Forensic 4:cast awards.... VOTE FOR MY BOOK!! (pretty please)

Forensic 4:cast awards.... VOTE FOR MY BOOK!! (pretty please)

I am humbled again as my book,.Hiding Behind the Keyboard, has been nominated for the Forensic 4:cast Digital Forensic Book of the Year.  It would be my honor if you would vote for the book. 

The two competing books are also great books, but this one is mine ?

I wrote this book primarily as a follow up to my first book, Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard, by adding more topics and material.  John Bair of Tacoma Police Department, helped immensely with the mobile forensic material for which he is an amazing expert.

For both Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard and Hiding Behind the Keyboard, the intention is to put the reader into the mindset of a detective in order to close a case.  “Closing a case” means to thoroughly

  • investigate (both in the physical world and the digital world)
  • find and evaluate evidence
  • put together inferences
  • draw reasonable suspicions and conclusions
  • eliminate potential suspects
  • identify the real criminals, and
  • build such a great case that the defense chokes on the evidence

In short, the books are intended to show how an investigator can make a case and close it.  In both books, I have practically littered the pages with tips and tricks of the trade gained from personal experience and the experiences of the fantastic investigators I have been paired up with, from small state task forces to many federal task forces. Most of what I learned, I learned the hard way, fought through it, and kept improving on each investigation.  These books give the good stuff up front, the time saving tips spread throughout, and no nonsense in how to physically do the job.  If you work cases, I wrote the book for you.

If you investigate crimes (including civil matters, like corporate issues), you will find more than enough nuggets of gold to make your cases easier and more solid.  That was the intent of what I wrote, for you to close cases and put the criminal behind bars.

By the way, if you don't do real investigations, but write about them in fiction work...you'll find some pretty neat information on the way cyber (forensic) investigations work on the street.

Be sure to vote before May 31, 2017.  I would be grateful for your time to cast your vote and again, humbled even at the nominiation.  Note...you don't have to have bought the book to vote for it.   If you agree with the purpose of the book, your vote is most welcome.  You even can leave the entire voting selections empty except for the one best book category and just vote for my book. That would make me happy :) 

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The 2 Fastest and Least Expensive Ways to Learn X-Ways Forensics

***4/18/2017***

***UPDATE ON THE PROMO***

This is all you need to know: The X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's Guide online course is still available at only $119 instead of the regular tuition of $599 until April 19.

If you missed the promo for 80% with a FREE copy of the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's Guide book, you still have time to get 80% off the online course without a free copy of the book.  This is still a great deal off the 12-hour, $599 course at only $119.  There will never be a discount this steep again for this course, so get it while you can, because the time to register is running out.

 

   

XWF Practitioner's Guide Promo Countdown! Wednesday, April 19, 2017 11:59 PM 35 Days XWF Practitioner's Guide Promo Countdown!

 

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My advice to X-Ways Forensics users is to stop thinking you can figure it out by yourself, even if you have been using X-Ways Forensics for any length of time.  There are simply far too many nuances and hidden features that you are missing every time you try to figure it out or use on cases.  If you really want to get down and dirty to learn X-Ways Forensics fast and cheap, here is the ONLY way to do it.

  1. Buy the book (list price is $59.95)
  2. Take the online class (regular price is $599.00)

But, wouldn't you rather want to learn how to use X-Ways Forensics saving even more money?  If so, you want to sign up right now because right now is the biggest discount for the course while getting the most swag! Get up to 80% off the price PLUS a FREE copy of the book and if you act fast enough, be invited to even more FREE trainingFree book offer has expired.

If you register within the next 7 days (April 19), you can get the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner’s Guide online course at 50% off for only $299.  80% off for only $119.

**UPDATE  4/16/2017**

The promo is almost over for the free book...  

 

If you do not receive your 80% promo link via Twitter DM, email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I'll email it to you.

How about even more!  The first 20 registrations will be invited to a live, 2-hr online X-Ways Forensics course with me to demonstrate using X-Ways Forensics as a triage tool and for electronic discovery (this includes using the latest build of the Windows Forensic Environment – WinFE).  These first 25 registations still receive over 12 hours of the online X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's course and a FREE COPY of the book!   The first 20 just filled up the live course, but the promo for up to 80% plus a FREE book is still good.

The course has never been discounted this deep, so this is the best time to take advantage of learning to how you can exploit X-Ways Forensics to its fullest potential, learning from your computer, on your own time, at the lowest price.  

Since 2014, more than 2,000 students have registered and taken my online courses with 24/7 access.  

“It has helped shed lights on things I have missed in the past.”  -student

“I got to say I’m enjoying the videos.” – student

Don't miss the boat!  80% off 12 hours of X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's Guide training plus a FREE COPY of the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's Guide.  ONLY $119 for the regular $599 tuition with a free copy of the book!

http://bit.ly/xwfpromo80 expired

 

*For outside the USA, only a Kindle version is available as part of this promotion.  Registrations within the USA can choose between print or Kindle.

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FREEZE! Busted by the Fridge. The ways that tech influences writing fiction, making movies, and busting criminals.

One interesting investigation I had was that of a murder-for-hire in one city that the suspect used a Google search to find the victim’s home address in another city.  Simple enough crime to plan.  Google the name, find the address, do the hit.  Except in this particular case, although the suspect Googled the correct name, there were two people with the same name in the same city and he picked the wrong one.  I called this case my “Sarah Connor” case.

