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MVR Driving Record

In today’s difficult environment, it is important for a company to make a firm commitment to risk management. Employee screening is one essential ingredient in an overall risk management program. By thoroughly screening a prospective hire, a company can ensure that they obtain honest, reliable employees.

A company with employee drivers should take every reasonable measure to make sure that these people are safe drivers to protect their business and reduce risks. Among these steps is the use of Motor Vehicle Records Checks to determine if an applicant has a good driving history. Employee driving records have become an important Fleet Safety Program component and can help protect a company against litigation after an accident.

The Basics

An MVR or Motor Vehicle Check shows a person’s driving history including valuable information about their driver’s license such as special endorsements, license class, current and past license statuses including cancellations, revocations and suspensions and any restrictions on their license.

Aside from that, it will also show valuable information about a person’s traffic violations including but not limited to vehicular crimes, accident reports, traffic citations, DUI convictions and driving record points. MVR checks might also show personal information such as an individual’s gender, date of birth, age, weight, height and hair and eye color.

They can also uncover unanswered or unpaid summons and insurance lapses. Usually, MVR checks only show information for a specific number of years. However, the time frame differs by the state. Additionally, employers should obtain a release from the applicant before an MVR check can be run.

The Statistics Do Not Lie

The importance of an MVR check cannot be denied. Companies should determine if their employee is a safe driver not only to protect their equipment but also their customers, clients and others that their workers may have contact with. This is because motor-vehicle crashes cost companies $60 billion annually in legal expenses, lost productivity, medical care and property damage. The average motor vehicle crash costs an employer approximately $16,500.

When an employee is involved in an on-the-job crash that results in an injury, the cost to their employer is $74,000. What is worse is that it can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved. That figure can soar to millions of dollars per incident if punitive damages are awarded. They are also liable for a negligent lawsuit. Such lawsuits also have the potential to destroy the reputation of a company.

The Benefits

It can be hard for a company to predict how an employee will handle their job in a real work setting. If their work requires driving, auto insurance can be involved as well that can significantly affect the operations of their business. Nobody is perfect at driving, but some people are definitely worse than others.

In many cases, driving history repeats itself. Running an MVR check helps a company predict any negative activity that has a higher probability of happening in the near future. At the very least, they can talk to the prospective employee about their driving history after knowing their record and resolving any issues and worries.

However, this does not just equate to peace of mind for business owners. Their insurance company worries about their employees as well. That worry usually translates to money. This is because insurance companies have access to MVR checks, and their premiums may be based on people’s driving history.

Companies may be penalized with higher premiums if their organization reflects poorly in this domain. Insurance is frequently a hazard to operational costs. Fortunately, knowing their employee’s MVR helps companies protect themselves.

Another Hidden Benefit

In addition to companies benefiting from having MVR checks done, prospective job applicants do as well. It prevents them from having unnecessary errors that blemish their identity. Even if their job does not necessarily involve driving, an employer may still want an idea of what is on their driving record.

Having errors on their record can hurt a person’s chances of getting a job. Even if there are no errors, every violation or ticket they have might not show up on record. Knowing what isn’t and what is on their record can help an person prepare for questioning by a prospective employer.

Releasing Time

MVR checks are usually returned within one to three business days from the order date. However, each U.S. state has its own regulations and rules as to how records are released and kept. This affects the turnaround time.

Other reasons for an MVR check to be delayed include name variations and missing or incorrect license numbers. Because motor vehicle licenses are issued by individual states, and each one of them maintains its own database driving records, MVR checks are done per state as there is no national driving record database. Companies should contact the individual Department of Motor Vehicles or comparable department in each state.

A Weakness

Each state has its own regulations and rules as to how Motor Vehicle Records checks are done. Additional forms may be necessary to perform them. What is worse is that some states do not permit a prospective employer to gain access to Motor Vehicle Reports. Because of this, some companies choose to order an MVR check from a reputable third-party company. These companies provide a much faster service. In addition, they perform these checks at a much lower price or sometimes for free.

A Tourist’s Guide to Privacy: Protect Your Information When Crossing Borders

Airplanes, trains and high-powered vehicles have made border-hopping easy to do for those bitten by the travel bug. Smartphones, portable laptops, external hard drives and wireless internet have made it simple to take your most personal information with you wherever you go. Unfortunately, this powerful pocket technology also makes it necessary for you to guard your information like a hawk from identity theft, unauthorized transactions and data smugglers. Find out how below:

  •  Make it easy for yourself, your travel companions, and the customs officials who deal with you by bringing as little sensitive data, personal information and paperwork as possible. Be sure to bring the essentials that you know you will need: your passport, visa if applicable, and any pertinent medical or health insurance-related documents you may need, such as proof of an immunization or prescription medication. Leave everything else at home. Your social security card, birth certificate and tax forms will all be much better off safely tucked in the top drawer of your home office bureau, rather than traveling around the world at risk of disappearing. The key to protecting your information is simple – only travel with the absolute essentials, and backup, backup, backup. Keep commonsense in mind: if you don’t have it, you won’t be able to lose it, have it stolen, or have it floating around in a foreign country without your control. App resources like Protect My ID from Experian can help you decide what to take with you and what to leave at home. Before you depart, don’t forget to make copies of all your important documents that you are traveling with, or scan images of them into your personal computer. This includes items like passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards and proof of insurance. This way, there will be a permanent backup for your most private data.
Image courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis on Flickr

Image courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis on Flickr

  • Take steps well before you embark on your journey to make sure that your physical possessions are buckled in securely for the ride ahead. Prior to travel, call your credit or debit card companies and alert them to the fact that you will be making charges from another country. Otherwise you may be subject to a freeze on your account while the credit company investigates an unusual charge, which will put you in a tough position as a tourist. Be aware of the local currency, exchange rate, and money change options in your destination country, and make sure to have some traveler’s checks on hand for emergencies. Go through these steps with your laptop before you pack it into your carry-on luggage, and you will be able to have peace of mind as you’re going through security, checking into your hotel and taking your computer out in a foreign country.
  • Keep your computer – and your hands – to yourself. Certain countries have the right to seize or quarantine a traveler’s laptop that they suspect, for any number of reasons, contains data that they want or that they don’t want in their country. Be aware of what you’re bringing in to a country, being especially sensitive to areas like the Middle East, East Asia or Eastern Europe, which are notoriously volatile and zealous when it comes to suspect information. Even the US has declared that it has a right to seize laptops, and “Analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, reenter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States,” and remain in control of the computer for an indefinite period. Do your best to prevent this from happening by getting rid of all but the files you will need on your trip, keeping a backup of your hard drive at home, and encrypting your data.
  • Use a computer program, app or software to secure your data before you travel with a laptop. These days, travelers for business or pleasure know that exposing yourself to foreign culture can also pose a risk for exposing your data to hackers, investigators or white collar criminals who are on the prowl for personal information that they can use to their advantage. The FBI recently issued a warning to travelers who may be tempted to download software updates over hotel WIFI connections. They caution that hackers have been found using recurring upgrade scams to remotely install viruses or malware onto tourist’s laptops using secure internet access at even five-star hotels. Follow Forbes tips for keeping your computer safe while you travel by installing antivirus software from industry leaders such as ESET or McAfee, and only trusting WPA2 wireless connections. Both hardware and software options are available to encrypt, code, and otherwise hide your data so well that even you might not be able to find it again.
Image courtesy of Christopher Elison on Flickr

Image courtesy of Christopher Elison on Flickr

  • Passports are no longer just innocent pieces of paper stamped with old-fashioned idyllic depictions of foreign countries in fading ink. In the last decade, the average passport has become a high-tech tool, tracking device, information recorder and scan-able data hub. The US electronic passport, for instance, contains an integrated circuit computer chip embedded with your most personal information and head shot. Thankfully, the purpose of the chip is to prevent identity theft and personal crime. But what if your data is “skimmed” or “eavesdropped” from the passport by a sly tech-savvy criminal? The Department of State has luckily taken several steps against this nasty phenomenon occurring, including encrypting your data and making it unalterable. The biometric properties of these modern passports make identity theft virtually impossible, as when crossing borders they electronically match your physical characteristics with those from the picture in your passport. Even in the worst case scenario of losing your passport, it is highly unlikely that someone else would be able to do anything sneaky with it, thanks to this new technology.
  • Be choosy when it comes to a place to rest your head…and your luggage. The difference between a five-star hotel and a two-star can make all the difference in the world when it comes to being confident that your gear will be stored safely and soundly during your trip. “It’s a fact that more serious crime occurs at budget hotels than at major, expensive hotels,” says Peter Greenberg of the LA Times. While we now know that private guest information is not stored on room key cards, we do know that according to security researcher Cody Brocious, hotel locks are not as safe as you might think. In fact, he claims they are “stupidly simple” to open with just about anything. Take advantage of the front desk lockbox as your personal safe-zone during your trip, and keep your valuables in it any time they are not actively in use. Beware of over-the-phone scams, such as the infamous swindler who calls your hotel phone late at night to ask you to reconfirm your credit card information as they had a problem at the front desk. Deal with financial or identity issues in person only, and only with qualified authorities.
Image courtesy of Rob Pongsajapan on Flickr

Image courtesy of Rob Pongsajapan on Flickr

  • Once you’re there, secure your stuff before you do anything else. Don’t reach for those minibar snacks, remote control or hot tub knob before you ensure that your valuables are in the best place for them. For most hotels, this place will be the safe. Bring your valuables to the lobby and have a hotel official lock them in a private safe where they cannot be tampered with. Any smaller or less important items that you just need to have in your room with you should stay in your locked luggage, or in a theft-proof, slash-proof bag secured to a piece of stable furniture, as Hotel Chatter suggests. Don’t scatter important devices like flash drives or folders around the room or stick them in a drawer only to forget about them. This puts you at risk for theft, damage or loss at the hands of an over-enthusiastic housekeeper.
  • Travel intelligently – don’t lose your head as fast as you lose your spare change at the local outdoor market. Keep your passport close at hand. An organized travel carrier that loops around your neck and contains a clear window to hold your passport, other form of identification, credit card, emergency cash and/or traveler’s check is invaluable. These carriers can be situated under clothing, so your most irreplaceable documents are hidden from view and accessible only by you. For ladies, there are Rack Traps, special hidden bra-compartments specifically designed for carrying cash and credit cards. Be cognizant of hidden fees, currency change charges and country-specific quirks when traveling with your credit card.
Image courtesy of M Roach on Flickr

Image courtesy of M Roach on Flickr

  • Travel smart – keep your home country in the loop of your whereabouts. American citizens can utilize the free-of-charge Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) to alert the US of their travel plans, location and rough itinerary before they leave the country. In the case of a security breach, emergency or disaster, the Department of State will assist you through the embassy or consulate wherever you are. Learn how to stay abreast of travel warning and advisories so that you and your information will not be put in jeopardy should a situation arise.
  • Secure your person before you secure your personal belongings. Remember that no matter how valuable that iPad or the contents of that priceless wallet, the value of your own human body trumps it. In the unlikely event that you are faced with a physical threat, as long as you remain unscathed the information or cash that you’re trying to protect can always be righted somehow. Consider take a self-defense course before you travel abroad so that you feel prepared with an appropriate response if something were to happen. There are many East-Asian martial arts defense classes available, as well as basic personal protection training sessions. Check out Antor.org‘s guide to self-defense for travelers for more information.
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10 Political Figures Who Could Not Pass a Modern Background Check

Background checks look at past behavior in attempts to predict what will happen in the future. They are used in all segments of modern society, during business transactions and credit evaluations. Landlords use background checks to investigate applicants for housing, and employers with sensitive job requirements use them to determine whether or not job applicants check-out. Organizations request background checks with specific feedback in mind, focusing on the elements of people’s histories that give them the information they need most. Your criminal history and basic information about where you have lived are included in profiles of your background, as well as your marital status and other details about your history. Political figures, even past Presidents, are not immune to the failings of human nature, landing them in hot water along the way. Would these former United States Presidents and high-profile politicians pass background checks?

