Exploiting Internet and Social Network Intelligence to Enhance Investigations

By Mandy Moody, CFE, ACFE Social Media Specialist

Cynthia Navarro began her Tuesday afternoon session with the preface, “This is going to be work-related and personal. You will be able to use these tools in every part of your life.” She was referring to her session detailing how anti-fraud professionals can use information found on the Internet to find out more than you ever wanted to know about a person in question.

Navarro is Principal of Finnegan's Way, an investigative consultation and training firm located in California. In this role, she manages both civil and criminal investigations and consults worldwide, specializing in anti-piracy, business and intelligence backgrounds. She led a packed breakout session, “Exploiting Internet and Social Network Intelligence to Enhance Investigations.”

It has hard to believe that when the ACFE began 25 years ago the most advanced piece of office technology was the fax machine. This bulky and now- archaic way to send and receive documents has almost seen its last day. This symbolic evolutionary lesson was supported by Navarro’s first cited statistic: Cisco projects that by 2022, they will have $14.4 trillion in profits solely from the Internet. That is a lot of profit from a technology that is only a few decades old.

“So, why should you be interested in the Internet?” Navarro asked attendees as she began the session. She quickly answered that it was because of the statistic mentioned above and because of the vast amount of data, big and small, that lies in public profiles, private networks and social sites.

According to Navarro, only 2 percent of what is on the Internet is found in a Google search. If that is true, then where do you find the other 98 percent? One place Navarro mentioned was Vengeful Librarians, a group of CIA analysts that tracks up to 5 million online posts a day and delivers the hand-picked trends to the U.S. president.

Navarro also stressed the importance of search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) and international sites like STOPfakes.gov, Paperboy and CorporateInformation. And, of course, any discussion about searching the Internet would be remiss without highlighting social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Mocospace and hi5, as well as blogs.

 “If there is a blog that is talking about the banking industry, and you are in the banking industry, that is where you need to go,” Navarro said. “The information that is on there is coming from your employees and contractors.”

The information Navarro speaks of can take many forms. It could be a family photo on Facebook that also holds important time and date stamps, a purchase on Amazon that reveals a dirty habit or a business affiliation on LinkedIn that confirms a suspected insider trading tip. As Navarro pointed out, all of this information was public AND private, but she warned attendees: “Nothing is private online. We can encrypt things and put up firewalls, but there is always someone out there who can get your information.” Our only hope is that we get there before the fraudsters do.