Fortunately, we intercepted the hit before it happened and prevented a random murder on the wrong person (as well as preventing the murder of the ‘right’ person).  In a basic sense, the suspect used the technology of one of the most advanced computer systems in the world (Google….) to attempt a murder only to choose the wrong name in a Google search hit.  This type of criminal incompetence and carelessness is commonplace.  It is also the way that most get caught. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Hollywood’s version of high tech crime fighting.  Minority Report with Tom Cruise showed us that not only can crimes be solved with technology, but that crimes can also be prevented with technology.  As for the technology used in the movie, it could have only been more accurate had a predictive analysis computer system been used in place of the fortune-telling humans (“Precogs”) in a big bathtub.

In a turn-key surveillance system, no person is anonymous.  Whether it is a private business or government agency, no one is immune from potentially being watched, tracked, or reported.  Private businesses use facial recognition for both improving customer service by detecting your mood through facial expressions as well as preventing crime.

“…faces of individuals caught on camera are converted into a biometric template and cross-referenced with a database for a possible match with past shoplifters or known criminals.” https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/mar/03/revealed-facial-recognition-software-infiltrating-cities-saks-toronto  

Criminals who try to avoid using technology are severely limited on the type of crimes they can commit.  That’s a good thing.  A drug dealer without a cell phone is like a taxi cab driver without a taxi.  It is part of the business and can be tracked, traced, monitored, intercepted, and forensically examined.  Technology is a natural and required part of any criminal’s operations.  Criminals not using technology are ineffective as criminals, for the most part.

Criminals who try to avoid surveillance technology in public, such as license plate readers and facial recognition are also extremely limited in the crimes they can commit since they would have to remain in their homes to commit crimes outside of public surveillance methods.  Even then, committing a crime in a home is not without the risk of being monitored, either by a government agency, a private corporation, or an electronic device plugged into an outlet.  If you own a Vizio television, consider yourself tracked, hacked, and sold to the highest bidder. http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/7/14527360/vizio-smart-tv-tracking-settlement-disable-settings

From Amazon’s Echo to an Internet-connected fridge, data is collected as it happens, and stored either locally on the device or on a remote server (or both).  Depending on how ‘smart’ a home is, every drop of water usage can be tracked, every door opening logged, and every person entering and leaving the home gets recorded.  This does not even include cell phone use that is tracked within the home by providers.  And the computer use!  The things we do on the computer leave traces not only on the hard drive, but also on the servers we touch with every www typed.  Criminals in their home are no more protected from being discovered than on the street.  This is a good thing.

As to the significance of some of these high tech smart home devices, consider that water usage can give inferences as to what was done in a home, such as cleaning up a crime scene…

 

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/12/police-ask-alexa-did-you-witness-a-murder/ 

During all the years of being a detective, I did trash runs.  Lots and lots of trash runs.  I hated the trash runs until I found good evidence.  Garbage smells really bad, especially during the summer.  Digging through garbage bags in a dumpster in the middle of a hot day can make the toughest person gag or puke.  But you can get some really good information on the criminals you seek. Did I mention it can smell really bad?

That is one of the reasons I really enjoyed moving into digital forensics.  Digging through the garbage of data on a hard drive is a lot easier on the nose than digging through a dumpster.  Plus, the information you get is sometimes a lot better than what you can find in a garbage can.  There are exceptions…you won’t find the murder weapon in a folder on the C:/ drive of a hard drive unless the murder weapon was a computer program. 

You would think that with the amount of technology available and already in place that police would be able to uncover more crimes, find more criminals, and be more effective.  When a smart home can email the home owner a photo of someone ringing the doorbell, newer cars come with pre-installed GPS tracking systems, and a fridge can record a live stream of residents in the kitchen, the ease of finding evidence should be easier…right?

Not quite.

That brings us to the biggest hurdle to crime fighting: incompetency and laziness.  Government agencies are not immune to the same human fallacies found elsewhere. There are hard workers in government just as there are hard workers in the private sector.  Same holds true for laziness and incompetence, which criminals take advantage.

In any case where electronic devices are not being seized for examination, evidence is intentionally being left behind.  I am not referring to the electronic devices that are difficult to find, like a camouflaged USB device hidden within a teddy bear. I’m talking about the cell phone sitting on the car seat of the suspect arrested for burglary.  Yes. I’ve seen it happen.  Part of the reason is that unless lead is flying, most criminal cases and dispatched calls are boring to the responding officer.  As an example, with a residential burglary, the suspect is usually gone and the victim is lucky if the officer even tries to recover prints from the scene.  Stolen car?  Oh well. Fill out the report and call your insurance company.

I have been out of police work for about 10 years and I had hoped this lack of urgency in police work has changed.  But apparently not.  I recently helped someone with their stolen purse from a gym.  I got the call first instead of 911, but that’s another story.  Anyway, I showed up to give some guidance and eventually the district officers arrived.  Even after being told that video cameras faced the parking lot, and that the suspect/s went inside another victim’s car, the officers said, “The cameras probably didn’t get it”. The manager of the gym even offered up the video and said the cameras face the victim’s car... but the officers they left without even asking to see the video.  After telling the officers that the suspect/s just used the stolen credit cards in a store less than 5 miles away and that the store surely must have cameras, one of the officers said, “We can’t get much from a store’s security cameras.  You just need to call your bank to cancel your cards.” End result: File a report.  Call the banks. Get a replacement driver’s license.  Yes.  This still happens.  And criminals thrive on it.