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

  1. Andrew Johnson – Background checks rely on specific points of data to create profiles of people’s lives.  Sometimes the whole picture tells a different story than the snapshot created during a background check, but facts and figures usually don’t lie.  In the case of President Andrew Johnson, the first American President ever to be impeached, the public record might not reflect the reality of our 17thPresident’s character.

    Getting impeached from the United States Presidency ranks right up near the top on a list of things you’d rather not have pop up during your background check.  Johnson was impeached during a divided political period in American history.  The Republican revolution occurring during the time did not bode well for the moderate Johnson, who was bullied politically and impeached without much cause.  The articles of impeachment were drawn up for high crimes and misdemeanors including violation of a recently passed act of Congress with which he did not agree.  The entire proceedings have been hailed as a witch-hunt against Johnson.  In 1868 the House of Representative voted on impeachment, resulting in an acquittal for President Johnson, who was widely seen as the victim of a railroading effort by his political opposition. Learn more at History.com

  2. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  3. David Duke – This would-be political heavy-hitter is most notorious for his role with the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, his government service is limited to his elected role as a member of the Louisiana State Assembly.  His visibility outside the state results from his unsuccessful attempts to gain other political offices.  He ran for President in 1988 and in 1992, and as recently as the twenty-twelve elections was still playing an active role in presidential politics.

    Mr. Duke is unapologetic about his positions regarding voluntary segregation and each man’s right to protect his heritage.  In addition to failed presidential campaigns, Mr. Duke has attempted to gain other positions in government, including United States Senator, United States Congressman, Governor of Louisiana and State Senator.  As a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Duke is outspoken about race relations and also formed the group National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP).  He posts regularly to online forums associated with white supremacy and has spoken against Jewish control of media outlets.  He was convicted of tax fraud in 2002, and sentenced to 15 months in prison.  It was determined that he had been bilking money from followers, which he eventually spent on himself.  In part, he told followers that he was about to lose his own home to debt and needed money to stay afloat.  After raising hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of donations, it was determined he was not in the financial distress described. These Huffington Post stories contain detailed information about Duke.

  4. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

    Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

  5. William Jefferson Clinton – Until Bill Clinton occupied the office of the presidency, one-hundred thirty years had passes since the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, which stood as the only such action on the United States books.  Unfortunately for President Clinton, he holds the dubious distinction for being the next and only other President to be impeached.

    The exploits of the former President are clearly ingrained people’s memories; in part due to the fact that he is one of the more recent Presidents to get caught in an inappropriate situation.  On the other hand, the details of his indiscretions were particularly salacious, creating significantly greater public interest than the regular output from the oval office.  However you slice it, the 1998 impeachment vote taken by Congress is a background check development that might be looked at as a black mark on the former President’s record.  In Mr. Clinton’s case, the stain on his credibility resulted from lying about his previous activities, rather than the unconventional behavior itself.  In other words, had the President come forth with his wrongdoing, or even owned up to it when it was obviously exposed, he may have been able to preserve his reputation.  The Raw Story Looks at Mr. Clinton here

  6. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

    Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

  7. Ulysses S. Grant – Extensive background checks, like those conducted by law enforcement agencies at all levels, often include assessment of friends, family and neighbors.  So the crowd you associate with might have an impact on the results of your background profile – for better or worse.  If there was a presidential case for running with the wrong crowd, U.S. Grant might be one of the better examples of a reputation tarnished by association.

    During his presidency, Grant was rocked by several ongoing scandals.  The improprieties ranged across a spectrum of inappropriate patronage and manipulating financial markets.  There were serious implications for the Nation’s most important employee, even when he was not a primary player in the developing scandals.  Keeping the wrong company first got Grant in trouble when he responded to a gold market situation with unapproved measures.  Stock scandals followed, as the President’s Congress and Cabinet became involved in patronage deals giving them access to favorable stock manipulation.  In 1875, Grant’s principles were further questioned when close associates were found to be skimming Whiskey taxes for their own use.  The conditions during his presidency became so outrages that the very notion of political corruptness among his allies and advisors became known as ‘Grantism’.  Having your name tied to immorality and corruption is not a positive background check outcome. The Miller Center provides profiles of Grant and other past Presidents.

  8. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  9. Silvio Berlusconi – Regardless of the prevailing country being governed, certain standards apply.  Silvio Berlusconi is a colorful character in his own right, gifted with great wealth and charisma, but his personal record includes a few legal blemishes that may get in the way during background checks.

    In addition to his convicted role as a tax evader, Mr. Berlusconi has been linked to additional improprieties.  The former Italian Prime Minister has been accused of turning a blind eye toward organized crime, and for filing false accounting reports.  Other accusations of bribery and corruption have followed Mr. Berlusconi through the spotlight, including allegations of influence peddling with judges and police officials.  One of the most problematic legal questions dogging Mr. Berlusconi is his 2013 conviction of soliciting a minor for sex.  He was found guilty of paying for sex with a 17 year old, and is prohibited from holding office during the seven and one-half year sentence he was given.  The case is expected to come up for appeal, so the sentence will not be carried out until the appeal is concluded. The case is one of approximately 20 proceedings aimed at Mr. Berlusconi during his tenure in office. Mr. Berlusconi in the news.

  10. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

    Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

  11. Richard M. Nixon – Taking a page from the Bill Clinton handbook, long before it was written, President Richard Nixon used his authority for personal pursuits of power.  Long associated with political scandal, the former President gained notoriety for his early-70’s antics and over the top political gamesmanship.

    The central feature of Richard Nixon’s downfall was a scandal which came to be known simply as “Watergate”.  The reference is to the Watergate Hotel and business buildings where the most famous abuse of Presidential power occurred.  In 1972, a group of five men broke-in to the Democratic National Headquarters located within the Watergate complex.  The break-in and the President’s subsequent attachment to the ensuing cover-up effort brought Nixon to the mercy of his political adversaries.  Had he not resigned in 1974, it is almost certain he would have been impeached for the cover-up and lies associated with Watergate.  White House profile of the 37th President.

  12. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  13. Albert Fall – Although not a household name, Albert Fall will live in infamy for his scandal-plagued tenure as Warren Harding’s Secretary of the Interior.  It is not uncommon for politicians to bring their own supporters with them once they gain office.  In the case of the Harding Presidency, prestigious cabinet posts were meted out to friends and supporters of the President.  As a result of hiring associates from back home in Ohio, Warren Harding had an administration uncharacteristically wrought with ethics difficulties.  Multiple cabinet officials were implicated in a variety of improprieties resulting in disciplinary action, the worst of whom was Albert Fall.

    While some of the corrupt cabinet members made their own criminal names, it was the Teapot Dome scandal that brought down Fall and others Harding associates.  Fall was the first-ever cabinet member convicted of a crime, for his role in the Teapot Dome affair.  In exchange for control of the federal oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, Albert Fall had taken a bribe from Mr. Harry F. Sinclair.  Mr. Fall served two years in prison as the most famed member of Harding’s “Ohio Gang” Mr. Fall’s interesting role in history is studied here.

  14. Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

    Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

  15. Ronald Reagan – Business dealings are regulated in most cases, but certainly subject to transparency in almost all cases.  What Ronald Reagan learned during his tenure as President of the United States is that is does matter who you do business with.  Guilt by association is a powerful elixir for the American public, so if your bedfellows include Contra rebels and Iranian arms dealers you will be held accountable.

    In 1986 it came to light that the Reagan administration was active in a side business unknown to American citizens.  Top players in the administration, it turns out, were selling arms to Iran.  The practice was problematic for several reasons, not the least of which concerned an embargo on Iran strictly prohibiting it.  How much the Commander in Chief knew, and when, is still the subject of debate, but there is another aspect of the illegal activity that disturbs some analysts even more.  Some of the officials involved in the Persian arms deals also advocated for using the money in very specific ways.  Half a world away, arms profits were allegedly targeted for funding Contra rebels in Nicaragua.  Not only was the public left out of the loop, but the Congress had already acted decisively prohibiting further funding for Contras.  The Iran-Contra Affair, or Irangate, as the episode became known, remains a blemish on the former President’s background. For all the facts about the former President, see his profile at the Reagan Library.

  16. Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

    Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

  17. Jesse Jackson Jr. – Perhaps no civil rights advocate has shared the podium with more Presidents and influential politicians than the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  Wielding great power across the country, it was in Illinois that his son Jesse Jackson Jr.  was to make a name for himself in politics.  Despite the head-start given him by his family name, and the morality espoused by his father, politics did not work out well for the younger Jackson.

    Convicted felons are not high performers on background checks.  And so it goes for Mr. Jackson, who  was convicted of several crimes in office.  After leading the charge in Congress for the 2nd District of Illinois, the Congressman was investigated for wrongdoing in fall of 2012.  He subsequently resigned, amid bizarre absences and claims of medical disorders ranging from bi-polar disorder to gastrointestinal distress.  As it turns out Mr. Jackson was funding an extravagant lifestyle, along with his wife, using campaign donations from his re-election fund.  As a result, the former co-chairman of President Barrack Obama’s election campaign was sentenced to 30 months in prison.  In addition to the misappropriation of funds, Mr. Jackson was convicted of mail and wire fraud.  For her role in the scheme, which netted about seven-hundred fifty thousand dollars’ worth of illegal spending, Sandi Jackson received 12 months in jail.

  18. Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

    Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

  19. George W. Bush – President George Bush had his share of detractors during his time in office.  Sentiment against his father aside, Bush had his own negative impact on people’s perception of him.  The truth is that his legal troubles started long before the whole weapons of mass destruction problem came to light.

    Bush was arrested at the age of 20 for some drunken antics with friends, which resulted in the group stealing some items from a department store.  The charges were dropped.  In 1976, however, Bush was cited for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated near his family’s Kennebunkport home.  The drunk-driving conviction alone, nor his acknowledgement that he overused alcohol until age 40, are not enough to count the younger Bush out entirely, but there additional concerns about his substance use.  Some sources indicate that the former President may have used drugs like Cocaine, which could be problematic for passing standardized FBI background screenings.

Top 30 Privacy Blogs

With the recent unveiling of the intense Internet surveillance operation being carried out by the NSA, more people than ever are interested in keeping up to date on the latest laws, news, software, and other information related to maintaining privacy online. There is an immense number of blogs related to information security in all of its incarnations, so we have picked through the offerings to find you the best blogs that deal specifically with personal privacy law and technologies. These are listed mostly without any indication of which is better than any other and are instead separated into categories based on their focus. The focus of the blogs includes hacking methods, ways to protect yourself from identity theft, news on information security topics, and discussion about censorship and identity law.

 Privacy image by Sean MacEntee

Cream of the Crop

  1. The Privacy Blog – In a list of privacy blogs, one named The Privacy Blog would clearly seem to fit the criteria. Luckily, it is also one of the best in the genre for details on privacy in the technological world. Updates are posted weekly, and most of the content is original. This includes a podcast for those who would rather listen to news on the latest security threats. Content covers security technologies, opinions on privacy and hacking litigation, and news related to privacy threats and tools. Check out their latest podcast to get a taste of the monthly episodes.
  2. Electronic Frontier Foundation – The EFF is an organization dedicated to the defense of the right to privacy in a world where everyone from the hacker kid down the street to the government can snoop on you. Their Deeplinks blog includes almost everything related to privacy and personal rights with an impressive amount of content delivered daily. If there is news that remotely touches on electronic privacy – whether its copyright laws, government surveillance, hacker tricks, or even just swag – you can find it here, but the blog does have a marked legal focus. Check out this article on the issue of warrantless DNA acquisition.

