Archive for the ‘lost literary wonders’ Category

Not Keats and Not Forensics

September 2, 2012

… But still in the spirit of cocking up the classics and uncovering hidden truths 

Odious Autumn

Season of myths and callow youthfulness

Close-bosom friend of Mr Murdoch’s Sun;

Conspiring with it how to load the press

With tosh the lines that round the royals run;

To bend with glee the rumors and half truths

And fill each page with lurid pix and prose,

To swell their sales, and grab the public gaze

With nubile girls and princes without clothes

And, being ever hungry for more proofs

Cry havoc and let slip their newshound sleuths,

For Summer has o’erbrimmed their dig-dirt craze.

Misreading Palace protocol for a Family Group shot following a right royal piss up the evening before, Prince Harry opts for his Birthday Suit.


Chin chin, Mr Chandler

March 29, 2011

When it comes to classic crime writing, Raymond Chandler has to be top of the tree. Inventor of the ultimate in hard-boiled investigators, Philip Marlowe, Chandler had an urgent, waspish style of his own. Much parodied but never matched, it was a style that defined the detective novel and inspired a range of unforgettable Film Noir.

Chandler was American, but he lived in England for 12 formative years. During that time, it seems, he started both scribbling down story lines and crafting characters in the pages of a Commonplace book which has just been unearthed at auction. That master of the world-weary wize crack, Marlowe, has been found here in his original UK-based incarnation. Though how he knew about digital forensics will keep researchers guessing for years to come…

Philip Mahalo

Bogard as Marlowe

Mahalo, Borsolino & E-cigarette

I’m an over-worked, under-paid forensic analyst and have been for quite a while. I’m self reliant or a team player, depending on which version CV I send out. In private practice, so some cops don’t like me too well but I get along with the old F3 crowd OK. I’m unmarried, unless you’re talking about the job. I sometimes put people in jail, sometimes keep them out. I like booze and birds and Homefront, though Assasin’s Creed comes a close second. I don’t do marital cases. Go test CMA yourself if you feel like a hero. I’m British born, bred and bored to death. North Country. Spade = Shovel. Enough said. When I get run over by an old lady in a bath chair doing 90 in broad daylight on an empty country high street, if it happens, as it could to anyone in my business, nobody will give a tuppenny tin stuff.

The Big Creep

It was one of those units that had flourished out of a broom cupboard under the stairs for as long as anyone could remember.  Front Reception took ten minutes to locate them on the internal phone system –  some measure of the esteem in which the HTCU was held in that neck of the woods.I had just come off the M6 via the M1 and A14. I needed some B12 to straighten up from the experience.

It was a warm day. Felt like Spring. Blossom out and a myriad of complicated scents hanging in the air. Heavy enough to mute the voice of the OIC, anyhow. Antihistamine could’ve fixed it but he hadn’t figured that yet. His tight throat squeaked out a welcome as honest as a tart’s kiss. I responded, watching him look me over the whole time. He never offered a hand. Traditional stand-off. Prosecution versus Defence. It was going to be one of those mornings.

He was a funny little man. Mouse like and balding. Middle age had caught up with him but the comb-across was still running away.  Well, trying. The room they put us in was about 12’ by 12’. It was hot in there and he quickly removed his jacket. Seemed to me he was glad to do so, though he managed the news well. An empty gun holster swung loosely under one arm. Almost moved me to compassion: I guessed it was intended as an implicit threat but the void spoke more of impotence. However you read it, it was way OTT for CID transporting a suspect computer with fewer than 10 level 1 to 2’s between police premises.

There were two tables in the room. The Advent netbook was on one of them, set out neatly on an antistatic mat. It looked small and innocent. Too small to cause as much trouble as it had. I hesitated for a minute, sweat rising on the back of my neck. Could be a  Zif drive in there, after all. Hadn’t re-read the statement from the other side in my rush and was going on the memory of a regular 120 gig SATA. Maybe should have packed the adaptor. The door swung open and my Oppo walked through. ‘Hi’, he beamed.  Genuine smile, this time.‘How are you? Haven’t seen you in a while.’