The irony with a lack of seizing electronic evidence is that for most of the forensic examiners in law enforcement, they love to dig and dig and dig and dig through data to find the smoking gun.  It is the lifeblood of what they do.  If only the devices were seized and given to them.  Case in point:  I was called to exam a laptop of a missing teenager, six months after she was reported missing.   The detective simply did not put any reliance on a laptop, in which the teenager was religiously using for social media, as a source of important evidence.  The teen’s body was later found buried less than 5 miles from the police department where this detective drank coffee at his desk, with the laptop sitting downstairs in evidence for months.  I would have loved to examine that laptop ON THE SAME DAY the teen was reported missing.  It was virtually useless by the time I got it.

Seeing that tech should make it easier for police work, it should make it easier for writers of fiction.  It doesn’t.  I read (and write) a lot.  Technology can ruin good fiction.  No longer can a fictional criminal live his or her life under the radar.   Even the good guys can’t avoid ‘the radar’.   The Jack Reacher series should have been set in the 80s, because there is no way that Jack Reacher can roam the country without ever ringing some bells in surveillance tracking technology and live only with the technology of a single ATM card.  I was lucky that my undercover work was before the Internet really took off.  Backstopping an ID today requires way more than it did when I was undercover.

Writing fiction set in today requires knowing technology, because any scene that should have technology but doesn’t simply makes that scene unbelievable.  Same with Hollywood. Seriously.  It gets harder and harder to watch a movie that intends to be realistic without realistically using technology.   Show me a movie where no one is texting anywhere in a scene and I’ll show you a movie where technology is selectively ignored for the sake of simplicity at the cost of plausibility.

I can hear it now.  Police work is hard.  It’s not easy to get search warrants.  Not every department has a forensic unit.  We are too busy to solve crimes.  We are short-staffed. We don’t get enough training.  Blah blah blah.  I’ve heard it before and proved it can be done time and time again.  I have always believed that 10% of law enforcement do 90% of the work while 90% of law enforcement try to pawn off the remaining 10% of the work (while fighting over taking credit for it).  If just another 10% of law enforcement suddenly got a sense of urgency to require high tech investigations be a part of every crime scene, we’d reduce crime stats in half and solve twice as many crimes.

Now if only I can find a book or movie that doesn’t pretend technology doesn’t exist..

 

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Reminder for the last discount for the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner’s Guide Online and On demand course.

If you were thinking of doing it, this is the best time since the $599 online course will only be at a discount of 60% for less than two weeks (until Dec 31, 2016) for only $235.  PLUS, registering before December 31, 2016 gets you a print copy of the book, the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner’s Guide shipped to you. Unfortunately, the book is only included for US/Canada registrants since shipping a book outside the USA or Canada costs more than the book.  Shipping to some countries costs more than the entire X-Ways online course costs.  I’m happy to ship a copy, but the shipping fees must be added.  Best bet is to order a book online that delivers locally without extreme duty fees.

Register with the 60% discount using this URL: 

Just a few notes on the online XWF course based on emails I have received:

Time limit:  You have a year to view the course as often as you want.

Software: Not included.  You don’t need it for the course, but I think you’ll want to have a license.  If you want to know how XWF compares to other tools, you can get 12 hours of instruction showing how it works and much of what it can do.  Once you start using XWF, you’ll begin to see that it can do a lot more than what the manual or any course can teach. 

About forensics: The online course doesn’t teach forensics, except to demonstrate features of XWF.  Don't expect to learn 'what is the registry' in this course.  It's all about X-Ways Forensics, to get you up and running right away.

Competence: If you go through this course (and you have a foundation of digital forensics knowledge), you’ll have enough knowledge to use XWF on a real case.

Students: If your school uses XWF, you’ll be much better off learning XWF online away from class to get the full benefit of using XWF.   School programs can only teach so much with software in courses where they must teach everything.

The book:  Through Dec 31, 2016 the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner’s Guide book (print copy) is included with your tuition (USA/Canada shipping only).   There is no other book on X-Ways Forensics available.  The next edition may not be for another year or two.  Get your copy as part of the course.  The cost savings of a book + 12 hours of X-Ways Forensics training at $235 is the best deal you can find anywhere.

Course updates: The course may be updated throughout the year when XWF has enough smaller updates to add up to a new course or updated lessons.  You get that as part of your registration.  Revisit the course throughout the year, anytime you want, from anywhere online.

XWF as a primary or other forensic tool:  If you currently use or plan to use XWF in your work, get some training.  Either this course or a course from X-Ways AG, or somewhere.  XWF is not a tool for self-learning when you need it for casework tomorrow.  Especially for a primary tool, get some training.  This course gives you the information to use it either as your primary tool or secondary tool.

If you have any questions, hit me up J

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Brett's opinion on writing a DFIR book

Brett's opinion on writing a DFIR book

Let me disclaim a bit.  I don’t know everything about writing or publishing.  All I know is what I have done.  With that, I have been asked about writing books (computer/digital forensics topics) over the past few years.  Let me give my experience to anyone considering writing a forensic book.

To start, I have written three books so far, meaning that I am writing more.  Two of the three published books have had co-authors.

