Recent Killings of Navy Sailor and Four Marines Demands Digital Forensics
The recent killings of four Marines and a Navy sailor in Tennessee has FBI investigators following the gunman’s electronic trail in a search for the motive behind the shootings. Federal agents flew the computer, cellphone and other electronic devices belonging to Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez to Washington D.C. for forensic analysis of his communications. In addition to the forensic analysis of Abdulazeez’s electronics, the background and travels of the 24-year old gunman will be scrutinized. In particular, Abdulazeez made a trip to Jordan last year which lasted seven months. The FBI has asked intelligence services in Kuwait and Jordan to detail Abdulazeez’s movements while in those countries.
Perhaps the most crucial question at this point in the investigation is whether Abdulazeez, a naturalized United States citizen, had any contact with extremist groups. Abdulazeez was the son of Jordanian Palestinian parents and was born in Kuwait. Ostensibly, Abdulazeez visited Kuwait and Jordan to reunite with relatives. Most of Abdulazeez’s life was spent in southeastern Tennessee, where he graduated with an electrical engineering degree. Little is known about him in the period after college, but by examining his electronic communications, the FBI hopes to gain an understanding of his activities, affiliations, and mindset in recent months. Mere days prior to the shootings, Abdulazeez began a blog, posting about Islam, and compared life to a prison. He also expressed fervor in a text sent the night before he fired on an armed-services recruiting center, then drove a Ford Mustang to the Navy-Marine reserve facility parking lot where he opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle. Officials describe a violent exchange of fire between Chattanooga police officers and Abdulazeez, that ultimately left five servicemen dead and Marine recruiter and a police officer wounded.
While Abdulazeez had not been investigated prior to the shooting, his father was investigated nearly seven years ago for a possible connection with Hamas, the Islamic militant group in Gaza. No charges were filed, but the father was placed on a watchlist for a period of time. Abdulazeez worked briefly at a nuclear power plant close to Cleveland, but was dismissed after only ten days on the job. It is hoped the forensic analysis of Abdulazeez’s electronic devices will give authorities some solid information about his motives for the murders.
Crucial Evidence Contained in the Cyber World
As computers, the Internet and other forms of technology have progressed, the cyber world can contain crucial evidence for all types of investigations. Digital forensic investigations uncover evidence, then analyze that evidence in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the perpetrator’s motives, a complete understanding of a crime scene, or even the identity of the person who committed the crime. Digital forensic investigations can solve such serious crimes as, extortion, child pornography, organized crime, drug smuggling or non-violent white collar crimes such as tax evasion. Digital forensics can even assist in a divorce when one spouse is hiding assets from the other or in a business when one partner suspects the other of disposing of business assets.
Computers store vast amounts of information which can provide valuable information regarding a person’s activities. Many of us have e-mail messages and addresses, financial information, videos, photographs, research, a history of our Internet searches and phone numbers of friends and families on our home computer. Most digital forensic investigations are structured in the same way as a more traditional investigation conducted by law enforcement. The FBI estimates cybercrimes cost more than $100 billion annually; computer crimes as well as information about crimes hidden on a computer are here to stay and are increasing rapidly.
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Look to the forensic experts of Forensicon, Inc., to gather and interpret sensitive electronic data for your client. Our company specializes in employment litigation, internal investigations, and trade secrets, providing computer forensic expertise to the top law firms in the United States as well as large and small corporations. To learn more about how our computer forensic specialists can assist your firm, call us at 1-888-427-5667 or visit us on the web at www.forensicon.com.