The £20 I’d spent on an industry workshop which was ultimately hijacked for advertising by So Smug three years previously suddenly returned on the investment. We shook hands and got down to geek speak. The rest of the two hours it took to wrap the job was pretty much plain sailing. The relative merits of EnCase and FTK, Logicubes and Tableaus, Digestives and Hobnobs – we gabbled through the whole gamut of forensic experience, emerging happier and sadder by lunchtime. Except for the OIC, that is. His eyes wore that glazed, road kill kind of look. Had done since the second technical term flew past. But that was his problem.

The day was still beautiful as I turned my battered Brough Superior onto the road back. I let my mind loosen up as the accelerator went down. The holiday didn’t last long. The guy at the other end of the phone was a PI that’d called before. The ice in my voice said he’d  used up his share of free technical help.

“Can you do a Nokia 7210?”

“Sure,” I said, “What do you want off it?”

“Deleted texts.”

“Uh huh.  Who’s this for?”

“Husband who’s suspicious about his high-flying executive wife.”

“Told you before, I don’t do marital.”

“It’s business.  They’re in business together.”

Yeah, right.  I thought.  The pigs’ll be coming over in formation any time now.

“So the rival’s commercial or physical?”

“Maybe both.  What do you care?”

“And who owns the phone?”

“The husband.”

You sure learn fast, buddy.

“And he’ll sign for that?”

“Yes.  How much will it be?”

“Same as the last one, unless you want a Statement to go with it.”

“Someone else has quoted less.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Seventy-five quid. Put it in the post.  No questions asked.”

“Let me guess…  The guy in the Midlands.  Says he’s a forensic analyst but he’s a regular PI fronting for another outfit.”

“So what?”

“So go right ahead and use him.  I’m not interested in a bidding war.”

I closed the phone with an angry expletive. The guy in the Midlands was getting to be a regular irritation. Like the people he was fronting for. It was a real forensics shop alright but the business strategy was about as subtle as Galliano on Glass. It hadn’t improved any since they lost that big LE contract, either. They were spending plenty on online advertising, that was for sure. You could Google ‘One-legged menopausal mothers for moral rearmament’ and their logo would turn up. Can’t beat target marketing.

I knew the main man there. Had done for years. His huge, hulking frame would shamble into all the usual conferences and then hover in some corner like a great cloud of gloom. Wasn’t all that popular, except with the other ex-military types. You could see why. He never approached anyone unless he smelt a business lead. And he always wore the same face. Solid. Expressionless. Last time it smiled, that face was around four months old and about to bring back wind.

For all his physical bulk, Cain Calico left no personal impression. There was nothing to leave. He was a cipher character. Just put there to move the world plot along. Though it was hard to see how. I was still angry enough at the PI’s call to think maybe it was to throw another spanner in the works of my life. Why not? There were enough in there to fix a fleet of Boeings already.

Calico had been trying to muscle in on the PI market for some time. He wanted to join the UK’s biggest representative group but couldn’t without endorsement from two existing, long term members. So he looked through the list of names until he found one he knew. It was mine. The email he sent was as blunt as his features. Told me how I was going to endorse him. Like I’m some 404 aching to hand over hard won clients on a plate. I didn’t trust myself to answer, so ignored it, though the audacity stung. Next thing, I stumble on his alternative route. The guy in the Midlands. The connection was too easy to miss. When he started putting himself around as a forensic ‘expert’, I decided to check him out. Found him on LinkedIn, though he wasn’t shouting about being a PI. The entry told a different story,  three line wonder that it was. But the location matched. And there was one contact. Calico.

The Dickens of a tale

January 2, 2011

No one conjures up the sense and spirit of the Victorian era or, indeed, the traditional Christmas like Charles Dickens – probably the best loved author of his time and far beyond. Tremendously successful in his own lifetime, he nevertheless had to publish his famous ghost story ‘A Christmas Carol’, himself and made little money out of it, despite its immense popularity.

The finished work appeared in 1843.  It seems, though, that he was tinkering with the idea at least a year beforehand.  At that point, the focus of the tale was a small, seedy little forensic shop, somewhere in the midst of England’s dark, satanic mills.  Here the main protagonist, Ebenezer Scrotes, plied his dubious trade.