I’ll go through some of the questions I have been asked already.  First off, I have been flattered and humbled each time someone asks for my opinion on writing books, and each time I have answered questions about the process, I have realized that I could have done things differently or better.  Not everyone asked the exact same questions, but they are very similar.

What made you decide to publish a book?

I considered any person who wrote a book to be an ultimate expert in their field and did not feel I was at any level of credibility to write.  But, I asked someone I respected in the field who had written several books already and he said, “DO IT!”.    I’ll leave out the name of who convinced me to go for it, but suffice to say that I took his advice seriously. 

Unfortunately, all I asked was, “Should I write a book?” and didn’t ask anything about the process.  That was Mistake #1.

How did you come up with a topic to write about?

This was easy.  I thought of a book topic that I wanted to read about; a book that I would buy right then if it were on Amazon.  Of course, if the topic was already written and in print, I would not have written a book on the same thing as I just would have bought it. 

I thought about the topic of my first book (Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard) when I was a narcotics detective, years before I got into digital forensics.  The reason came about due to drug cases where I had a ton of cases where providing drug possession was difficult due to each incident (multiple persons in a car and a bag of cocaine under one seat, third party owner of a car, etc…).  Getting into forensics later in my police career, I came across the same issues in proving who was behind the keyboard in child exploitation cases and so forth.  So, that topic was in the making for about a decade.

My second book (X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's Guide) was written out of personal necessity. I wanted a book on how to use the forensic tool I use everyday.  I have never appreciated the X-Ways Forensics manual.  I find it hard to read, difficult to find the information I need, and would prefer something tell me exactly how to use X-Ways Forensics.  I had written a few things about X-Ways and posted online but figured a book on X-Ways Forensics would be best.  The manual does what it is intended to do: give information 'about' X-Ways Forensics, but not tell 'how' to use X-Ways Forensics.

My latest book, Hiding Behind the Keyboard, was written mainly as a follow up to my first book in order to add some updated information including some related mobile forensics information.  Both Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard and Hiding Behind the Keyboard complement each other and I wrote both to be long lasting with concepts that can be used with evolving technology.

Which publisher should I go with?

For me, I choose Syngress.  I have a lot of Syngress books and always check for latest releases from Syngress. There are a few other publishers that print digital forensics topics, but I just like the Syngress titles and formats.  I did not consider other publishers but should have (Mistake #2) as it makes better sense to know what other publishers offer instead of just one.

I suggest go with whichever publisher publishes books that you like and would like to write in the same manner.  What I mean by this is, some publishers have strict guidelines on how you write and what your write.  If you go with a publisher that wants your book to be a college textbook, be prepared to forego a lot of your creativity.  You may have to write at a 10th grade reading level, segregate the book into sections that can fit into a college course year or semester, plus other requirements that will make your book into a textbook.

For me, Syngress is different.  I have found that the author has so much leeway in writing that the book can be written to fit practitioners’ needs.  I enjoy forensic books that get right to the point with the author giving ‘war stories’ of how the techniques worked in real life.  I also like that Syngress books seem to speak directly to you, examiner to examiner, and not as if you are a student following a syllabus.

So, the answer is go with what fits you, and if they won’t take you, go with someone else.

Did you think about self-publishing?

I get this one a lot.  I did think about it and still do.  In fact, I will be self-publishing a book just to see how well it works.  Since I haven’t done it yet, I can’t recommend it.  What I can say about self-publishing is that you own the work.  That is a major point.  With a publisher, you don’t own the work; the publisher owns it.  That means if you want to write a 2nd edition, you can’t unless the publisher approves it.  That might be a major issue if you are writing about your own software or something you ‘own’ or ‘discovered’ on your own.

Publishing through a reputable company gives you many benefits that can outweigh ‘owning your work’.  For example, Syngress has distribution channels set up already.  Their name is heavy.  They handle everything.  Cover design, editing, payments, sales, reprints, marketing, and author support is all covered with a publisher.  That does not mean there isn’t a cost.  The author gets a piece of the pie after everyone else is paid.  That is the price to pay and if you are working cases full time, then it most likely will be a price well paid.  If you want the least amount of hassles, find a publisher.  There are always speed bumps in a book publishing process, but when you are self-publishing, those speed bumps can turn into brick walls if you don't know what you are doing.

Should I write the book first and then find a publisher?

Oh my, don’t do that.  You can if you want.  Several people that asked me had already written most of their book or finished it.  In my opinion, I think it best to have the outline and propose the outline to a publisher.  Most publishers have a form that you can fill in the blanks and submit for a book.  If they like it, you are good to go.  If not, you can try again with a different outline to fit what they believe would be a good book.  Take a look at Syngress as an example of writing and submitting a book proposal.

One thing to think about if you are planning to write first is that you might be too late.  As one example, I had considered writing about a topic, thought about it for a few weeks, put together an outline, thought about it for a few more weeks, and by the time I decided to propose the topic, I found that someone had just said they were going to write the exact same book. I took too long (Mistake #3).  I tossed my outline and learned that it is better to propose a topic as soon as you think about because if you don’t, someone else will.  If you write a book before even letting the world know about it, you risk someone else getting a contract to write the same book when they didn’t do anything other than submit a proposal.   In theory, since your book is complete, you could publish well before the other book comes out, but that is not something I would want to do.

Why did you have a co-author on some books and not another?

