Tupelo — To all the hackers and cyber criminals out there, be ware. There’s a new group of “detectives” on the job. Evidence Technology, a digital forensics firm, has opened its doors in this Northeast Mississippi city, looking to offer its unique services to government agencies, law firms, corporations and individuals.
Tupelo resident and president and lead examiner at Evidence Technology Jerry Hatchett said, “We find and analyze digital evidence — documents, images, e-mails, anything at all. Intact or deleted, visible or hidden, doesn’t matter. Computers, digital cameras, flash cards, PDAs, even cell phones — if it’s there, we find it.”
In addition to computer forensics, Evidence Technology also provides data recovery from malfunctioning hard drives, along with restoration and enhancement of audio and video evidence.
It’s been an interesting journey for Hatchett, 44, a native of Shelby in the Mississippi Delta who eventually relocated to Oxford then Tupelo in 1988. (He attended both Delta State University and the University of Mississippi.) Hatchett owned a variety of businesses over the years, but turned his focus to “matters of technology and creativity” in the early 1990s. Self-taught, Hatchett developed a turnkey computer system for the pawn shop industry. He eventually sold these systems to a California concern.
“That business grew, but it became evident that the niche´ was too narrow and too competitive for long-term growth,” Hatchett said. “The Internet arrived on the scene about this time, and I became instantly convinced that it would cause a mammoth explosion in computer technology.”
Hatchett began doing video production to teach non-technical people about technology. For example, he developed dozens of software training videos for personnel of Tupelo-based BancorpSouth on how to use the financial institution’s ever-changing technology tools. He also began writing articles that were published in various nationally-distributed tech magazines, and worked as a tech consultant to businesses, churches and other entities.
A couple of years ago, Hatchett decided it was time to specialize. “I wanted to find a tech niche´ that would be enjoyable, large enough to sustain long-term growth and, most importantly, something new enough not to be saturated,” he said. “I found digital forensics, and knew it was a perfect fit.”
Hatchett enrolled in the forensics curriculum taught through the Southeast Cybercrime Institute and Kenesaw (Ga.) State University. After completing his studies, Hatchett sought and earned certified computer examiner (CCE) status. According to Hatchett, he is the first CCE in Mississippi.
“Given my background in video, I decided to offer video/audio enhancement services, as well,” Hatchett added.
Evidence Technology’s launch date was July 1, with Hatchett and his wife, Susan, as the only employees. Hatchett said the firm “won’t be at full steam for another week or so.”
“We’ve put together a first-class lab, and some of the equipment and software was delayed a bit. It’s all in place now, and we’re putting on the finishing touches,” he said.
Markets for computer forensics are attorneys, law enforcement agencies, corporations and individuals. Hatchett said the forensic video services are generating early interest among surveillance managers at Mississippi’s casinos, and he expects interest to be keen among law enforcement personnel, as well.
Early marketing efforts include mail-outs, e-mails and advertisements in trade publications. And Hatchett is currently developing an educational seminar on digital forensics to present to interested groups.
Reality vs. Hollywood
The technology utilized by Evidence Technology is new and exciting. But Hatchett is quick to point out that the reality of the firm’s work doesn’t always match what one sees on TV or at the movies.
“Our video capabilities aren’t quite up to Hollywood’s standards,” Hatchett quipped. “We can’t get a tag number that was reflected off a wet street onto a storefront window and then off a human eyeball. That’s not reality. We can, however, do amazing things with recorded material, whether it came from a surveillance camera or a covert wire. It’s sexy technology.”
Another reality is that Evidence Technology is poised for and expecting future growth. Hatchett said the lab is set up to accommodate a second examiner, who will be added as the caseload builds. The firm is also contemplating hiring a sales professional to augment and play off of Evidence Technology’s marketing efforts.
Hatchett said, “I believe in 10 years, computer forensics and electronic recovery will be as commonplace within the legal industry as fax machines are today. The few law firms making proper use of forensics today have a distinct advantage, because they’ve tapped into a gold mine of evidence. Equalization is inevitable.
“The main challenge is education. To the non-geek, digital forensics can look a bit like electronic voodoo. We have to demonstrate what it really is — a science, digital ‘CSI,’ autopsies for computers.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.