That Dickens knew anything of digital forensics has shocked literary circles.  Yet the distinctive style of the master in this previously unknown manuscript, has convinced many that it is, indeed, by that illustrious author’s own hand.

Now read on…

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Business was dead, to begin with.  There was no doubt about that. The phones lay silent.  Outside, the snow more silent still.  It twinkled, irritatingly, in the last, thin light of the sun.  At least it was irritating to Scrotes, who was seated in a large chair near to the office window.  He looked on the scene and glowered.

The Rotary Club sleigh had pulled up at the pavement opposite and now started to blast out carols from its tinny little speakers.  Someone wearing a Santa hat got out of the front of the float and stood on the street, beaming.  Scrotes could see him mouthing: ‘Merry Christmas!’ to passers by who stopped to exchange pleasantries and drop a few pence into the offered collection pot.

‘Bah,’ said Scrotes, ‘Humbug.’

Spoof Scrooge picture

Mr Ebenezer Scrotes in Seasonal humour

In the room behind, the one member of staff made to stay on duty past midday, who, until then, had been totally absorbed in a game of Angry Birds, raised his gaze.  He, too, looked outside and smiled, wistfully.  He was thinking of the excitement that would be going on at home, at that moment.  The children squealing with delighted anticipation.  He wife, run ragged, desperately trying to get them to watch ‘The Snowman’ DVD for the fourteen millionth time.

Can’t wait to be with my wonderful little family’ , he Tweeted, as quietly as he could, keeping the Android under the lip of his desk.

‘Christmas a humbug, Mr Scrotes?’ he ventured, ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure.’

‘I do,’ said Scrotes and he made a fist of his right hand and shook it without bothering to lift it from the arm rest, ‘Bloody religion.  Hate it.  Cause of all the world’s problems… and all of mine.. ‘

Oh dear, thought Smallbutt – for that was his name – here we go.  It’ll be the off-colour Pope jokes again in a minute.

‘Christmas isn’t just about religion, anyway,’ Scrotes ranted.  And, thinking the observation marvelously erudite, Tweeted it, on the instant.

‘Come, now,’ tried Smallbutt, amiably, ‘There is no need to be dismal.  We have every chance of winning that LE contract that Kraptech have just lost…’

Scrotes’ pudgy fingers were punching something out on the keyboard in front of him.  Smallbutt  glanced at the Twitter feed.

Hardly time to to s**t , here, we’re so busy.  Busy, busy, busy..

That would fool the opposition.  In any event, he’d relied upon similar updates doing so the rest of the year.

‘Humm.. Kraptech.. yes..’ Scrotes suddenly replied and his hard-bitten, bully-boy features started to warm, for if he had known what it meant, he’d have invented the term Schadenfreude and sold it on to the Germans. ‘Serves the silly b*st*rds right.’

Privately, though, Scrotes had had a grudging admiration for Kraptech’s tactics on that contract bid.  It took balls to get analysts you’d just fired to come back in for the day of the Police look-around in order to give the impression of a thriving, fully-staffed lab.

‘They almost got away with it, though,’ he said, now, out loud, ‘If that bloke hadn’t turned up for interview with the same Force and let the cat out of the bag…  ‘

He mused on the idea for a moment or two before adding, ‘Well, we’d better bloody well get a look-in.  I had enough coppers drinking my Sake at F3.  Best futsuu it was.  Not that that lot would appreciate it.  They owe me for those Faraday bags I gave them, too..’

He was interrupted by a knock at the door.  Before Smallbutt could extract his corpulent frame from behind the desk and go to answer it, the sound of young voices started to waft in:

God rest ye merry, Gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay..

‘Merry?’ bellowed Scrotes, leaping up, ‘What right have you to be Merry?  What reason?’

He threw open the door to reveal four kiddies, not one above the age of ten and all muffled up against the bitter cold, for an icy fog was descending.  They shrank together at the sight of the great mountain of a man before them, face flushed in anger, the glare from the strip lighting above bouncing wildly off his bald pate.