Well…on the first book, I had asked a few people to co-author the book with me and was turned down.  Being my first book, those rejections hit kinda hard.  I didn’t ask anyone else for fear of more rejections, so I wrote the book myself and in the end, glad that I did.  I recommend that if you are going to write several books, write at least one by yourself.  It is well worth the experience.

On the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner’s Guide, I took the chance to ask someone to be a co-author because I did not feel that I could cover the software well enough.  I had been using X-Ways Forensics since its first version (over 10 years!) but still felt I may miss something.  On a whim, I asked Eric Zimmerman and he accepted to co-write the book.  Mind you, I never met Eric, and I asked him with an email that we communicating on a separate topic.  Basically, out of the blue, I asked and he accepted.  Much easier than my first book….and of anyone in forensics to help write a book on X-Ways Forensics, Eric is the man.  I lucked out on that one.  As a side note, X-Ways Forensics has gotten a LOT MORE traction as a forensic tool due to the book, which was what I wanted.  The more people that use X-Ways Forensics, the more R&D that goes into it, and the better tool I get in the end J

For the third book, when I talked about writing it, I had several people ask to be a co-author, including some of who turned me down on my first book.  But, I had my mind set on a mobile forensics expert, who happened to be local to me.  John Bair was my first pick and I had to drive down to his office and practically con/vince him to do it, for which I am grateful he accepted.  John is one of those cops who are busy because they work and barely have time for writing a book.  I sincerely appreciated him taking time to help with the book and hopefully set him on a path of writing books in the future.

So, write one by yourself and write others with a co-author.  It just depends if you have enough expertise in a topic to write an entire book yourself, or if you need help to meet deadlines. As far as how to ask someone…just ask.  Send an email.  Call.  Mail a letter. Anything.  Just ask.  Don’t be surprised at what you get when you ask.  Those who turned me down with my first book…I know them personally, some for almost 20 years, but they turned me down.  With Eric and John, I never met either but both agreed.  You just can’t tell who will say yes and who will say no.  I recommend ONLY asking someone you really want to be a co-author.  If you asked someone the B-team because you think someone the A-team will say no, you will get what you get for a co-author. I say, go straight to the A-team.  The worst that can happen is that they say no.

How long does the process take?

I gauge the time from the date of the signed contract to the date of printing.  Anything before that day doesn’t really count.  Thinking about writing and talking about it doesn’t do much until you sign your name to get it down.

Remember that I am only talking about Syngress and my experiences, but generally expect that your book won’t be on a shelf (or Amazon) for about a year.   Most likely, you will be sending in a chapter a month until done.  Then it takes a month or so to edit it (by the publisher to fix grammar and spelling), and then maybe two or three months to print it. 

If you write faster, the book gets printed faster. If you write on time, the book is going to take time to finish.  With a co-author, you can cut the time in half.  Seriously.  You can cut the time in half.  There were several times that I thought Eric Zimmerman didn’t need sleep.  Eric is a machine.  He writes at the speed of light and I think his first drafts were practically final drafts.  John was on spot too.  When you have authors like that, your book is going to be available fast/er.

But no matter what you do, when you publish through a company, there is extra time needed than if you did it yourself.  I am certain that if Eric and I self-published, the book would have hit the stores within 5 months.  If you realize that putting a PDF on the Internet does not compare to publishing a book, you will have patience for the process.

Would you do it again?

Yep.  Doing it again already.

Do you have any suggestions on getting started?

Yep.  Go to a publisher’s website, download the book proposal form, and fill it out right now.  Then share it with trusted peers to get their opinion.  Find a co-author if you need. Then submit your proposal.  Start now because I promise you, someone is thinking about that very same topic right now.

Who pays everyone?

If you self-publish, you do.  You pay everyone.  You pay the co-author, editor, cover designer, printer, etc…

If you go through a publisher, you will have no out-of-pocket expenses, other than what you spend for your book materials (may need to buy and test software, etc…).  Everything else is taken care of by the publisher.  Part of being paid a small piece of the pie is that the finances are not your responsibility. 

How much money can I expect to make?

This is a difficult question, because Harry Potter made JK Rawlings into a billionaire and there are more books that anyone can guess that didn’t make enough to buy a cup of coffee.  The answer, like anything in forensics, is that it depends.  If you write a popular book, it will sell.  For example, the X-Ways Forensics Practitioner’s Guide sold out before the first printing was even started. It went into a second print before the book was even available.  It just all depends.  I will say that if you intend to retire off a digital forensics book, you better write something like “Harry Potter and the Cyber Criminal.”

To get a little closer to an answer, I would say that if you really are thinking about making money with this kind of book, you can make some.  At least enough for a nice vacation every year or maybe buy a new car with one of the checks.  

Any tips on the process?

Plenty. 

Co-authors: You can cut down the process if you have a co-author in a few ways. First off, share the writing and write at the same time.  For example, if you are due one chapter a month, rather than each co-author write their chapter every other month, both can write a chapter every month.  That will cut the process time in half.

Have your co-author review your chapter, and review your co-author’s chapter before submitting them each month. That cuts the tech editor’s time down to almost nothing.  It also cuts the final editing down as well.

Tracking changes: Use a file sharing program to keep track of the chapters.  DO NOT email drafts between authors and your publisher until they are FINAL.  When you email a draft to your co-author, and then you receive a draft from your co-author, then another, then one gets crossed in an email, you will all be confused to which draft is the current draft.  Some changes may even be missed.  Use something like SpiderOak or Dropbox.   Edit the files there so that all changes are tracked.  Which brings up tracked changed. Use MS Word and turn on tracked changes.  If you have never used tracked changes before, research it and you will see that it is the only way to go to keep track of changes. 