Privacy on the Net

  1. The Online Privacy Blog – This blog is run by the company Abine, an Internet privacy software developer with products like DeleteMe and DoNotTrackMe. The content is a mix of news about online privacy laws, security breaches, tips for keeping yourself secure while using social media and other common online services, and press releases for the company. Two articles a week is the rough release schedule. Check out a report on the surveillance capabilities of Microsoft’s next console, the Xbox One.
  2. EPIC: Electronic Privacy Information Center – EPIC is an organization that provides information with a focus on online privacy, though they do branch out into related technological fields such as biometric data, drones, and other hot button issues. The majority of the site content is in their static information, but their news feed does provide short updates on current news and events. If you want to get a quick synopsis of privacy related news without excess analysis or reading, then their blog should come in handy. The rest of the site is also extremely valuable for its large amount of educational material. Check out their news report on a Supreme Court ruling on DNA privacy.
  3. WIRED: Threat Level Blog – WIRED is a site renowned for its news and insights into the world of technology, and their Threat Level blog applies the same quality of content to the dedicated topic of privacy and the law within the context of technology. Thanks to WIRED being a news organization, the tone of the articles stays more subjective than personal or company blogs, though opinion always bleeds through in writing. Check out this opinion article on email privacy law and the lack of protection that electronic communications receive legally.
  4. Freedom to Tinker – FtT posts focus on news related to technological privacy and law alongside a large amount of insightful commentary and opinion pieces. The number of writers is smaller than you will find on some bigger websites, while still being large enough to provide more variety of opinion than a single user blog and a decent update schedule. Check out this article from 2006 on wiretapping abuse and the NSA that foretells some of the recent privacy related news.
  5. ACLU on Technology and Liberty – The ACLU is a well-known American organization dedicated to the preservation of civil liberties in every form they take. Their blog is a robust and well-developed collection of useful and informational content on a variety of topics, and because of the volume of information they cover, the blog has several subsections to help those looking for information on a specific topic. For online privacy related news, the Technology and Liberty section is where you want to go. Check out this article on metadata to see just how important it can be in light of the NSA surveillance issue.
  6. Center for Democracy & Technology Blog – The CDT is an organization similar to the ACLU but with a focus on influencing policy related to the freedom to privacy and expression on the Internet. Unlike most of the above blogs, the CDT has a broad, worldwide view and will often discuss online privacy policy from nations other than the US. There is still more focus on American and EU news, but it is refreshing to get a glimpse of the world at large. Check out one of their weekly looks at global policy for news from Syria, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Australia.
'Eyeing John Marshall Law School' photo by Seth Anderson.

Photo by Seth Anderson

Privacy Law & Policy

  1. FCC Blog – The Federal Communications Commission is an organization with which most American are familiar due to its role in radio and television broadcasts as well as the Internet. As it is a government website, you can expect a lot of dry content and not so much in the way of unique viewpoints, but it is a good idea for Americans to stay abreast of an organization that influences their online privacy to a large degree. Check out this article detailing some of the consumer protection services the FCC offers.
  2. Privacy Law Blog – The Privacy Law Blog is managed by the Proskauer law firm, a group with a focus on international privacy law. The blog content does trend to US and EU policy and law. The topics covered are usually about informing about laws concerning privacy, patents, and security and updates to them. Though the release schedule is low compared to some of the others on the list, they still tend to release an article every week. Check out this report on the conundrum of when European privacy law applies to American companies.
  3. Privacy & Security Law Blog – The editors and contributors of this blog belong to the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm, a nationwide entity with over 500 associates. Their firm handles cases covering a wide variety of subjects, but the privacy and security blog is managed by their resident expert associates on the topic. Articles range from discussion on cybersecurity, discussion of data standards like HIPAA, and news related to changing laws regarding privacy and technology. Check out their report on a recently introduced federal data breach law.
  4. Law and Terrorism – Gregory S McNeal is a security specialist and university professor who has received national recognition by news corporations, Congress, the military, and other notable organizations. His blog only features content he writes himself, leading to a low update rate with articles that trend towards his focus and activities at the time, but this does mean the content covers topics that might not be the focus of other privacy blogs at the time. Check out his article on drones and due process to see the focus of his latest work.
  5. CERIAS Blog – The Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security is an organization ran by several Perdue university professors and contributors. They broach topics ranging from the technical aspects of ensuring privacy in a digital world to the ethical, moral, and legal guidelines that govern the behavior of individuals and organizations when it comes to information privacy. The blogs content is updated one or two times a month, but every article is unique, lengthy, and full of useful information on security and privacy topics. Check out their objective look at NSA’s PRISM program.
  6. beSpacific – Most of the content on beSpacific is collected news and information about privacy, law, technology, copyrights, and finance. Rather than a blog to go to for original content, beSpacific is an amazing resource and repository for documents, press releases, and other articles in the topics it covers. Content is added daily, and on many days you will find up to ten new posts. Check out the main page. There is no better way to get an idea of the bevy of information hosted on the blog.
See ID - Photo by Bryan Rosengrant

See ID – Photo by Bryan Rosengrant

Privacy & Identity

  1. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse – The PRC is a nonprofit organization based out of California whose mission is to “engage, educate and empower individuals to protect their privacy.” The blog itself is not updated frequently, but the amount of information available regarding privacy concerns on the site in general is staggering. Check out this article for a few simple tips on keeping your privacy private.
  2. Bruce Schneier’s Blog – Bruche Schneier is an internationally reknowned security specialist, a member of the board of directors of the EFF, and has published multiple books concerning security and cryptography. His blog content includes recordings of his speaking events, articles and opinions written by him, links to interesting security and cryptography articles, and important news on the same. All of his articles are well-cited and in a format that makes them both look professional and easily understood. His insights are great, and if you like his blog then you should definitely check out his published work. Check out his comparison of the privacy abuse of online companies to the Game of Thrones.
  3. Identity Theft Blog – The entire purpose of this blog and the other portions of its site is to educate people on the dangers of identity theft and how to protect themselves from those who would steal their information and put it to nefarious use. The updates are a bit slow, averaging two posts to the blog per month, but the extra content value in the rest of the site more than makes up for it. If you want to get educated on identity law, identity theft tactics, and how to protect yourself from identity theft, stop by this site. Check out this article showing how something as simple as filling in the information necessary for an insurance quote can give up compromising data.
  4. Spaf Blog – The Spaf Blog contains content written or reposted by Professor Eugene H. Spafford, an educator who specializes in digital forensics, privacy, and information security. He is also the founder and director of the CERIAS web blog listed in the above section. The original content is published roughly on a monthly schedule, but reposting occurs daily. There are over 5,000 article links on the over 500 pages of the blog. Check out the very first page for links to over a dozen high quality privacy articles.
  5. IdentityWoman – The alter ego of Kaliya Hamlin, IdentityWoman, is an intensely active force in the field of privacy information security. Her grammar and punctuation may not be perfect – meaning grammar nuts should avoid the blog – but it is to be expected given the busy schedule the super-heroine keeps. The content on the blog ranges from videos of her talks at various conferences (and “un”conferences), updates on notable privacy events, and her work in an astounding number of IT groups, consortiums, and organizations. Check out the collection of her speaking appearances for some good audio on user-centric identity.

Safety Awareness Week 2011 – NASA Goddard Space flight Center

Security

  1. Krebs on Security – Brian Krebs got into information security for the same reasons many people do these days: thanks to the attacks of hackers on his personal computer network. This sparked a long career of security writing for the Bachelor of Arts, including a long stint as a major security author for the Washington Post with several front page appearances. As far as the blog goes, it is one of the best for quality, the amount of information presented, and originality. The frequency is also very good for the general quality and being a personal blog. Check out his article on the Styx exploit package and the article detailing the story behind its creation and marketing for a look at the brazen offering of script-kiddie tools.
  2. 1 Raindrop – This blog, written and maintained by Gunner Peterson, focuses on security more from a business standpoint than it does on individual privacy and identity. The posts are long and informative, but they assume some familiarity with security issues and the technologies from which they derive. This makes it not so friendly to newcomers to the world of security, but it is more useful to those who want high level information. The blog is updated roughly three to four times a month with mostly original articles of notable length. Check out this article on mobile APIs and security, a useful and important consideration for any business.
  3. CERT – The US government’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team’s site does not officially call itself a blog, but the main page is comprised of time-ordered updates that keep you posted on the latest patches for notable applications like WordPress, Adobe, Java, and Google apps. The site should be on every CEO’s and CISO’s short list to check frequently to see if they happened to miss any important updates. They also occasionally post security bulletins and information from themselves and large IT companies. In addition to their tracking of security updates, the site features a number of resources on protecting yourself from online threats and general security information. Check out the National Cyber Awareness System, a springboard for links to information on security.
  4. Bleeping Computer – While the main page does feature a blog roll of updates and articles, Bleeping Computer is far more than just a security blog. The blog updates themselves are standard fare for a security focused blog, though the focus is clearly on education and teaching for people who might not be as tech savvy as some professionals or enthusiasts.  Once you have gotten your daily update, swing over to the forums and other information resources to get help on understanding and fixing computer problems ranging from security issues to day to day malfunctions. A great overall resource for computer users of all skill levels. Check out their guide on how to remove a tricky bit of disguised malware that disguises itself as antivirus software.
  5. Malware Don’t Need Coffee – While the writing style is haphazard and points to someone using English as a second language, there is no better blog out there if you want to know everything there is to know about the latest malware and exploit kits on the streets. The posts are extremely tech heavy, so less savvy readers will likely need to do additional research when reading. Posts come roughly every two weeks, but they are loaded with content and worth the wait. Check out this detailed and lengthy article on the ransomware called Urausy.
  6. InfoWorld’s Security Articles – InfoWorld is a news site, similar to Wired, which focuses on everything technology. Just like Wired, they also feature a dedicated section for security related articles. As with other news sites, you can expect frequent updates and original content with a more neutral tone overall. You can also branch out from security related articles into general technology news when you finish getting updated. This is a great resource to keep on hand and check daily. Check out this article on bug bounties, the new method larger IT companies are using to hunt down security vulnerabilities in their applications.

Company Blogs

Most of these companies function in the Information Security world in some form or fashion. They usually maintain fairly decent blogs as a way to generate site traffic, keep their users informed, and to increase their appearance as “leaders” in the field. You do have to watch out for product placement in some of them, but they are self-motivated to provide good and reliable information that keeps people coming back.

