet Intelligence is Vital
If that makes you shake your head, check this out.
Let’s look at some facts:
-648,468 Facebook users share content every minute
-100,000 Tweets are generated by users every minute
-2.5 Quintillion bytes of data are created every day
-90% of the worlds internet data was created in the last two years
The world is experiencing a paradigm shift in information. This explosion of information offers you and your corporation an opportunity. Internet Intelligence.
What is Internet Intelligence?
Internet Intelligence is the collection & analysis of public information to give decision makers more options, more insight, and more strategic power. Industry insiders call it ‘Open Source Intelligence’, or OSINT–but that moniker can be confusing. I just call it Internet Intelligence.
An Example of How Internet Intelligence Works
A prime example of how Internet Intelligence works is with Corporate & Executive Threat Assessments. At BrightStar Investigations, our Corporate and Executive Threat Assessment Analysts scour the internet for data leaks, breaches of trust from employees, and internet posts that expose a companies proprietary secrets. In addition, BrightStar’s Internet Intelligence Analysts also examine a Corporation or Executive’s digital footprint to examine if there are areas where the Corporation or Executive could be blackmailed–or if any information exists online that could cause irreparable harm to the Corporations reputation, image, consumer trust, or bottom line. Plain and simple; a Corporate & Executive Threat Assessment finds public areas of vulnerability and confidentially discovers skeletons in the closet before hackers, journalists, or adversaries can. Moreover, this in-depth Threat Assessment gives Corporations solutions to fix the areas of data vulnerability. To see some Corporate Internet Intelligence in Action, check out this video right here: http://youtu.be/lUgzLWig3r0
How Internet Intelligence Increases Corporate Value
Having more information may seem like an advantage–but if the information is not analyzed, processed and delivered in a way that makes sense, it’s just a lot of noise. The advantage of BrightStar’s Internet Intelligence is not just found in the deep level of information that we uncover–Our proven value is found in our world-class analysis of seemingly ordinary information, and then turning that information into invaluable intelligence for your company and it’s executives. The fact is, there is a lot of information that exists on the internet. You and your corporation need Internet Intelligence to stay relevant. Furthermore, Internet Intelligence can be used for more than Corporate & Executive Threat Assessment investigations; it can also be used in the following scenarios
1) Generating Dossier’s on Adversaries
As discussed in a previous blog, conducting a thorough background investigation on an adversary may be what your company needs to gain an upper hand. Imagine having the luxury of reading a complete intelligence file on an individual before you enter deliberations. It is always better to know what you don’t know, and to not let the other side know that you know it. Internet Intelligence will give you the power to to walk into any situation with an adversary with a full knowledge of that individuals vital statistics, personal history and lifestyle choices.
2) Monitoring the Word on the Street
Want to know what people are saying in the office? Internet Intelligence can unlock the world of company mood, whether good or bad. In addition, if your company suspects that something bad is going down, either internally or externally, you can walk into any mediation with the evidence to prove your case.
3) Internal Investigations
So, something already bad has gone down in your company. Are you monitoring the social media of those involved? Have you archived the social media of those involved? Does your archiving technology assign an MD5 hash to each piece of evidence? Our technology at BrightStar does. Have you dug into the digital footprint of those suspected of doing harm to your bottom line? If you answers no to any of these questions, you need Internet Intelligence.
A New World
Whether we want it to happen or not, we are entering—or have already entered a new world….an internet driven world. There are going to be two types of individuals in this new world. Individuals who resist technology, and individuals who embrace technology and use it for their strategic business advantage. The faster you embrace Internet Intelligence, the faster you can get ahead of the competition. Which person are you?
There is nothing more interesting for me as a private investigator than getting to look into the deep dark past. In my career, I have done background investigations for clients that ranged from to international banking executives, to hardcore commerce executives. When people think of a background investigation, they might think of basic employment screening or a security clearance for a government agency. I want to give 5 scenarios where an individual or a company should get a background investigation done on somebody.
