Collaboration

Crime 101: Don't e-mail or IM your evil plot


Police Blotter e-mail murder plotThe next time that you decide to break the law, try keeping the details of your evil plot to yourself rather than sharing it with an accomplice via e-mail or instant messenger. Two teens -- Natalie DeMola and Terry Bell -- weren't so bright back in 2001, when they decided to murder the girl's mother, Kim DeMola, who didn't want them to date. Take a look at the story on CNET Networks' News.com: "Police Blotter: Teenage murderers convicted through IM logs."

Here's a snippet from the article:

Detectives unearthed a series of e-mail and instant-message exchanges between the then-teenagers and used them as evidence in the trial. In them, Bell referred to himself as a potential murderer and said he would do anything for DeMola, including "kill'n for you."

Ahhh... forbidden love. What happened to the likes of Romeo and Juliet, who took their own lives after their families' disapproval? I'm sure that these two will have plenty of time to ponder that question (and many more) during their "life without parole" prison sentences. The irony is that they committed the crime so that they could be together, and now they are truly apart -- forever. Don't you love happy endings?

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About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

35 comments
longwayoff
longwayoff

As far as not writing things down, this little ditty sums up nicely: "Lives of great men all remind us As history's pages o'er we turn That we're apt to leave behind us Letters that we ought to burn" Or in these modern times, hard drives that we ought to destroy. As far as concealing/revealing information goes, do a google search on the anarchists cookbook - free downloads from all over. Not to mention that Henley's Formulas for Home & Workshop is still in print (& on the net), if you want to gin up a bit of TNT. Lynne

MrPainter
MrPainter

This is a sad account of human wickedness. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

btljooz
btljooz

Even if I [b]HAD[/b] evidence, I sure as I'm sitting here would [u]NOT[/u] put it in WRITING [b][u]ANYwhere[/u]!!!!![/b] That's just common sense. (But who says there's a lot of THAT around now-a-days ?:| ) Seriously now, my mother taught us all that if we didn't want someone to see it and use it against us, then do NOT write it down!!!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Are these twits related to those six terrorist wannabes who disclosed their plot to blow up Ft. Dix by having their digital photos printed at the office supply store? As to how I get rid of the evidence, I don't put it on a computer in the first place. I keep it all in a shoe box buried under the third azalea to the left of the porch swing, under the concrete bunny. Were I to keep revealing documents in an electronic format, it would probably be on a flash drive. Easy to smash with a hammer or toss under a car tire.

rjkirk_50
rjkirk_50

Are these 2 incredibly stupid people by any chance cousins?

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

of severe stupidity I saw on the news about some idiot who attempted a bank robbery. He handed the teller a note demanding the money and left the bank without raising suspicion. The police picked him up at HOME a few hours later after the teller handed them the note, which this idiot had written on the back of his own used bank deposit slip, lol....

grax
grax

Several correspondents raise the valid and important point of how one should dispose of sensitive information. Encryption, the use of Eraser and reformatting might work but there are more secure (safer?) ways. PogiDaga said: ?1. Remove hard drive from computer 2. Smash it to tiny bits with a hammer? Palmetto said: ?Easy to smash with a hammer or toss under a car tire.? We know a bit about car tyres, don?t we? However, the a part that?s been missed out here is Step 1a: Put the HDD/Flash Drive in an A5 Paddy Bag (you know the sort of thing - brown paper with bubble wrap in it). Then move to Step 2. That way you will not get sharp metal or plastic particles in your eyes and you?ll still be able to dispose of the remnants responsibly instead of leaving them strewn all over the garden where they can irritate the Wabbits. If one must use chemical (overkill) try Aqua Regis. Very dangerous.

the.tumbleweed
the.tumbleweed

I agree. A flash drive is the best solution, but any information sent electronically is still archived, and easily traceable through each and every server it bounced through.

carlsf
carlsf

That once you sens a e-mail/IM message a trail is left on the following servers (depending on the route your e-mail program uses)... 1) your computer 2) the isp's server 3) and any computer used in the link during transfer 4) the recievers pc 5) and if you have spyware or such on your pc any of xxx computers. Rule if you dont want to be caught then DONT use mail or IM

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

I think it's either love struck or dumb struck - or a combination of the two. :-) The "get out of jail" question is: How do you get rid of evidence on your computer?

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

As to getting rid of evidence, if the evidence is only on YOUR computer, then PogiDaga's response will work. Although 18M Sulfuric Acid is a little extreme. Where I work, when we want to destroy a HD, we take it apart to the platters, sand them, fold them and run a strong magnet over them. But I agree with others who point out that once you have sent the email, IM to other computers they now exist on servers all over the place. Who knows what the persistence of such data is on ISP servers? Maybe the FBI does. I don't. Final Answer: IMHO the only surefire "get out jail" solution is don't do the crime.