‘Please, Sir,’ started one, voice trembling, ‘Collecting for the homeless.’

‘Tell ‘em to go to the Sally Army,’ returned Scrotes, and slammed the door.

‘That’s a bit harsh,’ said Smallbutt.

‘I give to charity when I please,’ said Scrotes, ‘Bloody Seasonal blackmail.’

He shuffled back to his chair and settled into it, feeling rather more self righteous than before.

‘Bah,’ he said, at length, and then, ‘Humbug !’

And as the darkness closed in and the last shoppers scurried away and Smallbutt finally headed out into fresh falling snow towards a noisy, welcoming home, he thought of the carol singers, and their astonished, innocent faces.  Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he looked back towards the office door.  It was ghostly, now, half lost in the thickening fog.  He thought of those Christmases yet to come and shook his head.

‘God help us, every one!’

Spoof image of the young Dickens with computer

Mr Dickens in 1842 with his amazingly innovative steam netbook

The Forensicator’s Windows Song

September 14, 2010

Data forensics is seldom something the average examiner feels like singing about, especially after a hard day’s trawl through the cesspit of some foul offender’s C drive.  Small wonder, then, that one of the foremost forensicators of the 1930’s hid his true day job from the public gaze, preferring to promote an up-beat, cheerful persona as that cheeky, chirruping songster, George Formby.

Yes, when he wasn’t bashing a ukulele or finding a lamppost to lean on, it seems the toothy-grined Northerner was actually hip-deep in Hex.  This much is clear from the recently-unearthed first lyric for one of his most popular hits, ‘The Window Cleaner’.

Revealed here, for the first time, the words show that it was but a short step to the version which we know today.

[Those uncertain of the tune or unfamiliar with the genre can check out the following link: ]

The Windows Gleaner

I’m analysing Windows to earn an honest Bob,
For a nosey parker, it’s an interesting job
Oh, it’s a job that just suits me, forensicators you would be
If you could see what I can see
When I’m gleaning Windows

The office workers surfing porn or stuck on eBay dusk ‘til dawn
They’ve clearly got less brains than brawn
When they’re using Windows.

George Formby

George Formby and his HFS+ 'Snow Job' formatted banjolele

In my profession I work hard to stay right at my peak,
I’ll show the opposition that I am the smartest Geek.

I’ll pick through browser history: it’s easy as the ABC
And then I’ll probe the Registry
When I’m gleaning Windows.

Those dodgy search terms, passwords, links;
I’ll turn up everything that stinks
And put a stop to your hi-jinks
“Cos it’s all there in Windows.

Insiders with a hand in fraud; Blackmailers wishing they had scored
They don’t know every move is stored
When you’re using Windows.

Just let me at a hard disk and I’ll dish up all the dirt
I’ll carve that bloomin’ data ‘til the platters start to hurt

Some Facebook users snap a friend then put up pictures that offend
It’s come to be a modern trend
With eejits using Windows.

Some boastful of their manly traits do funny tricks with training weights
– that wasn’t thought of by Bill Gates
When he invented Windows !

Done for a laugh, whilst on a spree, or just when feeling wild and free
It’s there now for posterity
On PCs running Windows.

Just let me at a hard disk and I’ll dish up all the dirt
I’ll carve that bloomin’ data ‘til the platters start to hurt

Technology is great, for sure, the future will bring more and more
And keep the wolf from my front door
So here’s a toast to Windows!

The Owl Hunting

December 18, 2009

More exciting gems are appearing from a secret stash of lost literary works.

Oriental scholars have been astonished by the latest find – a haiku from the hand of the famous poet and painter, Yosa Buson.

An acknowledged master of the ‘one-breath poem’, which is structured in the set form of 17 syllables arranged in a 5-7-5 pattern, Buson wrote at least 20,000 in his lifetime.  Until recently, his subject matter was always thought to have revolved around scenes from nature.

Now it seems clear that he knew and practiced the ancient art of ‘Susido’ – the 18th century Japanese version of digital forensics – spending hours at his bamboo portable, reflecting on the meaning of various artefacts.

