A look at PRISM, the NSAs surveillance program

August 09, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

The ability of the intelligence community in the United States to collect and investigate information on both foreign subjects and US citizens has dramatically increased since 9/11. PRISM is a programme of the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect private electronic data belonging to users of major internet services like Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and others. It’s the latest evolution of the US government’s post-9/11 electronic surveillance efforts, which began under President Bush with the Patriot Act, and expanded to include the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enacted in 2006 and 2007. PRISM allows the NSA to request data on specific people from major technology companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and others.

The US government insists that it is only allowed to collect data when given permission by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Some reports stated that the NSA had “direct access” to the servers of Google, Facebook, and others. The implicated companies have denied knowledge of and participation in PRISM, and have rejected allegations that the US government is able to directly tap into their users' data. Both the companies and the government insist that data is only collected with court approval and for specific targets.

"Curtilage" in the context of machinery repossessions

July 30, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

The term "curtilage" is a legal term which delineates the land immediately surrounding a house, including any closely associated buildings and structures, but excluding any associated open fields beyond. It delineates the boundary within which a home owner can have a reasonable expectation of privacy and where "intimate home activities" take place.

It is an important legal concept in certain jurisdictions for the understanding of search and seizure, of real property, burglary, trespass, and land use planning. In urban properties, the location of the curtilage may be evident from the position of fences, wall and similar; within larger properties it may be a matter of some legal debate as to where the private area ends and the 'open fields' start.

The consistent application of the law with respect to weapons

July 21, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

The consistent application of the law with respect to weaponry and firearms and the production and use of same by unlicensed private citizens during an incident appears to vary depending on location. Observing recent incidents it would appear that the possession of unlicensed, whether improvised or conventional, weaponry and/or firearms attracts different penalties and interventions by law enforcement depending on the location of the perpetrator.

By location the author is referring to the urban or rural context. In the rural context although the possession in a vehicle of a pick ax handle, hatchet, lump hammer or other "work tool" may be more easily explained than the presence of same in a built up urban area - the context, placement and potential threat of the presence of these implements must also always be considered.

Investigators can access your bank data says SOCA chief

July 16, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) head Trevor Pearce recently claimed to MPs that private investigators could possibly lawfully obtain details of peoples’ bank accounts. The Information Commissioners offices are surprised that such a senior law enforcement official could make such claims which are clearly not correct. The acting Director General of SOCA made the claims in a briefing document and said that there were “limited circumstances” where a private investigator could apply to “data controllers” such as banks for sensitive information on members of the public. It is thought that Mr Pearce may have been referring to third-party requests to institutions such as banks under Section 29 of the Data Protection Act. In actuality no private investigator has ever been successful in accessing such data using that method without obtaining prior consent from the data subject.

A senior source at the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Government regulator that enforces laws on data protection said that a snowball stands a better chance in hell than a PI does of getting information like that out of a bank. A SOCA spokesman said: “Mr Pearce did not state, nor seek to imply, that large amounts of personal financial information is available systematically to PIs and stressed that scope for PIs to use the Data Protection Act exemptions is limited. However, law enforcement must consider that financial information which can be accessed by open-source researchers is available.”

Debt Book Asset Recovery Planning & Administration

July 05, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Regardless of location TMG Corporate Services have a market leading record of locating and recovering end of lease, out of terms, stolen, hidden or mis-appropriated assets to their owners. TMG Corporate Services / The Mediator Group offer the complete range of standard services as outlined above and also act for clients in the specialist areas of:

  • Debt book work outs, risk analysis, cost benefit analysis and valuations;
  • Debt book purchase Return on Investment assessments and due diligence;
  • Pre-liquidation & insolvency related information gathering including asset value estimates & recovery cost analysis;
  • Insolvency related asset identification and recovery analysis;
  • Toxic debt asset recovery for high ticket assets;
  • Contested repossessions / hidden asset recovery / confrontational recovery environments;
  • Recovery of stranded and/or misappropriated assets;
  • High risk operational environments and conflict zones;

TMG Corporate Services / The Mediator Group plans and executes all assignments following the operating procedures outlined below as required:

  • Surveillance & Preparation (only required for high value plant and machinery / complex assignments with an international element and where multiple items are being acquired for a single client from the same debtor);
  • Site Visits / Asset Sighting to include photographic evidence & valuations (typically as part of the legal process / repossession proceedings);
  • Recovery & Storage (standard option suitable for most clients);
  • Disposal or Repatriation of Stranded Assets (as applicable based on the terms of reference received from the client).

Asset Recovery Classes & Services to Corporates & Government

July 03, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

TMG Corporate Services / The Mediator Group trace, sight, recover, store and dispose of:

  • High value motor vehicles / prestige vehicles (cars);
  • High value / high performance motorbikes and specialist racing grade motorbikes;
  • Pleasure craft & trailers; caravans, motorhomes and family vehicles.
  • High value plant & machinery of all makes and dimensions;
  • Industrial equipment, installed equipment, equipment on location and operating in factory / industrial environments;
  • Aircraft, helicopters and aviation ground services equipment;
  • Farm machinery and equine equipment;
  • Recovery of military / government equipment in high risk / conflict / marginal zones;

TMG Corporate Services / The Mediator Group offer clients a range of support services to facilitate asset location and recovery;

  • Specialist lifting and power assisted cutting equipment;
  • Engineers, Mechanics, Fitters, Locksmiths, Welders, Drivers, Close Protection Security and Support Staff including planning, administration and public relations;
  • Oversized / outsized asset transportation including permit applications and liaison with local government in all EU jurisdictions;
  • Guarded convoys and escorts;
  • Sea freight charter service;
  • Real time always on communications and reporting from the field.