  1. Fortinet Blog – Fortinet is a company that produces physical and virtual firewalls alongside other network security equipment and applications. The blog sees regular contributions from five different writers, keeping things both fresh and current. Article topics are typically educational pieces on malicious IT attack forms, patch updates for major IT organizations, and security and privacy related news.Check out this post on how to determine if a seemingly innocuous email in your inbox might just be a phishing attempt or other scam.
  2. FireEye Blog – FireEye is an Information Security company with a focus on antimalware applications, penetration testing, and overall system protection. Their blog focuses on the latest trends and tools in malicious cyber activity, and there is a definitive slant towards tech-heavy articles. A great resource, but those less inundated in the world of IT may have to spend some time with Google to get the full value that the articles represent. The speed of their updates is a bit slow for a company blog, averaging two to three posts a month. Check out this informative post concerning a Trojan that recently swept across Asia.
  3. Kaspersky Blog – Kaspersky is most widely known for their antivirus and antimalware applications. There is a bit more “Yay Kaspersky products!” in this blog compared to some of the other companies, but it still manages to get balanced out by the actual information. Check out their article detailing the dangers and costs of employees misusing networked devices while on the job.
  4. SANS Securing the Human – SANS is a company that works to increase security on what is most often the biggest weak point in a network, the human user. On their blog, you will usually find articles relating to attacks that attempt to take advantage of the user, such as phishing attempts and other social engineering scams. They also have a monthly newsletter full of extra material. Check out their look at passwords, one of the biggest mistreated tools in keeping things secure.
  5. TrendMicro Blog – Like Kaspersky, TrendMicro focuses on malware detection, prevention, and removal software. The blog itself tends to focus on preventative measures against malware and other security related issues. The update schedule is fairly slow for having multiple writers, but there is no rehashed content. Check out a post on the dangers of media overflow when it comes to your pictures and other digital information that ends up stored on the Internet, forever.
7

The 45 Best Forensic Tech Blogs

Forensic technology encompasses a wide range of fields and technologies and is often used, with some controversy, in criminal trials. The blogs below examine forensic tech from all angles, from professionals active in the field, to journalists covering the impact and evolution of forensic technology, to skeptics concerned about the ramifications of junk science being labeled as forensic science being used to convict in trials.

Forensic Science

West Midlands Police Forensic Science Lab - Photo by West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police Forensic Science Lab – Photo by West Midlands Police

  1. Anti-Polygraph BlogOpened: April 2006 with regular updates in the last few years. Style and Focus: Detailed and supported articles about the ways in which polygraph tests are used and abused, information about the deficiencies of the technology, and news. Also very active on Twitter. What to Read: Polygraph Countermeasures: What Polygraph Operators Say Behind Closed Doors, for a glimpse at the concerns even polygraph operators have with the reliability of the technology.
  2. Zeno’s MonthOpened: July 2004, with biweekly or monthly posts since then. Style and Focus:   Much more of a personal blog than an informative one, this blog, run by a forensic scientist, touches a bit on his work and life. Expect vacation adventures to be mixed in with news and conference details related to the forensics industry. What to Read: October 2012: Some Challenges in Digital Evidence, for a glimpse at what forensic science was concerned with and preparing for in late 2012.
  3. FSN: Forensic Science NewsOpened: April 2008 with post frequency varying but highly active since then. Style and Focus: This frequently updated blog provides opinionated responses to news and events related to forensics from the point of view of a professional forensic scientist. Well written and timely responses to criminal cases and forensic news and advances. What to Read: Institutional Bias Examined, for a great introduction to how insidious institutional bias can be and some thoughts on how it plays out.
  4. All About Forensic ScienceOpened: May 2012 with fairly regular posts each month. Style and Focus: Despite the busy look of this site, it contains a wealth of information for individuals looking at entering the field of forensics. Regular posts focus on information relevant to potential forensic students or those with a casual interest. Posts are short and sweet but informative. What to Read: Mathieu Orfila, for a wonderful brief bio on one of the forefathers of forensic medicine.
  5. UF Forensic Science BlogOpened: March 2012, fairly consistent with bimonthly posts. Style and Focus: This blog provides its readers with reasonably fascinating posts covering different types of forensic science along with forensic analysis in the news. Not the most frequently updated and the author is not a native English speaker (and it shows in the writing), but it is worth a gander. What to Read: Untying the Knots, for a quick and dirty overview of the importance of forensic knot analysis and the rarity of such expects (with a link for more information).
  6. Forensic Odontology: Bitemark EvidenceOpened: January 2011 with regular updates about once a week since. Style and Focus: With a minimalist look and easy to navigate interface, this blog welcomes readers to explore the world of bite mark evidence, with a focus on educating readers to the potential negative legal ramifications of relying on it as evidence. The author is a highly experienced professional forensic odontologist, with plenty of background to provide invaluable expertise to the posts. What to Read: Ted Bundy Bitemarks and Richard Milone: How DNA, bitemark research and failed cases have changed bitemark analysis, for an examination of how these high profile cases used bitemark evidence questionably and how it is used today.
  7. Forensic DNA Testing Blog Opened: December 2007 with irregular posts since then. Style and Focus: This blog allows posts from both DNA Diagnostic Center staff and clients that concern forensic DNA testing. While DDC moderates the posts, the authors can vary and thus the style of writing as well. The blog is easy to navigate and contains a wealth of information for readers interested in keeping up news, advancements, and case studies involving forensic DNA. What to Read: New DNA Test Predicts Eye Color, for a quick article introducing a new advancement in forensic DNA analysis – the ability to predict eye color from samples left at crime scenes. Not strong enough as a sole source of information, but an asset to an investigative team.
  8. Forensic AstrologyOpened: July 2007 with irregular posts that appear at least once a month since. Style and Focus: Admittedly, this site is a bit of an outlier amidst genuine scientific research blogs and companies and the site reinforces this general feel with its dark background and starry banner, but the information presented makes for an interesting read. The author has a 30 year background in utilizing astrology to analyze case files with an eye for forensics and provides detailed case file information, often sent in by readers, as well as the process by which astrology is used to hunt for new details in the case. Even if you do not buy into the premise of astrology, the blog is worth a look. What to Read: Shemika Cosey – Young Lady Leaves Her Aunts Home and Disappears, for a typical case study that details the process of forensic astrology and paints a narrative of what might have happened in this disappearance.
  9. GunSim Ballistics Blog Opened: March of 2009 with irregular but generally biweekly posts since then. It has slowed a bit recently. Style and Focus: No-nonsense style reminiscent of the early days of the internet, this blog’s pared down appearance suits the straight forward information it provides to readers. It focuses specifically on technology and software used in ballistics testing with helpful tips on getting the most out of it, news, and more.  What to Read: Zero in the warm, shoot in the cold, for a quick look at how ballistics information can help improve cold weather sharpshooting.
  10. Empirical Legal Studies Opened: February 2006 with regular and frequent posts ever since.  Style and Focus: Another early internet era styled site, this collaborative effort was founded by a group of professors from a few different Law Schools with the intent to bring together empirical methodologies and legal theory. Posts can greatly vary in length, but are usually well-written and informative. They bring commentary to news, changes in legal policy, useful resources, and more. What to Read: Kahan on National Research Council critique of multivariate regression, for review of one professor’s concerns about the potential problems in research and how they influence policy view.

Forensic Medicine

Medical evidence collection - Photo by Army Medicine

Medical evidence collection – Photo by Army Medicine

  1. Forensic Science for NursesOpened: February 2011 with consistent weekly posts. Style and Focus: RN Patricia Bemis provides her readers with straightforward, to the point blog posts that give other nurses tips on how to preserve potential evidence, information on forensic nursing, and news related to the field. She also discusses the importance of keeping forensics in mind as a nurse of any stripe. What to Read: Evidence Collection in the ED, for a quick review of simple steps ED nurses can take to preserve potential evidence.
  2. Digital Pathology BlogOpened: Active since 2007. Style and Focus: More like an information hub than a typical blog, this site features regular posts from experts in digital pathology on news, advancements, cast studies, and educational information. The site is a bit busy, but easy to navigate and features a lot of resources for those with an interest in the field. What to Read: The Anxiety of the Biopsy from NY Times Health Blog, for Dr. Kaplan’s response to a NY Times article on the mental health effects biopsies can have on patients.
  3. Forensic Medicine with Dr. Cox Opened: Started September of 2009 with semi-sporadic posts, generally once a month. Style and Focus: While sporadically updated, this blog is nevertheless a wonderful resource for those with an interest in forensics, particularly with a medical bent. Written by professional forensic pathologist and neuropathologist, Dr. Cox, each post is designed to inform and instruct readers on an aspect of forensics. Often, the blog posts are short introductions to longer papers linked in the post. What to Read: Human Skeletal Remains – An Introduction to Forensic Anthropology, for an introduction to a well-written and informative article introducing readers to the important concepts in forensic anthropology.

Forensic Museums and Historians

Forensic Anthropology Lab - National Museum of Natural History - Photo by Leticia  (Tech Savvy Mama)

Forensic Anthropology Lab – National Museum of Natural History – Photo by Leticia (Tech Savvy Mama)

  1. Crime Museum’s Criminal Convictions BlogOpened: February 2009 with consistent weekly posts since. Style and Focus: This blog is run by a museum and readers can expect highly entertaining, detailed, and well-written posts covering crime, criminals, and forensics. Recently, they posted the story of a potential real-life inspiration for the American mythical hero the Lone Ranger. The site itself is well designed and easy to navigate and offers readers more than just a lively and engaging blog. What to Read: The Vidocq Society: ‘The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes’? A glimpse into first real life French undercover detective agency and the fascinating character who helped found it, former criminal reformed into detective, Eugene Vidocq.
  2. The Writer’s Forensics BlogOpened: May 2009 with regular posts since. Style and Focus: This blog’s intended audience is writers who want realistic, informative advice and information on forensics. It includes general writing advice, like how to make your first few pages shine, and detailed information on a whole range of forensic science. A fascinating read if you have an interest in forensics at all. The design is clean and easy to navigate, with lots of resources and great organizational tools. What to Read: Connecticut Massacre Not New, Just Disturbing, for a quick and dirty guide to the assorted classifications of multiple murderers and real-life examples of such.
  3. Jen J. Danna ~ Forensic Crime WriterOpened: April 2011 with regular posts since, generally updated Tuesday evenings. Style and Focus: Another writer’s blog, this one expands beyond simply advice for authors, it chronicles this author’s journey in writing, provides information on research, writing processes, and the path to publication. She also does an excellent job in covering forensic science and how it can be effectively used in writing. She has a particular focus on forensic anthropology. What to Read: Forensic Case Files: Cannibalism in Jamestown in the Early 17th Century, for a gruesome look, figuratively and literally, at some of the evidence illuminating the meal-times at Jamestown colony, courtesy one 14 year old immigrant.

Computer Forensics

Digital Recovery Storage for Child Online Safeguarding Team in the West Midlands Police Dept.

