The world seems to get smaller every day – and more confusing. With global business and transportation becoming a norm, Americans must become more aware and accepting of different ways of doing things. The liter is more prevalent around the world than the gallon. Measurements are based on the metric system in most countries other than the United States.
While these might seem like little things, one very simple, yet critical, difference is that of the format of dates. are very cognizant of the differences because in our line of work, it can really matter. In fact, a date may be a life or death bit of information.
Because we conduct so many computer forensic investigations on business devices that conduct transactions in the global community, we are familiar with different formats.
When an American writes 10-01-12, it is commonly interpreted as October 1, 2012 or 1912. However, a European might read it as January 10, 2012 or 1912. Seems like a little detail, doesn’t it?
With most technology devices, date and time formats are set in preferences. So when a computer forensic specialist is in the midst of a computer investigation, those dates mark files and documents. Dating documents and files in computer data forensic recovery is important for time lines and in fact gathering. Wrong dates provide inaccurate or misleading information. Definitely not the facts nor the truth.
This confusion can prevent less knowledgeable investigators to conclude that information they have is not pertinent to a case, with disastrous results. For instance, when conducting cell phone forensics to gather cellular location evidence to exonerate someone of participating in a crime in a certain place at a certain time, think of the consequences of an incorrect interpretation of a date or time. The facts could be right there proving innocence, but not identified. One would hope with cellular tower triangulation that the confusion would be cleared up, but be sure. An experienced private investigator would be on top of it; he’d know to be aware.
What might seem a simple fix would be to use a format wherein the month is always notated as text such as 10 Nov 2012 or 11 Oct 2012. But that doesn’t always fit into the programming on software and systems. And, without a global standardization, there will always be variances.
The solution, at least for now, is when dates matter and investigation is in order, work with professionals. A misinterpreted date could be disastrous.
-Brenda McGinley, CEO, All in Investigations, All in Investigations