DadsPad
DadsPad

Anyone that contemplates murder, especially one's parents, has more problems than love. Any normal person will tell their girlfriend they will do anything for them. But if one says kill someone to prove it, will end the relationship. :| As for the "get out of jail" question, more and more people will be caught with this method. They just don't realize they are tracked. :) Edited because I still can't spell

RayneToday
RayneToday

There are too many criminals who are looking around RIGHT NOW for ways to get themselves out of a bind -- including ones whose emails and IM's have already been subpoenaed but not yet turned over. I don't think this "get out of jail" question should be answered in a public forum because it could serve to obstruct justice. Imagine if the two teenagers in question had been able to cover up their crime with the help of IT folks in a thread like this one; how would justice be served? If these teens had gotten away with this crime, what could they do next?

PogiDaga
PogiDaga

How to get rid of the evidence in five easy steps: 1. Remove hard drive from computer 2. Smash it to tiny bits with a hammer 3. Put the tiny bits in a plastic bucket 4. Put the bucket in your driveway 5. Pour in enough 18 molar sulfuric acid to cover all the tiny bits and stand back. (Careful: sulfuric acid will eat through your clothes if you spill it. Also it doesn't smell nice.) If you don't have 18 molar sulfuric acid, muriatic acid from the hardware store will do. Drain opener with lye might also work, but i haven't tried that yet.

jmarkhus
jmarkhus

firstly, one shouldn't post to sonja thompson otherwise the evidence goes to techrepublic's computers and the internet at large. then one could use acronis privacy expert to securely delete all files on shutdown. i found out recently that this doesn't always work so i also recommend that one first encrypts the data then deletes it so that the recovered stuff is still eligible. lastly, remember pc stands for PERSONAL COMPUTER so keep it that way

john_galt
john_galt

"It's one of those chicken and egg things, don't you think?...." Your points are well taken, and indeed "who defines what a "legitimate need" is?" The criminal in any civilized society is always a small percentage, but where does the "right to think, make your own choices, and pay for your errors right or wrong end? I for one, want that choice in my hands because you can't legislate morality without ending up a slave society or a master. I want neither, and I will deal with each "individual" as I find him/her and let objective law rules, and reality be the final judge.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

While supressing this information does denote a certain level of restriction, that doesn't mean we are "giving away our rights". It is a self conscious decision that we make if we want our societies to remain peaceful and safe. Personally, I don't want the average Joe out there to know how to make explosive devices and use them without being detected. Yes, I do like my neighbors but unfortunately you cannot tell what is inside someone's head. For all I know my good friend of many years could be a serial killer. I would rather want to see that kind of information be made available only through controlled channels, for people who have a legitimate need for it. Then again, who defines what a "legitimate need" is?... the government?.... It's one of those chicken and egg things, don't you think?....

Timbrewolf
Timbrewolf

you are. :) There is a fine line between knowing how to avoid having your information accessed (security), removing information for whatever purposes (forensics), and the rights of your country to access your information (freedom). Should we be more concerned with "Big Brother" watching that we don't allow anything (even jokes or theories) to be stored on our computers. Or should we be more concerned with private information being taken out of context and used against us?

john_galt
john_galt

You can try to turn the Internet and the world of homo sapiens into "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil!" and call it Homeland Security, but the fact remains if you combine the three monkeys, what you are is a slave or dead. The danger of knowledge of anything is not power as is often stated, the real power and danger is it's application. Wipe out the Individual Rights of even one, and you wipe them out for all, and what's left is a herd heading to slaughter. "Note the present worlds herds!"

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

I am a citizen too, but I am happy you brought this up. We are talking world wide here, not just USA.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

How do we sort out the honest from the dishonest? Why do you think your network administrators will not share any information about the network with you? Why do we have firewalls block all our ports? Heck, I can't play my video games. There is always some configuration issue... Obscurity is a basic aspect of security. We may not like it, but we either have some sort of restriction in place, or things will eventually get out of hand. That is what living as part of a society entails, adhering to a set of rules so we can all live together without killing each other, lol.... If what you are saying is true then any information should be made available, from making bombs, to child pornography. Personally, I wouldn't want that...