Photo by West Midlands Police

  1. Computer Forensics BlogOpened: August 2008 with very frequent posts ever since, generally more than twice a week. Style and Focus: This highly active blog is a fantastic resource for any computer forensics professional or individual interested. They keep readers informed of product information, news, and events while also providing lots of tips and guides to improve one’s computer forensic tool bag. What to Read: Four Focus Areas of Malware Analysis, for an informative post briefly explaining one method of analyzing malware.
  2. Digital Forensics BlogOpened: November 2010 with sporadic updates, generally once a month. Style and Focus: While this blog isn’t frequently updated, it does provide excellent information and tips targeting other computer forensic personnel. The author provides advice born from practice, events relevant to the field, news, advancements, and more. What to Read: No Partition Table? No Problem, for a helpful post targeting newer computer forensic professionals who need a way around disks lacking partitions they need to mount.
  3. Random Thoughts of ForensicsOpened: February 2010 with posts generally updated once a month. Style and Focus: More of a personal blog than one designed to provide a great deal of professional advice and resources, it provides a glimpse into the journey of one student of computer forensics and includes his experiences with different forensics techniques and triumphs along with personal and professional experiences alike.What to Read: Tools in the Toolbox Mandiant Red Curtain, a quick and dirty overview of a free software for Incident Responders analyzing malware.
  4. Didier StevensOpened: June 2006 with regular posts from that point forward. Style and Focus: This is not a blog for those with a casual interest, it is full of technical details and step-by-step instructions designed to share ideas, tactics, and resources with other professionals.  Regularly updated and  on a wide variety of related topics, this is a highly useful tool for any computer professional interested in forensics. What to Read: Quickpost: TeamViewer and Proxies, a quick and dirty how-to post.
  5. Windows Incident Response BlogOpened: December 2004 with very active and regular posts, at least one a week, frequently more. Style and Focus: This long running blog is focused on providing resources to professionals involved in computer and digital forensics with Windows systems. Most posts are focused on explaining different analysis approaches or techniques, but it also informs readers of news updates, products, and events. What to Read: There Are Four Lights: The Analysis Matrix, for an explanation of analysis matrix and how it can be used to more effectively analyze data.
  6. Forensic Focus Blog Opened: November 2007, generally updates often. Style and Focus: Focused on providing news and tools for other computer forensic professionals, this blog features well written and tool-packed articles, interviews with folks in the industry, news, reviews, and more. The site itself is slightly busy, but well organized and easy to navigate. What to Read: Generating computer forensic supertimelines under Linux: A comprehensive guide for Windows-based disk images, for a guide to the assorted solutions available to assist with creating digital forensic timelines with code files.
  7. Forensic 4:castOpened: January 2008 with regular and fairly consistent weekly updates. Style and Focus: This sleek and well-designed site offers its visitors a wealth of information related to digital forensics delivered in podcast format with discussions from a range of industry experts. They also run a regular newsletter that supplements the information provided in the podcasts. They also host the 4:cast awards to acknowledge great forensic tools, resources, and individuals in the field.   What to Read: How to do the worst job possible, presenting a very poorly written forensic report.
  8. Mobile & Technology eDiscoveryOpened: November 2006, with somewhat sporadic posts, but generally at least one a week since open. Style and Focus: While it doesn’t present the most elegant design ever, the blog delivers excellent content for readers involved or interested in digital forensics. It features regular articles on tools, best practices, resources, case studies, and more.  What to Read: Signal Strength and Distance, for a discussion on what cellular signal strength and distance is and how to discuss it in court.
  9. CSItechOpened: May of 2008, with bimonthly posts since. Style and Focus: The clean layout allows readers to focus on the content, which is focused on informing readers about newly developed tools and tactics designed to improve the computer forensics industry. Expect lots of reviews and guides on using new tech and practices. What to Read: Password extraction fun, for a good review of a program that can help uncover passwords on devices first responders need to access quickly.

Forensic Technology & Techniques

Fingerprint - Image by CPOA

Fingerprint – Image by CPOA

  1. Crime Scene TrainingOpened: December 2010 with fairly consistent, frequent posts. Style and Focus: This very well organized blog has been regularly providing advice, insight, product reviews, and more targeting any investigators who do any part of their work directly at the crime scene. Articles are informative and practically useful. What to Read: Avoiding Hazards at the Crime Scene, for a well-written, thorough, and extremely handy article for any forensic tech who goes on scene.
  2. The Truth about Forensic ScienceOpened: February 2010, with frequent and regular updates. Style and Focus: This blog targets DUI lawyers and criminal defense attorneys and helps educate its readers on the different types of forensic evidence that can be brought to a trial, with a focus on weaknesses and defenses against them. The blog is authored by a highly respected criminal defense and DUI attorney. What to Read: Limitations of Forensic Odontology, for an overview of the problems with forensic odontology.
  3. The Hacker Factor BlogOpened: November of 2006, with fairly regular posts at least once a month since then. In the last two years, it has trended towards weekly updates. Style and Focus: This blog is a treasure, with entertaining and informative posts that are often designed to generate discussion amidst the readers. The primary focus is on the tools and techniques designed to help computer techs of all sorts, but it occasionally drifts into completely unrelated but often fascinating territory.  What to Read: Chasing Rainbows, for a really fascinating article discussing super-senses.
  4. Forensic MethodsOpened: August 2009 with sporadic but fairly regular posts since then. Style and Focus: The layout of this blog makes it feel more like a digital magazine than a traditional blog, and its posts take a non-traditional spin too. Some are simply quick Twitter updates; others are snippets of a great article found elsewhere with a shortened link to the primary article. Still, the original content here is not to be missed; the articles are well-written and informative and often offer a behind the scenes glance at the writing process. What to Read: Digital Forensics Magazine: Big Brother Forensics, for an article on an article, also a brief introduction to the potential ramifications of geo-location technologies.
  5. Forensic ResourcesOpened: July 2011 with frequent posts, often more than once a week, since then. Style and Focus: A sleek and well-written blog providing detailed information about forensic science, including techniques, news, legal issues, and advancements. It caters primarily to attorneys based in North Carolina, but is a worthy read for anyone who needs to increase their armchair knowledge of the science. What to Read: Improving Arson Investigations, a resource-filled article pointing readers towards new developments in science that shook up fire investigation.

Cold Cases & Wrongful Convictions

  1. Defrosting Cold CasesOpened: November of 2009 with prolific posting habits, though slightly slower in recent months. Style and Focus: The blogger clearly cares about justice for victims who have been left behind by time. Posts are frequently focused on bringing light to cold cases that may have been gathering dust, telling the stories of the victims, and sharing information about the crimes. The author also focuses on wrongful convictions and forensic information that may help solve some of these cases. The site is beautifully designed, easy to navigate, and the articles are well-written. What to Read: In Loving Memory: Jimmy Stanaway, for a heartfelt memorial to a cold-case victim, providing a personal face to a dusty file.
  2. The Wrongful Convictions BlogOpened: It’s hard to pinpoint the open date of this blog, but it is currently highly prolific, with often multiple posts in a day. Style and Focus: Informative, well-written, and prolific, this blog features a panel of expert authors from a variety of backgrounds to bring readers the latest in news about wrongful convictions, including forensic analysis changes, case studies, legal changes, and more. The site is a little difficult to navigate, as it lacks a proper archive; users can search, or sort through categories to find what they are after. What to Read: Calculating Bad Math’s Contribution to Wrongful Convictions, for an interesting analysis of how a judge or jury’s failure to comprehend mathematics might lead to miscarriages of justice.

Fraud & Crime Blogs

Fraud Tech on a $20 - Image by Jack Spades

Fraud Tech on a $20 – Image by Jack Spades

  1. The Fraud Files BlogOpened: November 2005, with prolific and regular posts since. Style and Focus: This blog is focused on fraud of all kinds, from small to massive, on a national scale. Expect lots of links to related information, quality writing, and informative posts. What to Read: MckMama House Fire is Not Suspicious In the Least, for a tale of a bloggess gone bad.
  2. Expert Witness BlogOpened: March of 2007, with near daily posts. Style and Focus: Most posts are very brief and present readers with information about what expert witnesses are testifying about in trials around the nation. Some posts focus on preparing witnesses for trial, news, or other relevant information. What to Read: Environmental Health Expert Witnesses & Hanford Nuclear Reservation, for a typical post example.
  3. Grits for BreakfastOpened: January 2004, with highly prolific and regular posts since then. Style and Focus: A very well-respected blog focused on Texas criminal justice. The author has been recognized for his excellence from a number of Texas newspapers, organizations, and other criminal justice bloggers and even won a handful of awards over the years. Except quality writing, well-researched content, and no-nonsense (and often contrary) opinion delivered near daily. What to Read: A forensic science ‘blockbuster’ and limits of accreditation, taking a glance at several forensic science news articles and points to the shaky ground some forensic data is built upon.

Forensic Anthropology & Psychology

Bones in the Monasterio de San Francisco, Lime, Peru. Photo by Phil Whitehouse.

Bones in the Monasterio de San Francisco, Lime, Peru. Photo by Phil Whitehouse.

  1. Forensic PsychologistOpened: April of 2007, with at least a post a week consistently since then. Style and Focus: The site itself is a little aged, but that has no impact on the quality of its contents. Blogger Karen Franklin, Ph.D. is an experienced forensic psychologist and adjunct professor who has served as a criminal investigator and legal journalist. She has the chops and the ability to write effectively about what she knows. Her posts cover news, resources, case studies, methodologies, and more in the fields of criminology, forensic psychology, and psychology law. What to Read: Beware “voodoo” brain science, for an examination of some of the controversial claims made by proponents of brain imaging as a way to distinguish potentially dangerous traits in an individual.
  2. Mind HacksOpened: November 2004 with consistent and prolific posts since. Style and Focus: Clean design with easy navigation introduces readers to a site loaded with information presented from very prolific bloggers. Posts focus on the fascinating world of neuroscience and psychology. Well-written responses to news articles, explanations of weird brain quirks, neuroscience history and notable figures, and much more can be found here. What to Read: A brief history of narcoanalysis, for a fascinating introduction to the use and history of the administering of ‘truth drugs’ to elicit supposedly truthful confessions.
  3. Smith ForensicOpened: September of 2004 with consistent and prolific posts since. Style and Focus: This blog offers a simple, clean style and easy navigation with a focus on forensic pathology as presented by blogger Harold Levy, a Toronto Star investigative journalist who gained an interest through his reporting on once famed doctor Charles Smith. His blog examines flawed pathology and delves into the cases they impact around the world. He also examines junk science and its impact in criminology broadly.  What to Read: Marvin Wilson: How Texas is using literature rather than scientific methodology to kill a clearly retarded man – to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court. – For a heart-rending examination of an abuse of the justice system, forensic science, and one man’s life.
  4. Bones Don’t LieOpened: Style and Focus: Written by mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology graduate student Katy, this blog shares her discoveries, like a recent dig in Oakington containing the burials of over 100 Saxons. She also writes about forensic techniques, archeological history, news, and more on a blog that is beautiful and easy to navigate. What to Read: Displaying the Famous Political Dead, for an interesting glimpse into the practice of preserving the notable dead for public display.

Forensic Companies

  1. Forensic Technology NewswireOpened: April 2009 with frequent but irregular posts. Style and Focus: Their style is much more like a newsfeed than a personal blog, they keep readers up to date on how their products are being used and received around the world, as expected from a company blog, but they do so with solid and informative writing.  What to Read: CSI: Miami & Real Forensics: We Won’t Get Fooled Again, for a post examining the relationship between CSI and real life crime solving.
  2. Forensics Blog (BCIT)Opened: July 2010 with consistent weekly posts since. Style and Focus: A simple interface greets visitors in this Forensic Institute’s blog focused on forensic education, Canadian forensics, news, events, and advancements in forensic science. Most posts are short and sweet. Those local to the area will also find timely related job postings and course updates. What to Read: Forensics’ Grad Bringing Backpacks to the Homeless, for a lovely quick bio on a recent BCIT graduate doing good for her community.
  3. The Forensic GroupOpened: Style and Focus: Clean and straightforward writing designed to inform and educate readers on the methods and developments in computer forensics tactics and technology. Some news and events are introduced as well as case studies. Clean interface but somewhat difficult to navigate. What to Read: Computer Forensic Artifacts: Windows 7 Shellbags, for an informative introduction to how Win7 Shellbags can be used to trace activity and contents in computer forensics.

