As computer use has become widespread in families, the usefulness of
forensics in certain family situations is only logical.
"There have been cases involving runaways in which examining their
emails has led to finding them," Simon said. He tells of a case where a
teenage girl interested in the "Goth" movement fell in love with a man in
his 30s who claimed to be a "master vampire." She ran away to meet him and
was located after her computer was investigated.
According to Simon, "One of the biggest requests these days is from
concerned parents. They want to know who their children are chatting with
online and what they can do to protect them."
He says computers should always be kept in a common area and never in
an enclosed bedroom. There are computer programs parents can use to
monitor their children that record each and every keystroke. There are
also programs that attempt to block access to "adult" sites or other
questionable materials, but Simon said they are not always effective.
"Any 14-year-old who knows what they're doing can bypass it," he said.
"These [access-blocking] programs are written in English, and many of the
sites are French, Russian, German or Belgian." All they have to do, he
said, is type in a site name in another language, or type in the site's
direct IP address in numbers instead of words.
So what do parents do when their children are technologically savvy?
Simon said that's when active interest from parents comes into the
"Take interest in what your child is doing," he said. "Be open. A lot
of times, the first reaction when finding adult material on the computer
is anger - but that's the worst thing you can do." He said that only sends
the message that it's not something children can discuss with Mom and
Computer forensics are also used extensively in child pornography
cases. Simon said there is a well-known case where a pedophile had
reformatted his computer's hard drive 40 times in an attempt to erase it,
but forensic experts still recovered enough material to convict him.
Simon holds to a principle coined in 1910 by Edmond Locard which says
that anyone entering a scene leaves something behind and takes something
of the scene away with them. He said that's never more true than with
"Reformatting and deleting does not get rid of the information. There
is no real way to delete things off your computer except by smashing it to
pieces," he said.
Simon has been involved in information technology and computers for the
past two decades and said his first computer was a Tandy 1000. He is now a
certified Texas investigator by the Texas Association of Licensed
Forensics started to interest him in 1996 when a client asked to have a
second modem installed to monitor off-site business locations. That modem
started having problems, and when Simon tried to troubleshoot it, he
discovered the client had been downloading a great deal of
Simon said corporate fraud fascinates him because he knows the truth is
out there, it just needs to be found.
For more about Simon and Abberline Computer Investigations, visit