Timeliness: Get your chapters done early.  A month may seem like a long time, but I promise you that you will have one or more days that get too close to the deadline.  Procrastination is not an author’s friend.  If you are a procrastinator, don’t self-publish because it won’t happen.

Contributors, helpers, co-authors: There are a lot of people you can call upon to help with your book, and you need some of these regardless.  A co-author is optional, but like I mentioned, can be beneficial.  If you are thinking of a co-author, go straight to the A-team.  Don’t be shy.  Be prepared for a rejection, but such is life.

A tech-editor is a necessity in this field to make sure that what you think is correct is.  You don’t want to profess a forensic method to work when you are wrong.  Have your work peer-reviewed by a tech-editor.  The good thing is that you can usually pick your tech-editor.  As with going for the A-team with a co-author, the same theory applies to your tech editor.  Look at books you read, courses you attended, experts you see listed online, and pick who you want to review your work.  Ask and cross your fingers.  Then keep asking until someone says yes.  And if no one says yes, ask your publisher to find one, which they usually can if needed.

Contributors work the same way.  If there is just a single topic in a single chapter that you need help with and want a contributor, just find one and ask.  That’s all there is to it.  Add their name to the book as a contributor, the publisher takes care of the contract and payment. 

Errors: You will do your best to not make grammatical errors.  Your tech-editor will try to catch grammar errors (even though they focus on the accuracy of information more than grammar), your co-author will try to catch your errors, and the final editor (from the publishers, who I assume have PhDs in English…) will try to find any remaining errors.  BUT, there will still be a grammar, spelling, or sentence error of some sort that happens.  I have a book on my shelf that has the author’s name MISPELLED on the back cover.  These happen.  It is expected. Just do your best to minimize them.

Opinions: Before and during the process, ask opinions from those you respect, about what you are writing and intend to write.  If you hear a lot of, ‘that’s not something I would want to read or buy”, take it to heart.  You are writing for people to read it, otherwise, stick to a diary.   This doesn’t mean to forego your ideas and creativity, but be sure to write something that people want to learn about too.

Complimentary books: You will most likely get a set number of books from your publisher as complimentary copies to do with as you wish.   I suggest that instead of sending a book to mom, a book to your brother, and some to your friends who nothing to do with forensics, send them to someone who will write a review.  Your mom is going to love your book, but most likely, she isn’t going to understand what you wrote unless she does forensics.  Sure, keep one for your shelf, but give away the others to those who would have bought it.

Here comes the strange part about the comp books.  I’ve given all of my comp books away and politely asked for public reviews (on Amazon or their blogs).  Of the 99% I sent (I kept one of each book…), less than half wrote a review anywhere. I could have given the other half to family and friends and gotten a better response. Oh well.  Apparently, this seems to be the case across the board as I’ve asked and heard the same thing from other writers.  As a kind suggestion, if you ever get a comp copy of a book, write a review on Amazon.  It will be appreciated greatly.

One more thing on the comp copies.  After the comp copies are gone (maybe there were 10 or 20), they are gone.  The author does not have a never-ending supply of ‘free’ books.  If you get a book from an author that is not a com copy, that means the author bought it, usually at full price.  With bulk orders, there is a discount, but the discount is usually not better than what can be found on Amazon.  A friend of mine (in forensics) was over to visit one day and saw one of my books on my shelf.  I asked if he wanted to look at it and he thought I said, “do you want to have a free copy of my only copy left of the book I wrote?”.  And he took it…..so when a book cost $59.95, that is the price the author pays too….for the book that s/he wrote…therefore…reviews are a nice way to say thanks for book.

Practice first: I wrote a few PDFs that were put online.   Some call these “white papers”, but in reality, when we write these, they are essays that may or may not be peer reviewed.    However, they hold weight in (1) experience in writing that publishers will look at, (2) as in informal surveys in how readers respond to your writing and ideas, and (3) testing the waters of putting yourself out there.

The scariest thing is putting yourself out in the public eye.  Most of us in this field are hyper-paranoid of everything.  Few of us jump into the water without putting our toes in first.  Those who do are not any braver than you.  They just say to themselves, “screw it, I’m doing it”.   Our paranoia comes from the risks of being doxed online because we put our names online (take a look at Brian Kreb’s experiences and you’ll see what I mean).  Others are afraid of having their written words used against them in court on a case by an opposing expert or opposing counsel.   And some are just too shy or embarrassed.

My opinion on public exposure is that when you publish something, you are reputable.  For example, if you publish a book through a noted publisher, such as Syngress or Cengage, your book has been peer reviewed to the max.  It has been professionally published, reviewed, printed, marketed, and will be used as citations around the world. If you don’t want your words used in a students graduate thesis, or as fodder in a court case as a citation, or cited in other books, then don’t write.   But if you want your name to be in the same sentence as ‘expert’ or ‘reputable’ or ‘published’, then write.   Sign your name and jump into the water.  It will be either warm or cold, but jump in.

If you are curious if any of your past works (white papers/PDFs) online have been cited by others, check out https://scholar.google.com/.   You may find that your works are already being touted by others as cited works.