How to Investigate a Person & Why You Should
1. Your Son or Daughter is Getting Married
Getting married is one of the biggest life choices that a human being can make. This is magnified exponentially when it is your son or daughter that is getting married. After all, parents naturally want their children to be happy and to have a good life–this includes marriage. Before you pull out your checkbook and reserve the banquet hall for the reception, it might be a good idea to get the low down on the individual that your child is marrying. Love is blind, and sometimes those caught up in the emotion of the moment cannot see what you as a parent see. As a matter of fact, I have heard horror stories about young women marrying very ‘nice young men’, only to find out several months after the wedding that the ‘nice young man’ was addicted to pornography, not willing to work, or worse….
Ultimately, who your child marries will be their decision and theirs alone. However, if you as a parent run a background investigation and conduct due diligence to confront that nagging feeling you have in your stomach, there is no harm in that. In fact, your child never has to know that you had a private investigator run an in-depth background investigation into their potential spouse. If your private investigator conducts in depth background & lifestyle related investigations like I do at BrightStar Investigations, then either your suspicions will be confirmed or dismissed–either way, you can have peace. And if in fact your investigator finds something egregious in your potential son/daughter in law, you can potentially save your son or daughter years of heartache, financial troubles, and undue emotional stress: in fact, you might just save your child’s life, and relationship with you.
2. Your About to Make a BIG Investment That Sounds too Good to be True
Ever hear of Bernie Madoff the ponzi scheme king? You would be surprised how many of these ‘dream investment’ schemes occur on a day to day basis. In fact, these schemes are just microcosms of the kind of swindling that Madoff was engaged in….they just happen on a much smaller scale. Imagine if one…..just one person dealing with Madoff would have hired a skilled private investigation firm to conduct a very very thorough background and lifestyle investigation into Madoff. They might not have been able to find a smoking gun, but a trained and professional private investigator would eventually be able to see the writing on the wall that something just isn’t right–which could have saved clients untold millions.
Before you start taking money out of your 401k and investing it with the latest and greatest investment guru–do some due diligence with a private investigator. The money that you spend with a private investigator will be a drop in the bucket compared to what you could end up losing.
3. Your Company is in Various Stages of Negotiation and You Need an Upper Hand
You are approaching the biggest contract in your companies history, and you have been introduced to the team that you will be negotiating with. How about this scenario? Your company is in the final stages of negotiation and and you will be meeting with a team of stoic negotiators from the other side. In either scenario, it would be a great idea to have a professional investigator conduct a historical and lifestyle background investigation on the key members of the opposing negotiating team.
When you go into a negotiation, whether short or long term, your company needs an upper hand. Wouldn’t it be good to know that a key member from the other side is going through a divorce? It might be a good idea to pair him or her with someone who can sympathize what they are going through. Conversely, it would also be great to know what fraternity the other side is a part of; are any of them ex-military? What about those from similar geographic locations? All of these factors could potentially give your team a tangible psychological & negotiating advantage. In fact, armed with the right knowledge about the members of the other side, and using smart negotiating tactics, you might be able to find a soft spot in the opposition and get that extra 5 or 10% percent that your company is looking for. In the end, the background investigation will pay for itself, and could pay dividends for years to come.
4. You are a Small Business Owner or Your Company Wants to Prevent Turnover
Turnover is not cheap. In fact, turnover costs business’ roughly 20% of a persons total salary for employees that make under $50,000 a year. That number goes up exponentially with executives (see number 5 for executives). There is advertising, time lost to conduct interviews, follow up calls; moreover, it interrupts the office environment because someone new is introduced into your tight working community. All of these factors are a drain on your business and your bottom line. Especially if you are a small business.
It is just prudent to hire an investigator to look into the lifestyle and the history of potential employees….especially if you have had a streak of bad luck with turnover.
But we Already Pay Lexis Nexus or Some other Company to do Background Checks.
Congratulations. You have verified work history, address history, and your new employee is not a criminal. You know nothing about this individuals lifestyle, true behavior outside of work, or personal history. All that you know about this individual is what you have gathered from meeting for them for 45 minutes in an interview room. And everyone puts on their best face there!
Get on Top of Things
A private investigator can examine a prospective employees digital footprint, talk to people that the individual has previously worked with, look analytically into the individuals lifestyle for red flags, or even follow the person around to see what they do on the weekends. What if your new ‘prospect’ is posting on social media that he/she plans on moving in 5 months. That would be great to know. If you want to save time, money and prevent turnover, get a private investigator to add to your basic background check. You’ll thank yourself later.
