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Professional researchers operate in many roles, among them private investigator, business analyst and law enforcement. Some of their most common sources are the various proprietary databases that gather information about people from many different sources and charge a fee for access. At first blush, these may seem like safe havens for research. But some of the best known proprietary databases have been data breach victims. This puts the researcher’s identifying information needed to maintain an account, such as name, address, email address and credit card information, at risk. Although the integrity of the data they sell never came into question in these incidents, their subscribers’ privacy was compromised.
Using standard search engines can also reveal a great deal of information about a subject; but some of the websites to which a search may bring you can be quite dangerous. Websites might contain malicious software designed to infect the computer browsing them or to capture information about users, and no user can prevent that from happening.
But as in all matters concerning cyber security, there are steps researchers can take that can help minimize risk and protect themselves and their clients, such as:
In short, conducting due diligence online safely is not any different than any other use of the internet. Be aware of the risks. Keep your anti-malware up to date. Consider masking your identity and communications.
Kenneth C. Citarella is senior managing director for the Investigations and Cyber Forensics practice at Guidepost Solutions LLC. He has more than 30 years of experience investigating and prosecuting white collar crime and computer crime. Kenneth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.