The Stories are true; the names and places have been changed to protect the potentially guilty.
It was almost closing time on Friday and my thoughts were turning to Barbequeing some of that mouth-watering Santa Maria tri-tip while my nose was turned to the scent of burning red oak in the park nearby. As I prepared for a glorious weekend, I was not tuned to the sound of the telephone, but there it was, anyway.
Should I answer it? Was it just going to be one more bit of spam, a mystery pink substance that can’t hold a candle to that famous juicy cut of beef on the coals?
Expecting to hear one more offer to extend the warranty on my car, my computer, my very soul, I decided to pick up the horn anyhow.
“I’m the guy.”
“Mr. Burgess, I’m so glad you’re still there.”
“That makes one of us. How can I help you?”
The gent on the phone proceeded to tell me about a hip-hop star and some porn. This is not an everyday occurrence. Well, not for me, anyhow. The caller was an attorney from Florida and his client had just sued Mr. Hop for invasion of privacy. The lawyer was afraid that Hop or his minions would take down the offending video and asked me to see if and where I could still find it online while there was still a chance to capture the evidence.
Normally, I don’t take a case without a deposit or retainer, but this seemed like about a half hour’s worth of work, so I agreed to put off the visions of beef in my head and turn my attention to visions of cheesecake on the screen.
Not only was the offending material still online; it was online in about a hundred places. Hoping that I wasn’t about to do several hours’ worth of work and then get stiffed, I proceeded to memorialize dozens of websites linking to some extreme amateur camerawork. Amateur it may have been, but nothing was hiding from the camera. It was the essence of letting it all hang out.
You know what they say – if you’re on the Internet, you’re there forever. This was not the plan of the naked lady on the screen. You see, this belle had been the baby mama of Dr. Ross, an adversary of Hop’s. But their relationship soured and she moved on. On the third date with her next beau, he convinced her to allow a videotape of this episode of bliss together. After the fact, she reconsidered (hindsight is 20/20, right?) and asked him to destroy the video. Which he said he would. Which he did not. Probably wanted to watch the reruns.
In any case, Hop had been looking for Dr. Ross’s former ladyfriends to take them shopping on video and generally trying to turn up the heat on his beef with the Doc. A large portion of Hop’s website was given over to trying to embarrass his foe.
He put the word out and instructed his flunkies to seek out something more embarrassing. And wouldn’t you know, they located Belle’s ex-boyfriend and his tape library. Money and video were soon exchanged and Hop’s folks set up the plan.
For weeks, teaser videos were put out on Hop’s site and replicated all over the hiphop world. Hop even had a new website created, OopsieVid, just for the purpose of airing the injudiciously recorded dalliance. He even created a self-caricature, Hustler’fro, to narrate the video once it went live.
And live it went! Hundreds of thousands of views were racked up. The narration was, unsurprisingly, very disrespectful. Each movement was judged, attention was given to the Dr. Ross tattoo on our coquette while HFro made cutting remarks about Dr.’s manhood, abilities, and so forth. Nasty stuff, making the nasty video all the nastier.
And Coquette was just roadkill for Hop and his viewers’ entertainment.
So, imagine her surprise when her niece called and asked in shock, “Aunt Coquette, why are you having sex on the Internet?” Remember, this was a video that she had been assured was erased, destroyed, kaput.
Enter the Florida Man attorney. This is where our story began, remember?
Using some of the verbiage on the Oopsie site, I asked Mr. Google to tell me if any other sites had mentioned the same words. And indeed, the hiphop world was afire with mentions – fiery, lascivious mentions. I began documenting the many sites, some of which had screenshots from the video, some of which linked directly to the Oopsie site, and some of which embedded the video directly. It was everywhere.
I downloaded the entire site, using WebDevil. I researched former versions of the sites, using the Wayback Machine at Archive.org. I looked at the source code for several of the sites to see where the videos had come from. And I documented how the number of views on the sites that had counters on them skyrocketed.
Speaking of sky, one of the lawyers at the larger firm that took over the case, asked me to be sure that the counters on the primary site were accurate. Of course, one method would be to subpoena the webdev or host to inquire as to how the counter worked, but another means would be to see if I could make it increment, myself.
So, late one evening, when I guessed most good people would be a-snooze, I went to the site and repeatedly logged onto its most popular video for the day, then off, then on, then off. You get the idea. But sure enough, my rapid-fire repeated visits were incrementing the counter up with each visit.
I mentioned the sky didn’t I? It turns out that the most popular video on that site for that day was a couple skydiving while in flagrante delicto. Apparently, they were causing quite the flap. Fortunately, they weren’t so distracted (or cold!) that they forgot to pop the chute.
But most importantly, I could show that the counter was working.
Stay tuned for Part 2…
This is just one of many “CSI-Computer Forensics Files: Real Cases from Burgess Forensics. Stay tuned for more deeds, good, bad, and otherwise as uncovered by forensic science…
Copyright Steve Burgess, 2023
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