For the readers out there, this is for you.

Dude, when you review books, be kind.  If you didn’t really the book, there isn’t a need to slam the author.  Simply say that you didn’t enjoy the book because of a, b, and c.  I’ve seen reviews of some books (thankfully not my own!) that were down right cruel.  Let’s be nice people.  No one writing a digital forensics book will be retiring off that book and really took a risk of jumping into the public eye.

These are just my opinions.  I would suggest checking out some older posts from Harlan Carvey’s blog (https://windowsir.blogspot.com/2014/05/book-writing-to-self-publish-or-not.html) on publishing.  He has written some good advice on publishing, and like I mentioned, everyone is going to have different experiences.

Lastly, if you have read this entire blog post, that talks about writing a book on some topic in digital forensics, that means you have thought about doing it.   And reading this post to the end means you even have a topic or two that you believe would make a good book.  That means I am speaking directly to you at this point and suggesting that you DO IT!

 

 

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The Value of a Good Book in the Forensics World of Things

My personal library of digital forensics books has grown from two books to two shelves of books.  All nonfiction.  All technical.  All specific to specific sub-topics in digital forensics.  My fiction bookshelf is full too, but my nonfiction bookshelf is most important since I have dog-eared and marked up each one as references.

I have bought and read so many digital forensics books that when I see a good forensic book on Amazon, I have to double-check my collection to make sure I don’t order the same book twice.  I’ve even published three digital forensics books and they also sit on my shelf because I even refer back to them as needed…and I wrote them!

When I first started in digital forensics, it was called “computer forensics”.  This was in the days of yanking out the plug from the back of the machine, seizing every mouse and keyboard, and imaging every piece of media for full exams that took weeks for each one. Training was hard to come by unless you could afford to travel for weeks on end across country. 

Luckily, I was lucky. My employer (a police department) sent me everywhere.  West coast, east coast, and the mid west.  I had in my collection about three forensics books because there weren’t any others I could find.  These few books were so generic that as a reference in doing the actual job, they were mostly books giving a 10-mile high overview of what to do.

My very first forensic case was a child pornography and child rape case that involved “one” computer in a single-family residence.  I was told it was “one” computer, but when the search warrant was served, I found a home network consisting of a server with 25 computers connected to it…plus more than 50 hard drives laying around EVERYWHERE in the house and probably no less than 500 CDs.  Wires were everywhere, tacked to the ceiling, in the attic, and under the carpet.  Some computers were running, others off.  The case detective simply said, “Get to work.”  And I had three books as a reference and training to rely on.  I was also the only forensics examiner in the department…that was a long day and the three books were of no help.

After surviving that case, I have seen more books on sub-topics of sub-topics in the field of forensics get published month-after-month.   With each book, I keep saying, “I sure wish I had this book a few years ago.”  Three of the books I wrote were books that I was waiting for someone to write, but got impatient and did it myself (with help from two other co-authors).  The books published today in the field of digital forensic and incident response are simply invaluable.  Anyone starting out today in the field has a wealth of information to draw upon, which is a good thing.

On top of the nonfiction books I have already published (including ghost writing book projects), I have a few fiction books wrapped up and ready to go.  Soon….hopefully soon…they will be published and put on my fiction bookshelf, and when they do, it will be something I’ll be talking quite a bit about.  The value of a good fiction book is just as important as the nonfiction.  Fiction may not be able to help you with your job like a good nonfiction book can, but it certainly can give you some good reading with a good story.

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Dude, just write the book.

Dude, just write the book.

I had a discussion with a peer of mine about writing a book, in that my peer has been thinking of writing a book but never gets around to doing it.  After about two years of listening to how he should write his book, my response was “Dude, stop talking about it and write the darn book.”

His book idea is a nonfiction technical book and is about **secret topic** (of course I’m not leaking the topic or title!).  He is an expert, or at least knows a heckuv a lot more about the topic than I do.  I would buy the book tomorrow.  I even said that if he had written this book when he first told me about it, we’d be talking about the next edition and I would have already bought the first edition.  "Dude, you’re two years and two editions behind now!”

Which brings me to my point. Years ago, I said the same thing.  “Hey, I think I could write a book.” I said it a few people and one of the guys told me, “Dude, just write the darn book.” And so I did.  Three times already. Started a fourth. Plans for a fifth.  All from one person telling me to stop talking about it and write the book.  I took the suggestion to heart because he had already published several books himself. Thanks HC.

Fair warning: It’s not easy.

If you can get a contract, you’ll have deadlines to meet, standards to keep up, and demands placed on you by the publisher. Worse yet, if you don’t have a contract and want to self-publish, you have to place those same demands on yourself.

So now you know the secret. Just write the darn thing.

      

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Books written by practitioners are many times better than those written by those who 'never done it'

Books written by practitioners are many times better than those written by those who 'never done it'

Many of Syngress published books I’ve read are those written by people simply writing about how they do their job…while they are doing their job.   They are probably not writing while they are physically doing their work, but you know what I mean.

With my first book, Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard, I was consulting on a criminal cyber harassment case, two arson cases, and several civil litigation projects. In three of the cases during writing the book, the main goal was identifying users behind the keyboard (in one case, behind a mobile device).  In addition to doing what I knew from my law enforcement detective days, I conferred with experts for tips and tricks on tracking Internet users.  I was writing the book while doing the work.