Forensic Imagery & Artists

1940 Mugshot - Image by Lisa Bailey

1940 Mugshot – Image by Lisa Bailey

  1. Four And SixOpened: June 2011 with regular posts, about one a week, consistently since day one. Style and Focus: Four and Six offers its readers a clean style with useful posts ranging from image forensics techniques to thoughtful posts on ethical treatment of imaging tools and news and information related to image tampering.   What to Read: The Case of the Pole in the Middle of the Road, for a nifty inside glimpse into what photographic forensic investigation.
  2. Forensic Video and Image AnalysisOpened: September 2007 with consistent and prolific posts ever since. Style and Focus: An absolutely fantastic resource for anyone who is involved or interested in image forensics, this highly active blog provides readers with information or resources on tools, software, product reviews, technique basics, image forensic cases, educational opportunities, and a mix of personal insight. Very informative, well-written, and easy to navigate. What to Read: Learn new Photoshop features in a click, for an introduction to a free and handy tool available to improve your Photoshop CS6 experience.
  3. Ask a Forensic ArtistOpened: January 2010 with regular and prolific posts since. Style and Focus: This well-designed blog is a great tool for other forensic artists, those who want to be, and those who are just simply fascinated by the process. It includes techniques, news, educational opportunities, fascinating interviews from other forensic artists, and more. What to Read: The “Pencil Trick” for Edentulous Skulls… Debunked, for a great breakdown of what the pencil trick is, and why it doesn’t at all work as it is supposed to, with photographic evidence.

 

25 Best Privacy Apps

Looking for the best apps to protect yourself and your family on your mobile devices? Check out this list, which brings you the best in anti-spyware, anti-virus, phone trackers, data lockdown, and more.

Educate

  1. Clueful – Applications aren’t often clear about what information they are accessing, nor how they intend to use and distribute it once obtained. Clueful helps illuminate this process by running audits on all your existing applications and providing you with clear cut, no-nonsense reports on what applications are leaking about you. It gives you a quick-look at your app’s security with a score, and alerts you promptly when an app is abusing privacy standards. For a subscription fee, you can upgrade the service to include a constant monitor that will lock, locate, and wipe your phone in the event it gets stolen. Also available for iOS. Price: Free.
  2. Protect My Privacy – This application is being developed by UC San Diego as a way of helping them examine privacy on mobile devices. To that end, they collect anonymous data transmitted securely over SSL. Users can choose to not provide data to the study. For users with cracked iPhones, any application attempting to acces your data must first get approval. A message pops up informing users of what data the app is attempting to access, and allows you to fake credentials in some cases, deny access, or allow it. Some data is scrambled to provide an additional layer of protection. Only available for iOS. Price: Free.

Eraser

  1. History Eraser – This simple application makes it easy to wipe sensitive information from your phone, including browser history, call logs, text messages, market searches, clipboard data, and more. Useful for those interested in protecting privacy, but also for those who want to free up storage on their phone. One quick tap will clear your data. Also available for Chrome. Price: Free.
  2. Last Pass – This application has demonstrated its effectiveness for browsers, its mobile version is equally powerful. It automatically fills in forms for every saved site, generates powerful passwords, allows users to add and alter notes and sites easily. Audio and images can be attached to secure notes as well. Also available for iOS, Windows 8, Mac, Linux, BlackBerry, and most other mobile OS. Price: Free 14 day trial, $1 per month pass afterwards.
  3. Delete Me – While not quite a mobile application, this exceptional service can completely remove your sensitive and personal data from the hands of data brokers online, ensuring that private photographs and personal data stay secured. Price: $129 annually for one person, $229 for two people annually.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Robbert van der Steeg

AntiVirus

  1. McAfee WaveSecure – Recognized in 2010 for excellence from CNET, The NY Times, PC World, Lifehacker, and others WaveSecure offers a solid mobile security package for a good price. It includes lock and wipe features that give you control over a lost or stolen phone, backup and restore to allow you to store important data on the cloud, even after the phone has gone missing, and recover it when necessary from a web-based application.  Locate and track features help you pinpoint the lost phone on a map, set it screaming to make it easy to snag, and allows you to track calls being made on the phone.  Also available for BlackBerry, Symbian OS, Windows Phone, iOS, and Java. Price: 7 day free trial, after which it costs $19.99 annually.
  2. Lookout Security & Antivirus – This application gained recognition from PC Mag Editor’s Choice for being excellent, from TechCrunch as one of the top 10 best free apps, and PCWorld ranked it 5 out of 5 stars. It offers excellent antivirus and malware protection in apps, email attachments, or files. It scans number for dangers and alerts users to potential hazards, blocks  websites that could potentially be harmful, and offers a Privacy Advisor to alert users to what information their apps are attempting to access. It also features a web-based phone finder that utilizes Google Maps to pintpoint your lost phone, lets you make your phone scream to identify it, snap photos of users who attempt to access it while lost, and even remotely lock or wipe your phone. Users also can backup vital phone data and restore it in the event of a wipe. Also available for iOS. Price: A free two-week trial, users can continue using a pared down version for as long as they like after. Premium has a monthly fee.
  3. Webroot Security & Antivirus – Webroot was recognized as one of the best free android apps of 2011 by PCWorld, recognized for its unique features from PC Magazine, for being one fo the best security applications by Tech of Web, and Uberphones said it was ‘a must for Android users.’ It features a powerful antivirus that automatically scans and blocks malware, viruses, spyware, and Trojans and alerts users to settings that put the device at risk. It offers remote access to lock, wipe, scream, or locate your phone when it is lost or stolen. Premier grants the use of App Inspector, which alerts users to apps that access private info, drain money, track location, or drain the battery. It helps maximize battery usage and network access. The program itself is lightweight and not a drain on battery life. Available for iOS and Android devices. Price: $19.99 per device in a year.
  4. NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus – This app offers a powerful antivirus that scans and protects users from all the typical threats, as well as keeping users up to date with security databases. It protects while web browsing against phishing, fraud, and other dangers. A real-time app scanner alerts users to potential problems, and it includes anti-eavesdropping protection designed to detect spyware programs installed on the phone. It features a remote phone locator and offers backup of sensitive data as well as a call and SMS blocker to protect against harassing calls and messages. A system optimizer keeps your device operating smoothly. Only available for Android devices. Price:  Free trial for blah weeks, $19.99 per device, per year after for access to Premium features after.
  5. Norton Mobile Security Lite – As with its competitors, Norton Mobile Security offers a powerful antivirus that keeps users safe when browsing the web, accepting files, or downloading apps. It also offers remote wipe, tracking, and locking capability and SD card scanning.  It continuously scans and alerts users to potentially dangerous apps. Also available for iOS. Price: Free pared down version, and Premium access costs $29.99 for one year on one device (currently on sale for $17.99)

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user briggz5d

  1. Avast! – This top-rated security app offers both anti-virus and anti-theft capabilities to ensure your phone is well protected against most eventualities.  The software developer has been around for 20 years and the app has been recognized for its excellence by PCAdvisor, Droid-Life, AndroidPolice, AndroidAuthority, and Android and Me. Lost your phone? Use a web-based interface to control your phone remotely, locate it on a map, and lock the device till you can snag it. You can even activate a siren and wipe its memory. Only available for Android devices. Price: Free.
  2. Kaspersky – A fairly straightforward anti-virus and security application that offers its users a powerful defense against viruses, Trojans, malware, and spyware which runs over-the-air to keep the program lightweight. It offers GPS location services to locate the phone if it goes missing or stolen, and remote access to lock and wipe your phone, take a ‘Mugshot’ of anyone who uses it, and remotely activate an alarm. Users can filter incoming calls and text messages to screen unwanted contacts.  In addition, users can conceal calls, contacts, and other data from casual snoopers. Available for Android only. Price: One year subscription costs $14.95.
  3. F-Secure – A European based application that protects mobile devices with a combination of antivirus, anti-theft, and screening tools. Users can filter out adult and other unsuitable content from web content and applications, block unwanted calls and text messages, remote locking and wiping, and remote location detecting. Available for Android and Symbian. Price: 14,95€ for a one year subscription with a free 30 day trial.
  4. Virus Barrier – This Gizmodo app of the day offers iOS users a solid and intuitive antivirus to protect them against intrusions from files, web browsing, and applications. It automatically updates to keep on top of new threats, repairs infected files, and keeps logs of scans, detected threats, and repairs. Only available for iOS. Price:  $0.99

App & Data Lockers

Photo courtesy of Flickr user flakeparadigm

  1. Smart AppLock – Smart Lock is a lightweight application designed to give you greater control over privacy on your mobile device. Set a list of protected applications, then create a lock pattern or password, and your friends and family can no longer access apps you don’t want them in, including SMS, mail, photos, and contacts. Only available for Android devices. Price: Free.
  2. Gallery Lock – Named app of the year by Times Magazine, this handy application makes it easy to keep your private photos away from the eyes of phone snoops. The intuitive program makes it easy to create your own folders and conceal your photos and videos in a beautiful and feature rich application. It has the capacity to run in stealth mode to keep others from being aware of your hidden images. Use a PIN pattern to access your data. Only available on Android. Price:  Lite version is free, Premium unlocks additional features.
  3. App Defender – This straightforward app prevents access to applications. Users can set a unique password for each individual app. After three failed attempts to access an application, it displays the number of failed attempts to alert the owner to the access attempts. Only available for Android. Price:  Free trial, after which it costs $3.13.
  4. Picture Safe –   This application offers advanced protection for your mobile device’s private information. It allows you to create custom folders to organize your data how you wish, decoy icons and screenshots to fool snoopers, a fake calculator entry screen with 8 digit PINs for highly secure access, dual passwords to allow access to ‘safe’ and protected photos, and much more. Hide everything from phone records, photos, and web access. Only available for iOS, including iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPod. iOS 5.0 or later editions, optimized for iPhone 5. Price: $1.99 (currently on sale for $0.99)
  5. Snap Secure – This application offers a range of unique and helpful features designed to make your mobile device a powerful security tool. It features real-time tracking of members that can be viewed on a map from a related mobile device or the web, helpful for keeping track of children or partners. Have teenagers? The motion-activated driver safety feature stops users from texting, calling, or web surfing while on the road. Footprints allows you to track the movement of the device using GPS, giving a clear picture of the movement history for any attached device. It also allows you to create safety zones and sends alerts when a device moves out of that defined territory. Finally, if a user finds themselves in dire circumstances, it offers a panic button that promptly calls 911 or alerts an emergency contact with location information via email, phone, or text. Available for Android, iOS, Windows, or Blackberry. Price: Free basic account, after which it costs $499 a month for a single user and $9.99 a month for a family plan.

 

Other Nifty Apps

Photo courtesy of Flickr user geoffeg

  1. Gibberbot – Recognized by PC Mag as one of the 100 best Android Apps of 2013, this application allows you to securely chat with friends across a range of platforms in one streamlined place, with powerful off-the-record encryption. No ads, easy to use, and available in many languages. Plus the chat program has fun built-in features like custom icons and wallpapers. Also available for iOS, Mac, Linux, and PC. Price: Free.
  2. Anti-Spy Mobile – Homebrewed spies are being blessed with a wide variety of tools to dig into your private and personal information. One growing method is to conceal an application on your mobile device to intercept communication, application use, and web browsing habits.  Stop that in its tracks with this application, which scans for and automatically removes any of these applications. Also available for iOS. Free: This version is completely free, a premium version offers a few additional features.