Tracing debtors internationally is highly specialised

June 08, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Tracing absconders across the globe is a highly specialised skill that requires high levels of expertise and a sophisticated network of digital and physical assets. These assets are required in order to also manage the cost to the client of tracing debtors who have left the country where a debt was generated. Without a sophisticated approach to debtor tracing most tracing agents will either fail to trace the subject for the client due to prohibitive cost issues or will quote the client an unrealistic fee in relation to the debt being pursued.

Specialist techniques involving publicly accessible information, social networks, data mining, pattern analysis and heuristics allow the desktop research element of global debtor tracing to acquire qualified leads to focus the effort of field agents and thus manage cost. This is only the first part of the process however. In order to drive a case to a successful and cost effective conclusion then field work is required and often demanded by most courts in most jurisdictions. Less than 10% of global debtor trace cases are resolved through desktop research or via telephone contact.

Avoiding Identity Theft - Vigilance is Key

June 06, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Identity theft can occur in many different ways but always results in someone else assuming your identity for the purposes of performing a fraud or to commit a criminal act while deflecting attention from their true identity. Criminals and criminal organisations can acquire information to assume your identity from a variety of sources. In the simplest form the relatively simply act of of stealing your wallet can be the starting point. Individuals may also search through your trash to acquire leads or gain a foot hold that will allow the act of identity theft to be initiated. Other organisations will make a concerted effort to compromise your credit or bank information by phishing scams or spam emails. They may also approach you in person, on the telephone or in many forms on the Internet and simply ask you for your  information. There are so many sources of information about people in the modern world and the locations of this data are so numerous that it is virtually impossible to prevent the theft of your identity in many cases. However you can minimize the risk and mitigate the losses that result by following a few simple rules.

Never throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements in a usable form - always burn, shred or put beyond use all sources of this type of information. Never give credit card number over the telephone unless you make the call and unless you are making the call to a known and trusted source. When reconciling bank statements then do so monthly and always notify your bank of any discrepancies identified immediately. Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards and any other valuable contents of your wallet and do so immediately you detect the theft.

Repossessing plant and machinery in marginal locations

June 05, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Jurisdictions vary wildly with respect to the protection afforded to creditors when they seek to enforce their rights regarding missing, mis-appropriated or overheld plant and machinery assets. Normally if the original lease or loan agreement was executed in the jurisdiction in which the repossession is sought or the asset resides then the challenges faced are less acute - but not always. The difficulties arise in particular when the asset has been moved out of the original jurisdiction of purchase. In cases where this has been done without the permission or knowledge of the asset owner the repossession firm in some cases can enlist the support of local police authorities or law enforcement but only if the original owner has reported the matter as a theft or has been granted a local court order that compels action by the local authorities.

A common misconception is that the law enforcement community are obliged to assist in cases where this is not the case. It is normally their concern to ensure that trespass by the repossession agent on private property does not occur during the attempt to repossess assets, that no damage is done to private property when trying to gain access to machinery that has been positively identified or to assess claims by debtors that methods have been used which are unfair or even threatening. The last accusation by debtors when repossession of the plant and machinery is imminent is used often times to avoid this inevitability and can result in an instruction by law enforcement that the matter is civil in nature and until the local courts make an assessment on the claims of the debtor that repossession cannot occur. These directions from local police authorities must be adhered to.

The Changing Role of Investigators

May 28, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Investigative methods when collecting evidence from social media vary substantially from traditional digital forensic techniques creating new legal and procedural challenges. Mobile devices and texting, free communication and file sharing solutions and social networks make it easier than ever for people to share information and express opinions. As the digital world evolves, so must the way investigations are conducted. Sources of evidence are growing rapidly. Collecting and authenticating evidence during a digital investigation can prove to be a difficult task. For those with a clear understanding of how to leverage advances in technology and the wealth of information available online, the evidence collected during these investigations can help create a solid case. Investigations involving social networks are a very new topic. With new applications, links, techniques, and roadblocks discovered daily, social networks are rapidly progressing. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are just a part of the landscape. There are also many new social networks like Google Plus, Quora, Instagram, Groupon, Pinterest, and Foursquare; as well as thousands of blogs and special interest forums that exist.

With this wealth of information there are also many new issues which are different from what investigators have dealt with in traditional digital forensics. Previously, digital evidence was extracted from a piece of hardware in the possession of the investigator, such as a computer hard drive or the flash memory on a smartphone. The terms and conditions for dealing with this technology were understood by investigators. If someone challenged how investigators did their work, a third party could easily corroborate the findings by reviewing the same hard drive. That is not the case with social media.