My current book, Hiding the Behind the Keyboard, was virtually the same, however, this time with a co-author (John Bair). While writing the book, there were multiple interruptions of having to do work in the real-world outside of typing and testing theories. While John was working homicides and examining mobile devices in those cases, I was consulting on employee matters where unidentified employees were creating havoc with their company by being anonymous online. It is one thing to create a perfect scenario to test a theory and quite another to have actual evidence on an active case.  Again, this was another book of authors writing what they do on a daily basis.

I write about this only because I remind myself regularly of college courses I have taken in digital forensics where the required books not only cost an arm and a leg, but were written by academia, not active practitioners.  I’ve even taken a computer forensics course from a community college where the professor had not done one forensic exam…not a single one.  The professor did not even know how to connect a hardware write-blocker to a hard drive. I kid you not.  

I’m not a Syngress employee, but I do like their books. The cost may seem high for some of the books, but it is still about half the price of a college text in the same subject matter.  But the biggest difference is how the books read. I so much prefer reading a book that simply says, “This is how you do it in the real world”. I do not prefer books that speak in terms of an idealized theory.  Reminds me of my Field Training Officers in patrol telling me to forget what I learned at the academy because they were going to teach me what works on the street, in real life.  The best thing I like about the Syngress books is that I can read what the experts are using day-to-day in their own words.

And year after year, I check to see the new titles that come out and hope that Syngress changes their book covers from the previous year.  This year, there are more than a few titles that I have already pre-ordered and will have on hand for the next conference to have signed by the authors.  The cover design change was probably a bit overdue, but glad it has changed.

The discounts are nice too when you have more than a few books you want to buy...

 

 

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Massive Government Surveillance - Not a new thing

I'm close to wrapping up my latest book, Hiding Behind the Keyboard. One of the more interesting things I found while researching the electronic surveillance chapter is a historical note of massive electronic surveillance...way back in the early  1890s

Considering that government surveillance is one of the hottest topics today, no doubt brought into the spotlight by Edward Snowden, I found this one historical bit of surveillance in New York to be a reminder that electronic surveillance has been around much longer than what the average person may know.

Before getting into the New York Police massive surveillance story, you should know that wiretapping has been around as long as communicating electronically has existed.  For example, as soon as the telegraph was used, the telegraph communications were intercepted. During the Civil War, a "wire tapper" was an actual job in the war to intercept telegraphs!  But that's not what I mean in regards to mass goverment surveillance. The New York Police Department's history with wiretaps is what I found to be really interesting, even more interesting than the NSA surveillance disclosures

In short, back in the late 1800s, New York made wiretapping a felony but the NYPD believed they were above this law. They tapped people at whim and without warrants, including tapping Catholic priests.

In fact, NYPD quickly discovered that they could tap into any phone line of the New York Telephone Company, at anytime  to listen to any person on the line. They even tapped into hotels to listen to hotel any guest.

Obviously, this free-wheeling phone tapping ended after the Supreme Court decided that the Fourth Ammendent protected "intangles" such as communications when it was previously believed that only "tangibles" were protected against unreasonable search and seizure. However, the NYPD experience shows that when  given unfettered access to monitoring and surveillance, government can go too far with good or bad intentions.

The solution to prevent going too far is simple. Get a warrant. Smart government employees know that a warrant protects the people and the employee's career. For anyone to say warrants are difficult, impossible, or too burdonsome simply has not written an affidavit for a warrant or just doesn't have the probable cause in the first place (or may be lazy....).  Warrants are easy to write if you have probable cause.  In fact, some warrants don't even need to be written for approval as a recorded phone call to a judge can get you a telephonic warrant approved in less than half an hour or faster.

For those against any government surveillance, such as wiretaps or pen registers, as long as there is a warrant, there really isn't any problem.  The Constitution and state or federal  laws that approve wiretaps require that the searches not be unreasonable or unnecessary (meaning, there must be cause).  Technically, it is almost as easy as flipping a switch, but practically, it takes takes an investigation to develop probable cause that a crime exists in the first place.  No crime = no probable cause = no warrant.

As a disclaimer to my personal experiences, I have initiated and supported dozens of wiretaps, pen registers, trap and traces, hidden cameras, GPS installations, body wires, and bugs during my time in criminal investigations. I've had probable cause every single time, so much so, that PC dripped out of my investigation binders. And with that, I'm not a fan of unfettered, massive government surveillance without cause...

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Last day of discounted X-Ways Forensics online course

I'm sure there are a few more people left to register for the X-Ways Forensics online course (XWF I) with the discount code of "xwf1". That's 25% off, plus includes free tuition to the X-Ways Forensics II online course. XWF I is introductory, XWF II is more indepth, quite a bit longer, and will be released in August. XWF III, a shorter course will be released sometime after August.

Everyone registering by midnight tonight (Pacific time) for XWF I, gets access to XWF II and XWF III when published without cost. Otherwise, it's a separate tuition payment for each course.  From July 18, the XWF I is back to $195, XWF II will be $299, and XWF III will be $75.   Each class is lifetime access, on demand training, including updates to the courses when XWF is substantially updated (should be a course update once a year).

Details on XWF II are here: http://xwaysforensics.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/x-ways-forensics-practitioners-guide-online-ii/

Register for X-Ways Forensics Practitioner's Guide online course here:  http://courses.dfironlinetraining.com/x-ways-forensics-practitioners-guide

xwfii
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