This new example of Buson’s extraordinary talent bears his customary hallmark – the description of only one peaceful scene…

The Owl Hunting

Digital secrets,

Hex, ASCII, Metadata,

Lovely by moonlight.

The artist with his bamboo portable

Hidden Hymn

December 17, 2009

There is something quintessentially British about the unique blend of gusto and gibberish which makes up a Gilbert and Sullivan operettaWhat is less well known, perhaps, is that Arthur Sullivan also wrote the music to the world-famous hymn ‘Onward Christian Solidiers’. 

It seems he also tried his hand at a lyric to the tune, which was later discarded.  Now, though, the sole surviving copy of that lyric has emerged – yet another extraordinary treasure recently found amongst a cache of forgotten manuscripts.

We are delighted to reproduce the full lyric here.

Tune:  St Gertrude by A. Sullivan

Hymn for the Unsung Heros

Onward First Responders, marching as to war,
With the ACPO Guidelines going on before.
Tableaus at the ready, armed against the foe,
Forward into battle see those White Hats* go!
(*LE singers may substitute “Blue lights” here. – AS.)


Onward First Responders, marching as to war,
With the ACPO Guidelines going on before.

Dawn of retribution! Watch the suspects stare;
They and their Redeemer know what you’ll find there!
All their nasty surfing, docs and pix and more;
See, they fear the advent of the long arm of the Law.


Image every hard drive, every USB,
Make a very detailed chain of custody,
There will be no tiny evidential fault
Bag and tag and walk the lot then slap it in the vault.


Run it up in EnCase, data carve ‘til dawn
Bookmark hot and gmails, all the dodgy porn,
Short and sweet the statement witnessing the crime
Which gets them off the premises or even doing time.


Like Olympic medalists going at full steam
Onward First Responders!  Ply that data stream!
Vanquish all the villains, work with all your might
Show the unbelievers just how ev’ry bit can byte

Arthur Sullivan plus computer

Arthur Sullivan at his other keyboard

All together now…

Onward First Responders, marching as to war,
With the ACPO Guidelines going on before.

The Book of Exifodus

December 9, 2009

Biblical scholars have hailed the most recent find amongst a cache of  lost literary works as nothing short of miraculous.  Now read on…

Exifodus, Chapter III

1. And there was, at that time, in the Land of Geek-i-on two nations.

2. And their names were the El-ee-ites and the Pri-vat-ites.

Moses with his netbook

3. Now the nations and the tribes thereof did live in that place as neighbours, yet they would not dwell together.

4. Worshipped they also at the the same temple, sharing the practices and rituals of their creed, Day-Tar-An-al-ysis.  Yet was there no love lost between them.

5. Thus went they about their business, ignoring each other for the most part.

6. But it came to pass that the Pri-vat-ites were fruitful and increased abundantly and multiplied and the land was filled with them.

7. Moreover, they grew rich off the fat of the land.

8. Then said the El-ee-ites to one another, the Pri-vat-ites getteth themselves a stack of shekels whilst we must labour hard and long to make a fraction thereof.

9. And they waxed wroth.

10. And there were those among them who rose up saying: Is not this land ours alone?  Did not the Lord give it to our forefathers forever, even unto the end of time?

11. For we are the peace-keepers in His house and the watchmen at His gate. And none may leave our courts unless we sign off countless reams of paperwork.

12. And there were others who said, this is right-wise galling.  Locketh we not away the evil-doers and the runners of red lights?  Where is our just reward?

13. But the Lord gave them no respite.

14. So it came to pass that many El-ee-ites took up their golden handshake and went out from their own lands and into the lands of the Pri-vat-ites.

15. And in the process of time, their numbers increased manyfold. For they perceived that their bretheren also grew rich in that place.

16. Thus it was that the throng increased until it became a multitude and there was an exodus of epic proportions.

17. Yea, even in every sense of that word.

18. Now many El-ee-ites found work for their hands.  Yet also did many fall by the wayside.

19. For though they set up on their own or with others of their kind, they found the game was in no wise as cushy as it first appearèd.