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

was initially created witha distributed topology for a reason. And even if you are not American, you need to pay attention to American policy on the internet. America is attempting to make foreign web sites responsible for contenet provided to America citizens. Either way this get decided, there will be strong precedent set that will effect world wide usage of the net.

blackburne99
blackburne99

Just to point out to you and another poster that 'we' are not all Americans, and that this is NOT the United States of America. The majority on here may be, but not all. I am all in favour of sharing information, but just bear in mind that on the internet you are sharing with the world, not just your own country.

zoso967
zoso967

We, as americans, have the freedom to share information with other americans. we are not breaking the law. Anyone whose computer has already been "subpoenaed but not yet turned over" is then subsequently damaged to destroy evidence will be committing another crime ... obstruction of justice and consiracy to destroy evidence ..

raisch
raisch

All it takes is minimal intelligence and access to a high school chemistry book to effectively destroy anything, so let's not teach basic chemistry in high school. Rather let's control all information that might be used to commit a crime. Want to know when your flight will arrive? I'm sorry, since that information can be used to possibly attack an aircraft, all I am legally allowed to tell you is: "We'll get there when we get there." Further let's regulate those allowed to practice these "dangerous arts" so I cannot return my claw-foot enameled bathtub to its original shine without overpaying a regulated "professional." By disallowing access to information to honest people simply guarantees dishonest people will find ways to discover and use it. (Apologies to whomever coined a similar maxim regarding handguns.)

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

We shouldn't be disclosing this type of information. If they want to do such thing, let them go through other learning channels which law enforcement is able to track, such as libraries, colleges or seeking professional assistance from us $$$.. he he he While it is "wonderful" to have a "free world" where we can all exchange information, we don't live in "wonderland". There are bad elements out there that can benefit from the information as well. Unfortunately it is just too hard to filter all the information exposed on the web, but that doesn't mean we have to be a part of the problem. Anything we can do to help, helps.

mbaker
mbaker

trust me ... every time you send an email it ends up on more compueters than just the send ing and receiving systems... IM too everything is archived for at least a period of time. so destroying JUST YOUR computer wont get the job done it will just make mine harder.

kenskorupski
kenskorupski

I understands RayneToday's point, but the solution is less than desirable. Using that same logic, one could justify keeping information from the "public" for any number of reasons. Where do we stop controlling the free flow of information? Who makes that decision? This is still the United States of America and at risk of sounding overly dramatic, this is a FREE country. What do we tell those folks that want to dispose of their old computers and want to protect their personal information? "Sorry, we can't post that information in a public forum because somebody else might use that information to destroy evidence of a crime." Also, I think it is safe to assume that the people that read these posts are a we bit more knowledgeable technologically speaking, unlike the brain trust represented by these two idiots.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

If the crook can not find the same info we have, then they WILL get caught no matter whats posted on this site. Everyone knows file over writes do not work, disk wipes etc, do not work. If you are keeping info away from an average person buying the computer from you used, then yeah a DBAN and reload is fine. But that exact same technique will slow down professional data recovery for about 45 min, maybe.. Honestly, the "fill the bucket with sulfuric acid" remark is the bbest I have heard ina while, but, we have no guarantee sulfuric is whats needed, or that it will even react with the platters. (I see a weekend project comeing on.) But, what law enforcement has going for them is this; these destruction techniques take time. They appear at the door with ana rrest warrent, bang, you d not have time to destroy the evidence. Oh, and btw, use of encryption in a crime is considered an extra felony under the Patriot act. And, the only encryption you can trust is the one you write yourself, and even then, you have to trust its not flawed. Even AES 256 encrypted files have been recovered through faults in the implimentation. And by now, I would imagine server clusters exist to brute force even aes 512.

Mr_Fen
Mr_Fen

If they had successfully completed the crime maybe they could learn how to spell and form sentences. At least in prison they will (hopefully) be properly educated.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I thought it was funny... but then again, I did naughty things with my chemistry set when I was a tot...

PogiDaga
PogiDaga

Dr. RED is right about 18M sulfuric acid being nasty stuff that you don't want to play around with (if can you manage to find some; there's a reason they don't sell it at the hardware store). I was kidding about it to make a point that the only sure way to destroy "evidence" on a disk drive is to turn the magnetic coating on the disk drive platters into an amorphous goo. Overwriting and erasing and encrypting and formatting can all be overcome given sufficient time and skill and technical resources. So i guess the moral is don't have "evidence" on your computer unless you are prepared to destroy it on a molecular level before it gets seized.

Dr.RED
Dr.RED

Unless you know what you're doing with 18M sulfuric acid you can be badly injured. This solvent will most likely not work on the materials of a hard drive platter. Once the platter is retrieved it can still be read. Strong chemicals require safe handling procedures and materials that most people do not have. Please do not use 18 M sulfuric acid unless you are a trained chemist. This type of exercise would be a leap into insanity.

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