5. Your Business is Hiring a Key Staff Member or an Executive
We aren’t just talking about hiring regular staff here. This is where hundreds of thousands of dollars and stock options start to fly around. I can say with great assurance that an investigator needs to conduct a deep lifestyle check of a potential key staff member or executive.
A private investigator will not be looking to see if an executive is moving in 5 months. Your potential executive made it this far because they are good at what they do. A private investigator will be looking for anything that can be used against your executive and your company in the future. Do you see every few years that something ugly is uncovered from a politicians past? Who do you think does that digging? Private Investigators. A private investigator will take a long hard look at this executive and their past. It will include interviews, digital footprint examination, passive surveillance and a lifestyle examination. If something ugly comes up from the past–perhaps it can be cleaned up. Everyone has skeletons in the closet–you just don’t want them to ever see the light of day. And if your investigator in fact finds any red flags, you can eliminate that executive from your pool if those red flags are egregious enough. You have a lot of money and reputation on the line. Don’t waste it because you didn’t conduct due diligence.
Craig Smith is the Chief Investigator for BrightStar Investigations. When he is not investigating, you can find him playing football with his son and enjoying the outdoors in the Colorado Rockies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever wonder who follows groups like ISIS (The Islamic State in the Sham)?
For a complete Xcel spreadsheet of everyone following and being followed by the Islamic State in the Sham (ISIS) on Twiter, click the link below. The short video shows how this open source information was collected.
Download the file here –> IsisFile
This article was originally posted on http://bit.ly/FOI-CSmith by Mercyhurst University.
Some people dream of joining a specific business or organization when they think of their career aspirations. Others create their own position. IIS-MU graduate Craig Smith is a member of the latter group. The proud owner of BrightStar Intelligence Group and BrightStar Investigations and the latest person featured in the Faces of Intel series, where he tells us about his time in the Army, his experience at Mercyhurst, and just why he went into business for himself.
More About Craig Smith
Where are you originally from?
Craig Smith: The Buffalo, New York area.
What did you want to be when you were young?
CS: I wanted to be a soldier. My grandfather was in World War II and he was very influential to me. I grew up as an athlete and played three sports in high school, so I was a very outgoing person. The idea of being a soldier was always something that was inside me, so when I was 17, I enlisted in the Army. I did five years in the Army and did one tour in Iraq.
Where did you go after you finished your time with the Army?
CS: I wanted to be a history teacher, but I always loved politics, so I thought “What combines the two?” The answer was intelligence. I did a little research for a school that had an intelligence degree, and sure enough Mercyhurst popped up. I did the two-hour drive and got interviewed by [IIS Founder] Bob Heibel, which was a little intimidating because Mr. Heibel is so highly respected. He accepted me into the program, and that was a big turning point in my life.
Where did you go after that?
CS: I was then hired by a government contractor, but before you could say “Hey, he got the job,” I had to wait a year and a half for security clearance. So I have this year and a half to wait for the clearance to process, and I ended up getting my Masters degree from Canisius College in Buffalo. In the end, I actually ended up not taking the job because the security clearances took so long. I eventually took a job with a government contractor, and worked as a military transition counselor on Ft. Carson. In 2013, I got a job working with hackers in Denver as an Open Source Intelligence analyst, so I was able to get back into the intelligence community. Once I didn’t take that contracting position in DC, I kind of put myself outside of the intelligence community and once you’re outside it’s really hard to get back in. I wanted to get back in. I wanted to scratch and claw and get back in, so I finally got a job with a hacker company called One World Labs in 2013.
What was that experience like?
CS: That was actually my first time working with hackers so I didn’t even know what to think. It totally changed how I did – and currently do – intelligence. It totally changed my collection. It totally changed how I approach information. I learned a lot there, and I am thankful to Chris Roberts, the founder of One World Labs, for introducing me to the more hacker-savvy side of intelligence collection.
When you were at Mercyhurst, what was that experience like?