Locate Lost Phones

Photo courtesy of Flickr user gorbould

  1. SeekDroid: Find My Phone – While many of the antivirus programs offer a basic phone finder program, this one goes above and beyond. In addition to remote location, locking, and wiping, it allows users to create GPS breadcrumbs to track the movement of the lost or stolen phone, access recent calls, retrieve important data, and remotely wipe SD cards. The program itself can be hidden from display and made impossible to remove. It has almost no battery drain. Only available for Android devices. Price: $4.99
  2. Plan B – Many of these applications are focused on preventing loss and damage to your phone. Plan B is for follks who were not quite as proactive. If your phone gets lost or stolen, Plan B helps you locate it after the fact. You can install it remotely and it will start utilizing cell towers and your phone’s GPS to track its location every ten minutes. Users will get an email or text message with the current location of the phone each time it is located. Once the phone is recommended, you can revert back to the preferred ‘plan A’ and download any of the other excellent security apps that include tracking and other security features. Only available for Android devices. Price: $1.99
  3. iHound Software – Utilzing GPS, Wifi, 3G, or Edge signals built into your mobile device, iHound tracks its location every 10 minutes and reports it to a web application. Users can remotely lock and wipe their phone and directly instant message their phone to communicate with anyone who picks it up. Further, users can set it up to automatically alert opted-in programs like Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter to keep friends up to date on their location. Also available for Android and iOS. Price: They offer a free 7 day trial, after which the program costs $3.99 for an annual subscription.
  4. GadgetTrak – This iOS-focused app will help you keep your phone secure in the unfortunate event it gets lost or stolen. It uses a combination of GPS and WiFi  alongside cell tower triangulation to keep accurate tracking of the phone’s location. Each time the phone is tracked, it will send users a detailed account of its location. Automatic camera captures will let you know who has the phone. Once the tracking has been activated, no software settings can be modified, and all collected data is sent through a secure SSL connection. Only available for iOS. Price: $3.99

 

 

 

21

30 Best Fictional Detectives

Introduction

 

A good mystery should be a treasured find. Accompanying an investigator on their adventures as they try to undercover the truth or track down a criminal is an experience like no other, no matter what style of detective they are. Nothing works up adrenaline like accompanying a hard-hitting detective tracking down a murderer.  Nothing excites the logical parts of the mind like seeing a skill sleuth unravel the convoluted trappings of a mastermind’s schemes. And nothing is quite as hilarious as watching a bumbling detective stumble through an investigation, cause mayhem, and still somehow end up solving the enigma. While it is hard to whittle off many of the great detectives that have been created for humanity by the minds of writers throughout the years, we have undertaken that difficult task and came up with 30 of the best fictional detectives in history.

In No Particular Order…

 

Picture courtesy of Flickr user dynamosquito

Sherlock Holmes – No list about the best fictional detectives will ever be complete without this infamous gentleman detective from the mind of Sir Author Conan Doyle.  Detective Holmes has been the inspiration for many, many investigative characters since his birth in the late 1800s. He has been reimagined on stage, in radio shows, and quite a few movies.  As a detective, he is known for his logical reasoning, early use of forensic science, and penchant for costume.  Quote: “Elementary, my dear Watson” In truth, this was never uttered by our esteemed Holmes but it is nevertheless representative of the character and his attitude.

The Hardy Boys – Inspiring the adventures of young boys since 1927, Frank and Joe Hardy, the teenage brother detectives, have appeared continuously in print, have starred in computer games, television shows, and even been parodied in South Park. The earliest books were praised for the excellent writing of a caliber not normally found in children’s books of the era. Surrounded in a rather felonious small American town, they play perfectly bonded intelligent young men with free access to cash as they weave their way through the mystery and action that lands in their path.  Quote:  “A secret door!” Joe said. “We haven’t’ seen one of these in, oh, several months,” Frank said.

Nancy Drew – Much like theHardy Boys, Nancy Drew has been inspiring girls since the 30s. The character was even the brainchild of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the same group responsible for the Hardy Boys. Nancy was an immediate hit and has seen continued popularity ever since. My like the Boys, she’s appeared in television, movies, and video games. She has been an inspiration for a number of other girl detectives, and kick started a genre all its own. She is well known for having a can-do attitude, especially noticeable in her ability to drive and fix up her own car. Despite attempts to keep her domesticated by generations of ghost writers, Nancy has managed to maintain her independent quality. Quote: “If a guy’s hunch results in a dead-end, don’t flaunt your better judgment and intuition in front of him. Smirk secretly to yourself.” – The Phantom of Pine Hill

Miss Marple  – The brainchild of Agatha Christie, Jane Marple appeared in 12 novels and 20 short stories as an elderly spinster who fills up her free time resolving the assorted mysteries in her home of St. Mary Mead. She is the counterpart to the gentlemen detective genre, a well-bred, well-educated older woman applying her keen wit, experience, and knowledge to the challenges of solving crime. The character evolved markedly over 40 years, starting off as a shrill and nasty gossip and growing to a more dynamic and well-rounded genteel lady. She had a remarkable tendency to connect every case to a story of her past and casual comments to key details of her current case. Quote: “People with a grudge against the world are always dangerous. They seem to think life owes them something. I’ve known many an invalid who has suffered worse and been cut off from life much more… and they’ve managed to lead happy contented lives. It’s what’s in yourself that makes you happy or unhappy.” – A Murder is Announced

Dirk Gently– This fictional detective created by Douglas Adams was introduced in the books Dirk Gently’s Holisitc Detective Agency and the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. His real name is Svlad Cjelli which, as Dirk puts it, has a ‘Scottish dagger feel’ to it. Known for his ‘holistic’ approach to investigations, Dirk uses this to justify his extensive bills which include things like tropical vacations. Surprisingly, none of his clients ever manage to actually pay him. He is also a psychic in denial, believing himself to have a ‘depressingly accurate knack for making wild assumptions.’ He was supposed to appear in a third book, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time, but it was never completed. Quote: “Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see.” – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Philip Marlowe – Arguably one of the most significant figures in the ‘hardboiled crime fiction’ genre, Marlowe was first created by Raymond Chandler in 1939 for The Big Sleep. He also appeared in Farewell, My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye. This was followed by a number of films, radio shows, television adaptations, and one videogame. Philip is the hard drinking, gruff yet oddly charming PI. His rough personality is rounded out with a thoughtful mind well versed in poetry, philosophy, and a fair hand at chess. He drinks whiskey and is finicky over his coffee. The femme fatales common to the genre aren’t nearly as adept at distracting him.  Quote: “I don’t mind your showing me your legs. They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter nights.”  – The Big Sleep

Picture courtesy of Flickr user California Cthulhu (Will Hart)

Sam Spade – Though not as widely appearing as some of his peers on this list, Sam Spade nevertheless left an indeliable mark upon the detective genre. Famously portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in one of the movie adaptations of his book, The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade is not at all a gentlemen detective. He’s a shifty character capable of getting himself in and out of fixes with equal skill. Despite disliking his partner, even sleeping with the man’s wife, he goes all out when the man is murdered to bring his killers to justice. Quote: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.” – The Maltese Falcon

Lord Peter Wimsey – Lord Wimsey is an archtypical representative of the British gentleman detective as conceived by Dorothy L. Sayers. He appeared first in Whose Body? In 1923 and subsequently solved murder mysteries in another 13 novels, 5 short stories, and assorted stage, television, film, and radio adaptations. In addition to solving assorted murders in his spare time, the great Lord Wimsey authors his own books, including ‘Notes on the Collecting of Incanabula’, his other genteel hobby. He is also a wine, fashion, and classical music aficionado. The character was in part a light satire on the British upper class.  Quote: “It’s all right, Helen. That’s not swearing, that’s an adjective of quality.” – Clouds of Witness

Hercule Poirot– Around for a remarkable 55 years and appearing in 33 novels and over 50 short stories, Mr. Poirot has been a fixture in the detective genre for many years. Created by Agatha Christie alongside Miss Marple, this dignified Belgian detective solves crimes with the use of logical reasoning, or as he puts it ‘order and method’. Mr. Poirot also appeared on stage, in a number of film adaptations, several television shows, an animated series, and a number of radio dramas. Quote: “Chief Inspector, you have been thinking again. I have warned you of this before.” – Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (#6.1)

The Scooby Gang – The gang of animated teenaged friends (and one oversized dog) solve mysteries much to the dismay of the perpetrators whose plots they foil. These meddling kids include an unlikely array of friends, the All-American teen couple Daphne and Fred, the intelligent and shy Velma, the fumbling and perpetually starving Shaggy and his trusted sidekick and trouble-maker Scooby. These teens have a knack for shattering attempts to use fear of the supernatural to conceal criminal activity. Their antics inspired many television series, a number of films, video games, and stage performances. Quote: “Velma, here’s the only thing you ever need to know about boys. They are stupid. If you give a boy two choices, a smart one and a stupid one, he will always make the stupid one every time. That’s why you never give them a choice.” – Daphne Blake in Scooby-Do! Mystery Incorporated

Picture courtesy of Flickr user ostromentsky

Columbo – A homicide detective for the LAPD, Peter Falk is a gregarious, slightly rumpled detective who manages to get the job done in part because most of his targets underestimate him. He tends to talk too much and often seems to be a bit of an airhead, though in reality he has a keen attention to detail and a quick wit that helps him piece together the events of the crimes he investigates. The series ran for 10 seasons from 1972 till 1990 and continued in special runs as recently as 2003. Quote: “Perfect murder, sir? Oh, I’m sorry. There is no such thing as a perfect murder. That’s just an illusion.” – Columbo: Now You See Him (#5.5)

V.I. Warshawski  – Warshawski is a woman in charge: sexy, smart, and packing heat. After earning a law degree and serving as a public defender, she decides to go the route of the one pursuing justice on the streets, particularly in the case of white-collar crimes that might not get as much attention from the police in the gritty world of Chicago politics. The fierce detective is not afraid to get into the melee, making it quite amusing that her best friend is the one who treats the war wounds from her escapades. Due to her ferocity and strength, Washawski is considered by many to be a strong, feminist detective. Quote: “Never underestimate a man’s ability to underestimate a woman.” – V.I. Warshawski

Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan – Based loosely on real life real life anthropologist and author, Kathy Reichs, Dr. Brennan represents a very unique sort of detective on this list. She solves crimes current and ancient with her companion FBI agent, Seeley Booth and a crew of brilliant and eccentric scientists housed at the Jeffersonian Institute on the TV show Bones. Her top-of-field expertise in forensic anthropology allows her to unravel clues from the bones of the victims. Her no-nonsense attitude and adherence to an absolutely logical worldview both aides in her field investigations, generating a lot of unintentional hilarity along the way. The character also applies her professional knowledge to her writing career, becoming a bestselling author of crime novels during the course of her show. Quote:  “I’ve noticed that very few people are scary once they’ve been poked in the eye.” [to murderer who is trying to put a voodoo curse on her, so she pokes him in the eye to shut him up] – “Bones: The Man in the Morgue (#1.9)

Perry Mason – Mason is one of the most famous and prolific figures in recent detective fiction. Featured in close to 100 novels, a radio series, two television series, and over 30 made-for-TV movies. As a defense attorney, he was known for not shying away from the most difficult and hopeless cases and always fighting to the end for his clients. He does engage in some questionable actions early on in his history, but for the majority of his existence, Mason is an ethical idealist who sticks to the books and wins his cases by his wits and the evidence. The Mason stories do conform to a predictable pattern, but the enjoyment is in the details. Quote: “She’s more of a legitimate fake than I thought she was.” – The Case of the Curious Bride

Elijah Baley– Though he does not appear in a large number of works, Baley’s impact on the world Isaac Asimov created is profound. There are only four stories that feature Baley: The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, Robots of Dawn, and a short story titled Mirror Image. He operates in a world far different from ours, where robots are commonplace and Earth is filled with humans who live in enclosed cities. The mysteries Baley investigates are worthwhile for their whodunit quality, but they also investigate questions of a sci-fi nature and connect to the greater works of Asimov. Quote: ““The work of each individual contributes to a totality and so becomes an undying part of the totality. That totality of human lives–past and present and to come–forms a tapestry that has been in existence now for many tens of thousands of years and has been growing more elaborate and, on the whole, more beautiful in all that time. Even the Spacers are an offshoot of the tapestry and they, too, add to the elaborateness and beauty of the pattern. An individual life is one thread in the tapestry and what is one thread compared to the whole?” – Robots and Empire

