Take a Peek Inside BKD’s Forensics Lab
By Elizabeth Kelly
Forensics plays a part in countless crime shows these days, with bespectacled experts poring over a crime scene looking for any trace of the perpetrator. BKD professionals do the same thing, but in the digital world—hunting for stolen data hiding in a fraudster’s files or uncovering buried business intelligence that provides an organization with invaluable insight.
The BKD Big Data & Analytics (BDA) team leads the charge in this area, employing sophisticated software and leading-edge data analytics solutions to retrieve, retain and preserve data that reveal important facts, trends and patterns.
“BKD proves its value time and time again with our lab and our team,” says Jeremy Clopton, BDA practice leader. “Even the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reaches out to us to teach and train.”
So what exactly happens inside the lab? Let’s take a peek inside.
Fighting Fraud with Forensics
The digital forensics lab assists with the technological aspects of an investigation. The lab is equipped to analyze desktop and laptop computers, cellphones, tablets, USB drives and digital cameras—essentially anything that can capture electronic data.
“Any place there’s memory, we can try to recover and preserve information,” says Bryan Callahan, a Certified Fraud Examiner on the BDA team. “We use a variety of tools and apply whichever one will do the best job.”
The expertise of BDA team members extends beyond the analysis of Microsoft Windows-based computers to include machines running Mac and Linux. They’re also familiar with less conventional systems, too. They’ve collected data from the “black box” of a crane, analyzed a surgical robot’s hard drive and collected surveillance video files for analysis.
Sometimes, the team’s digital investigations venture into cyberspace. They can identify, capture, analyze and preserve social networking pages for sites like Facebook and Twitter, snagging everything from images, video and music down to every last character of text.
“The No. 1 issue we see is theft of intellectual property,” Bryan says. “Many times, people will leave their jobs and take information—like customer lists or financial data—that isn’t theirs. If there’s corruption or other power-based schemes occurring, the evidence may not be found in the general ledger. It exists in other files, though, and it’s our job to find it.”
Not long ago, Bryan and the team investigated a former credit union president who was let go for making loans to family members. After the president departed, management learned he may have illegally downloaded the credit union’s entire customer list. The BKD team searched through three different devices he had in his possession and were able to recover deleted files and emails.
The BDA team is constantly improving its data technology tools. Senior Data Scientist Lanny Morrow has developed a proprietary tool that can scan emails and instant messages to detect emotional tones. Tone detection uses adjectives, idioms and phrases found in communications to assess emotions, like tense, vague, nervous and low esteem.
“Lanny built something that does what IBM’s Watson can do,” Jeremy says. “It’s really impressive.”
Such a tool has powerful implications, allowing BKD to quickly hone in on red flags when there’s no clear starting point for an investigation.
Big Data & Analytics: Reaching New Horizons
Data analytics is one of the most effective anti-fraud controls available to businesses today. However, only a third of organizations use it. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2016 Report to the Nations, the average organization loses 5 percent of its annual revenues to fraud. These losses range from small expense reimbursement fraud or asset misappropriation to crippling, multimillion-dollar corruption schemes.
“Analyzing big data started in fraud, but now it’s exploded into other areas,” Bryan explains. “A couple examples of analytics in forensics would be analyzing payroll data that could be indicative of a suspicious employee or looking for fraudulent overtime spending.”
The BDA team doesn’t just expose issues or prevent fraud; they bring their insights to life by providing clients with actionable data that can improve efficiencies, processes, procedures and profitability.
“Our new interactive data visualization platform actually allows clients to see their data and interact with it,” Jeremy says.
BKD’s BDA team offers myriad solutions and has:
- Collaborated with BKD National Health Care Group on payment reform, helping hospitals shift how they’re being paid
- Assisted universities with how they analyze margins, all the way down to individually enrolled students
- Helped property management companies evaluate risk with properties and tenants
- Aided cities by looking at employee morale, assessing overtime within fire and police departments and evaluating pretrial decisions for holding or releasing inmates
Despite all their data digging, the BDA team remains focused on the “big picture,” Jeremy says.
“One of our main goals is empowering organizations to make better decisions using data,” he adds. “We want to help them develop successful analytics programs, even if that that means bringing it in-house and looking at how they can improve their analytics internally.”
The work being done in BKD’s forensics lab is proof the world is moving at the speed of technology, and the BDA team is meeting the challenges head-on. They’re equipped not only to address complex and relatively new problems, but also to help organizations embrace their data and find ways to use it to their advantage.
Learn more about BKD Big Data & Analytics.