CS: It was one of the most difficult and rewarding programs all at the same time. It was very, very difficult. It was very challenging. Even though I almost got A’s in all of my intelligence classes, I look at RIAP [Research Intelligence Analysis Program] like it is the Navy Seals of Intelligence training. First year, freshman year, you’re pumping out a 50-page report in about seven weeks. A full-blast, full-blown intelligence report. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life, one of the most intense things I’ve ever done in my life, and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.
Did you have any specific courses or professors that really stuck out to you while at Mercyhurst?
CS: Absolutely. The Intel program is like a brotherhood and it’s like you’re part of a family. Going through the Intelligence Program at Mercyhurst is such a life-changing experience for anybody that actually does it. I would say that [Assistant Professor] Dawn Wozneak had a big impact on me when I was there because she was my first instructor. She was my instructor for my first two classes and you have to understand that I had just gotten back from combat so I was a little rough around the edges. Dawn really worked with me and she was able to turn my zeal into productivity. She was able to turn all of my energy into intelligence productivity and that was huge. I think if I would had someone besides Dawn to start off with, I don’t know if I would have been as successful in the program or even finished the program. She really, really helped me.
When did you start your own company?
CS: I worked for One World Labs for a period and after that I worked for another company doing something not intelligence related and then I said, “That’s it, I’m starting my own company.” I just wanted a chance to be my own person in business. I started my own company and a few months after that, I started getting contracts with a major hacker firm on the east coast. I do a lot of intelligence operations for an ethical hacking firm on the east coast and I engage in national and international intelligence operations. I’ve had, so far, five major intelligence operations with this company. The name of my company is BrightStar Investigations, and it is located at www.brightstarinvestigations.com
What advice would you give to IIS students and people going into intelligence?
CS: When you go into the intelligence program at Mercyhurst you have to make it up in your mind before you walk through those doors that you’re not going to quit. That no matter what they give you, you’re going to do it. No matter how hard it is, no matter how late you have to stay up at night, you have to make your mind up before you walk through those doors that you’re not going to quit and that you’re going to graduate the program, and that other people have done it and you can do it too. If you don’t walk in there with that mindset, the program can be overwhelming. You have to make it up in your mind that you’re not going to quit until you’ve succeeded past that program. As a matter of fact, one of my little secrets to success is that I refused to buy any Mercyhurst paraphernalia from the bookstore – not a sweater, not a t-shirt, nothing from the bookstore until I graduated the program. My last week of my last month at that school was when I bought an item from the bookstore. You know why? Because I said to myself “I’m not going to buy anything from this school until I earn the degree.” And that’s what I did. You have to set it in your mind that you’re not going to quit and you’re not going to accept anything until you’ve completed the program.
Do you still wear your Mercyhurst jacket?
CS: I haven’t worn it in a few years, I’m thinking about buying myself something else. The more that Mercyhurst gets involved with its alumni, the more that I just remember what an awesome school it is and what an awesome program it is.
I have great news for attorneys today. The American Bar Association (ABA) just announced that attorneys can scan the social media accounts of jurors. This includes potential jurors, sitting jurors, and even goes as far as when jurors are in deliberation!
Social media has always been a powerful tool for attorneys. In fact, close to 700 court cases have been decided by social media being the key evidence at trial. What are the implications of attorneys being allowed to use social media to examine jurors?
I am sure that your head is already full of ideas; especially if you’re an attorney.
As a private investigator, I specialize in the scanning, collecting, archiving and monitoring of social media accounts. The proprietary technology that I use at BrightStar Investigations allows me to archive complete Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and InstaGram accounts–did I mention that I can gather this information in real-time?
Why is this important?
The reason that real-time collection is so important is due to the fact that people can delete posts that they have made. Come on….admit it. How many times have you deleted a social media post? With the archiving technology that I use, I can archive social media posts in real-time…..which means that if the post gets deleted You Still Have It Because I archived it! That level of information gathering is powerful, and could be worth it’s weight in gold at trial.
If you’re an attorney, you owe it to yourself, your firm, and your client to conduct a diligent examination of jurors—both before they go to trial and during. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Allow the professionals at BrightStar Investigations to gather information to give you the maximum competitive edge at trial.
Give us a call today to discuss how BrightStar Investigations can give you the critical information you need to win your case. The best part is; the internet has no borders. We can collect this information and deliver it to you all online.
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Colorado Springs, CO 80903