Harry Dresden – Part detective, part fireball-throwing wizard, Harry Dresden has the unenviable task of solving mysteries in a world where things do not always conform to the rules of nature and science. The Dresden Files, the name for the book series and the short-lived television series, follows Harry through a world of vampires, werewolves, spirits, and crimes both mystical and mundane. Harry himself is a tough, stubborn young man with a sharp wit he used for detective work and pithy remarks against antagonists. Did we mention he can shoot fireballs? Quote: “Laugh whenever you can. Keeps you from killing yourself when things are bad. That and vodka.” – Changes

Kinsey Millhone – The main character in Sue Grafton’s alphabetically named series of detective stories, Kinsey Millhone is a feisty woman who has never quite played by anyone’s rules but her own. She was a delinquent as a teenager, dropped out of academics to pursue police work for more action, became an insurance investigator after that proved boring, and finally went on to become a private detective. The books are well-written murder mysteries that pit Millhone into tough situations only to prove she is tougher and smarter than anything that comes her way. Quote: “You can’t save others from themselves because those who make a perpetual muddle of their lives don’t appreciate your interfering with the drama they’ve created. They want your poor-sweet-baby sympathy, but they don’t want to change.” – T is for Trespass

Photo courtesy of Flickr user cdrummbks

Dave Robicheaux – James Lee Burke’s bad boy detective patrols the swamps of New Iberia, Louisiana, managing to break most of the rules, fight off his inner demons, and still catches the criminals at the end of the day. Some readers may find Robicheaux an overly cynical and irritable antihero, but the character is rounded underneath the wooden exterior. The murder and mayhem in the books is as gritty and dark as Dave, setting the stage for an enjoyably gruesome world of murder mystery. Quote:  “When people make a contract with the devil and give him an air-conditioned office to work in, he doesn’t go back home easily.” — In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jeffrey Beall.

Charlie Parker – It is difficult enough to be a detective, and dealing with supernatural horrors at the same time makes it a true challenge. John Connolly’s underappreciated work is a wonderful world to dive into for those looking for a more obscure detective series. Parker himself is a bad boy in a bad world, and Connolly masterfully blends the touch of supernatural horror alongside the shadow of mystery. The horror and supernatural elements do come to take on a greater focus as the series progresses, so if you are looking for a realistic detective series, the Charlie Parker series may not be the best bet. Quote: “Why did you shoot him?” “You weren’t around,” I replied, my teeth gritted in pain. “If you’d been here I’d have shot you instead.” – Every Dead Thing

Image courteys of Flickr user scampion

Harry Bosch – Hieronymus Bosch, called Harry by most, had a rough time as he grew up. He was born to a prostitute, did not know his father until much later, his mother died when he was 11, he bounced between foster homes, and ended up in Vietnam while still a teenager. Despite the fires Michael Connelly put his detective through, Bosch turns out to be an all-around good guy who believes in doing the right thing, even if it means going against the norm or the boss. If you find yourself making it through all 16 Bosch novels and still wanting more, check out Connelly’s Mickey Haller series. Quote: “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” – Personal motto of Harry Bosch.

Bobby Goren – A main character in the Law and Order spinoff Criminal Intent, Goren is a dogged investigator with an attitude and a sometimes violent temper. His passion for justice is the main cause of his occasional rages, but there is no questioning that he gets the job done, even if criminals have to be wary of him for more than just the high likelihood of him putting them in chains. Law and Order stories are always gripping, and Bobby Goren is one of our favorite lead investigators throughout all of the spinoffs for blending humor and skill while being vulnerable enough in his emotional issues to be relatable. Quote:  “The only medical condition you have is denial.” – Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Jones (#1.5)

Batman – The Dark Kinght might seem to be a poor example of a detective if you were to base your opinion off just the recent movies starring Christian Bale, but the real Batman does just as much investigation as he does bad-guy stomping. Armed with the latest in technology  for whatever era he is in at the time, photographic memory, and sharp analytical skills, Bruce Wayne is the only one who can root out the hidden plots of the nefarious super criminals in Gotham City. Of course, once he does find out what they are up to, he puts the fear of the bat into them. Between multiple comic book series, cartoons, live action shows, movies, and games, you will have trouble getting through all of the available material on Batman without devoting time to him every day. Quote: ­­­­“He thinks he can scare me. He thinks he can stop me. There’s nothing wrong with him a bullet in the head won’t fix.” – Batman Detective Comics Vol 1 734, Mark of Cain:2

Dick Tracy – The world of Dick Tracy is a dark one inspired by the feel of Chicago in the 1930s, full of grotesque and cruel villains, backstabbing, and the hopelessness of the fight against crime. You can draw many parallels between Batman and Dick Tracy: both are detectives, fancy gadgetry becomes important later on in the Tracy series, and both have cities plagued by demented criminals. Tracy is the less skilled detective, though that could be due to his cases being relatively simple, but he has the everyman spirit that billionaire Wayne can never have. Quote: Breathless Mahoney: “Thanks for calling. I was beginning to wonder what a girl had to do to get arrested.” Dick Tracy: “Wearing that dress is a step in the right direction.” – Dick Tracy (1990)

Dr. R. Quincy, M.E. – One of the first shows to include hard forensic science, Quincy M.E. follows the work of forensic pathologist R. Quincy, whose first name was never clearly given. A gentleman and a scholar, Quincy uses his position as a medical examiner to probe into their deaths and root out the real killer. Later on in the series, he even finds himself in the middle of deep social issues of the time. If you want a taste of the original version of CSI, check out Quincy M.E. Quote:  “Gentlemen, you are about to enter the most important and fascinating sphere of police work: the world of forensic medicine, where untold victims of many homicides will reach back from the grave and point back a finger accusingly at their assailant.” – Quincy M.E.: Go Fight City Hall… to the Death (#1.1)

Lennie Briscoe – A major character in the Law and Order universe, Briscoe was the head detective in the original series and had appearances in both the Trial by Jury and Special Victims Unit spinoffs. His quips at the crime scene, sharp one-liners, cool demeanor, and dry wit belie his dedication to his work and getting to the truth. The best part about getting to know Briscoe is that you have almost 300 episodes in which to do it. You will also likely come to enjoy Briscoe’s interactions with his two partners: the stodgy and moral Curtis, and the brash rule-bender Green. Quote: “Love: a devastating disease instantly cured by marriage.” – Law & Order: Couples (#13.23)

Inspector Gadget – Another on our list who began as a cartoon, Inspector Gadget could be considered a defective detective, reminiscent of other simpleton detectives like our next one. Luckily, being a cyborg full of interesting tools like a helicopter, spring-loaded feet, and other crime-fighting tools keeps him going in the crazy situations in which he puts himself, and the crimes always end up being solved thanks to the work of his daughter, Penny, and their intelligent and aptly named dog, Brain. Quote: “It’s like I always say, Penny: If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. Then lick ’em.” – Inspector Gadget, Down on the Farm

Inspector Clouseau– Proving that you do not have to be smart to be a successful detective, at least in the world of fiction, Clouseau is the epitome of the bumbling detective archetype. Even the above detective’s outfit was based on Clouseau’s typical attire, as homage to the older compatriot. Despite Clouseau failing at even the most basic investigative tasks in dramatic fashion, he always seems to come out ahead and solve the case. His unlikely successes are so far beyond the realm of reason that they even drive other characters in the story insane. To catch the first appearance of Inspector Clouseau, watch the original The Pink Panther from 1963. Quote: ”There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.” – Inspector Clouseau (1968)

Adrian Monk – Portrayed by actor Tony Shalhoub, Adrian Monk is a neurotic mess. Once a successful detective, the death of his wife due to a car bomb possibly intended for him exacerbated his obsessive compulsive disorder and various phobias to the point that he could no longer function on the force. Eventually, his keen powers of observation and great detective work get him pulled back in as a consultant, though his issues make every adventure even more challenging than it is for a saner person. The show and Shalhoub have won multiple awards, and there are several connected books if you finish the series and crave more. Quote: Sharona Fleming: “Are you sure you’re not getting your hopes up?” Adrian Monk: “That’s what hopes are for.” – Monk: Mr. Monk Goes to the Carnival (#1.5)

Spencer is pictured sitting in the front and center.

Shawn Spencer – Spencer is the lead character in the television series Psych. A child at heart, Shawn never professionally studied how to be a detective, instead learning the powers of observation – to the level of an almost photographic memory – and deduction from his detective father. After a string of failed jobs as an adult and with no credibility to his name, he does what any would-be detective would do: pass off his heightened awareness as extra sensory perception. Accompanied by his best friend, a pharmaceutical salesman named Burton Guster, Shawn begins to solve cases for the Santa Barbara PD while maintaining a façade of supernatural power, delivering pithy humor, childish antics, and daredevil actions. While his appearance is limited to the show, he is still one of the best and most entertaining detectives you will find. Quote – “Oh, you mean my pilot’s license? That’s out back in the Cessna. Or perhaps you’re referring to my license to kill. Revoked. Trouble at the Kazakhstan border. I could give you the details but then I’d have to kill you, which I can’t do because my license to kill has been revoked.” – Psyched: Poker? I Barely Know Her!

Magnum P.I. – Despite being somehow down and out regardless of a string of private cases, Magnum lives one of the most lavish lifestyles of any detective on the list. Set in the scenic Hawaii and in the same fictional universe as Hawaii Five-0, Thomas Magnum is equipped with a number of useful tools: a helicopter pilot friend, an amazing sports car, a glorious mustache, and the best Hawaiian shirts available.  He is also notable for being one of the first depictions of a Vietnam veteran. With beautiful women, interesting cases, and tons of action, Magnum P.I. should be on the short list for anyone looking for a detective series to watch. Quote:  ”I’m not really sure which kind of private investigator I am. The Holmesian-type with the constant deductive mind, or one with a Marlowe-type intuitive sense of the darker side of human nature? Hopefully a combination of both. At any rate, it doesn’t matter. Not when you have a “little voice”. I don’t know, maybe a gently nagging “little voice” is just another way of adding what you know, to what you feel, but right now mine wasn’t “gently nagging”. It was screaming.” (Narration) Magnum P.I., Round and Around (#6.6)

 

8 Potentially Life-Threatening Situations in Everyday Life

The Internet provides endless convenience. You can find pretty much anything you could need with just a few clicks of a button. Whether it is a pair of shoes, groceries, furniture, a personal assistant, a copy of episode 67 of the 1980s hit show Three’s Company, a job, a nanny, a date — you name it, it’s all there. It’s so simple to find what you need that many people go to the Internet before going anywhere else. And where do they do their research before making a big purchase or hiring decision? The Internet.

According to a December 2012 Pew study, 81% of American adults use the Internet, and of those in 2010 and 2011:

  • 78% looked for information online about a service or product they were thinking of buying.
  • 71% bought a product.
  • 56% looked online for information about a job.
  • 53% use online classified ads or sites like Craigslist.

Prior to the World Wide Web, when someone needed a product or service, they likely turned to friends, family, and colleagues for referrals. This way, there was a direct human connection to that person, increasing trustworthiness. But today, none of us really know who’s on the other side of that computer screen. It’s easier to lie when you’re not looking someone in the face. It’s even easier for a criminal to lie.

There’s a ton of horror stories out there about hiring nannies and employees, answering to Craigslist ads, and online dating. Although it’s frightening, when you think about it, these horror stories make up a very small percentage of transactions that occur on the Internet every single day. We don’t ask that you quit taking advantage of the convenience offered by today’s technology, we just ask that you’re careful and consider doing a little research about a persona or seller before risking your life, and wallet.

8 Potentially Life-Threatening Situations in Everyday Life – An infographic by the team at BackgroundChecks.org

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