20. Verily, the days were many when the phone rangeth not at all.

21. For the followers of Day-Tar-An-al-ysis had become so great in number that the market-place was exceeding full.

22. Then was there a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, for a recession came also to the land of Geek-i-on.

23. And many that had jobs before now lost them, and those that were new to the field were left high and dry.

24. Then did the El-ee-ites mourn in their exile for their own lands, saying Was there not an over-abundance of stuff to be looked at every day? Even a Welsh mountain full of dodgy boxes?

25. And was there not also tea, cake, biscuits and canned drinks in abundance at all hours?

26. And they went unto their temples to call upon the Lord for guidance but there was no access day to day for any to come therein.

27. A great wilderness opened out before them and they became as strangers in a strange land.

28. Even the tribes of Re-cru-ter-ites who had once welcomed them now turned them from their doors saying Knowest thou not that For-en-sics is finishèd?  Therefore go we up into the pastures of e-discovery, for there the land runneth with milk and honey.

29. And they went on their way rejoicing.

Pish and Pen Testing

November 28, 2009

The recent find of hitherto unknown works on digital forensics from the hands of famous authors has caused a sensation in both computing and literary circles.  The lost draft of a book idea by Jane Austen, indicates that she knew more than was entirely proper for a lady of her day about the subject.  Now read on…

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a company in possession of a network must be in want of a pen test. However little is known about the company, the nature of its business, clients and employees, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of competitive geeks in neighbouring counties,  that the company is considered the rightful property of one or other of them.

“Here, Dave,” said his colleague Peter to him one day, “have you heard that Stupidly Rich Corp is going for ISO27001?”

Dave mumbled that he had not.

“But it has” returned he, “Martin in sales has just phoned and told me about it”

Dave made no answer. Half way through a baguette stuffed with bacon, egg, mushroom and beans, he was at that moment more concerned with the assured admonishment he would earn from his wife for spilling sauce upon his freshly laundered jabot.

“Do you not know what that means?” cried his colleague impatiently.

Austen plus computer

The author at her computer

Dave effected a blank expression, the better, he felt, to conceal the source of the distasteful smell which now insinuated from his side of the office.

“Why, you must know that this is a perfect opportunity!  You must devise a pretext to contact them immediately.”

“You are over-scrupulous, surely,” said Dave, at last, “A company that size will have their own IT people.”

“Indeed,” returned his colleague, “but they have not the expertise.”

Dave concealed the guffaw which rose in his throat with a well timed cough.  Slack Space Forensics’ expertise in the field was founded on a three day course in ‘Ethical’ hacking. And they’d snored their way through the post-lunch lectures.

That, Ncat, wireshark,  Metasploit Framework and other freebies, crammed on a couple of 16 Gig ruggedised thumb drives, was all that stood between them and a potentially fatal unmasking.

“My dear fellow,” his colleague continued, “We merely have to convince them we are the best.  The usual bull and one of our fabulously expensive glossy brochures should do it. For good measure, I’ll have Martin spread a rumour down the pub that they have suffered a data loss.

“If we offer them a free Health Check at the same time…  ‘  he mused. “Why, I am quite convinced we could terrify them into a full-scale op in no time.”

“What if they twig it’s all smoke and mirrors?” ventured Dave, uncomfortably.

“Nonesense!” Peter replied, “The beauty of this game, my friend, is that few understand it.  You may depend upon it, the clients have no idea whether they are getting a good job or a crap one.”

Digital forensics – an historical perspective

November 27, 2009

Digital forensics is frequently said to be a ‘new’ science.  In fact, rummaging around in other people’s bits and bytes looking for evidence of their nefarious actions is a time-honoured occupation. There are those who would scoff at this assertion.  But this week’s sensational discovery of a cache of previously unknown manuscripts from the hands of famous writers will give the doubters pause for thought.

These fragments of lost literature, found in the recess of an antique commode sent up to auction by an anonymous owner, have been hailed by experts as an important breakthrough and palpable proof that past generations knew at least as much about the theory and practice of digital forensics as we do today.

In the best, ground-breaking traditions, this blog makes its debut by bringing you exclusive excerpts from these extraordinary texts.