Cyber Investigations is a vastly important part of the Private Investigation industry and we are missing out on utilizing its full potential. There are two things we are missing out on in regards to Cyber Investigations: firstly, Cyber Investigations are not always used in the surveillance process. Secondly, Cyber Investigators are not hired because they are qualified per se, they are hired because of being skilled at Cyber Investigations and an inability to perform mobile surveillance. That is not to say Cyber Investigators are not qualified (I myself am a Cyber Investigator), it is the fact that they are vetted by determining their surveillance ability or lack thereof. Unfortunately, this excludes very capable potential Cyber Investigators who are also skilled Surveillance Operatives.
It is common for an employed Private Investigator to be given a surveillance file that has no pre-surveillance report. This is a major flaw in the surveillance process. Well performed pre-surveillance can give the Surveillance Operative intel on the subject’s known locations frequented, associates, patterns, residential surveillance set up, and even how the subject thinks. Throughout my career, many of my surveillance files that had amazing outcomes was due to a well constructed pre-surveillance report. Because of the pre-surveillance reports, I was better able to predict the subject’s movement getting the evidence the clients were looking for.
The second issue the industry faces regarding the field of Cyber Investigations is the vetting process. The issue works like this: A Cyber Investigations candidate with no ability to perform surveillance will almost always be picked over a candidate with proven surveillance ability, even if the latter would be a more skilled Cyber Investigator. The employer would rather have the skilled Surveillance Operative do what they do best, surveillance. Why? Because it is the path of least resistance to the employer. It is easier to keep the operative in the field of surveillance rather than have them preform Cyber Investigations and hire a replacement Surveillance Operative. In my 10+ years of experience, I have never met a Cyber Investigator that was a skilled former Surveillance Operative. This is not to say that Cyber Investigators are not qualified. The Cyber Investigators I have met and worked with were very skilled at their craft. The issue is, that this process of Cyber Investigation vetting greatly reduces the pool of capable candidates. Furthermore, skilled Surveillance Operatives who are denied the career change they desire typically just drop out of the industry altogether. Not because of a lack of skill, but due to having skill in surveillance.
What can a skilled Surveillance Operative offer the Cyber Investigation field? A vast repertoire of crystalized investigative knowledge. A skilled Cyber Investigator typically has a background in social media marketing. This of course gives them a strong command of the investigative tool they will be using: the internet and social media. However, if you add an investigative background with years of “boots on the ground” investigative work under their belt, the possibilities are endless. A skilled Private Investigator can make “Investigative Leaps” that a Cyber Investigator with no previous investigative experience cannot.
It is the Investigator that produces results, using technology. This is easy to forget when an Investigator is not operating in the field. An individual can make the mistake thinking that all they need is computer skills or social media experience to become a Cyber Investigator. As much of an asset this experience is, the Investigative Mindset will always come first. It takes more than being a great driver to be a Surveillance Operator just like it takes more than being good at computers to be a great Cyber Investigator.
In surveillance, getting results by a step by step process will get you places. But it will only get results occasionally. In order to obtain results consistently, the Cyber Investigator needs to utilize the Investigative Mindset. This is easy for a proven Surveillance Operative turned Cyber Investigator.
This is true in surveillance as well as Cyber Investigations. The step by step process will always come to a grinding halt when a variable is thrown in the way. As an example, a mechanical Cyber Investigator can scour the internet in an attempt to find a subject’s photo and get nowhere. A Cyber Investigator utilizing the Investigative Mindset can hit the same roadblock and then start thinking outside the box and abstractly. They might study the subject’s personality then determine locations that the subject might frequent. Then these locations can have their online footprint examined by the Cyber Investigator, thus finding the photo through these means. It is leaps like this that the Cyber Investigator with an investigative background will foster, mechanics will not.
As is now evident, Cyber Investigations should always be a part of the surveillance process, it will always produce better results. The Cyber Investigators currently working in the industry are very capable and skilled. However, due to the poor vetting process, we are missing out on a large pool of candidates that would greatly move the private investigation industry forward. Furthermore, Cyber Investigators with a marketing background and Cyber Investigators with an investigative background would have numerous opportunities to learn from one another.