Cybercrime expert and dark web investigator Cynthia Hetherington has been following digital trails for decades. She explains how to keep data safe and clean up your ‘digital exhaust.’
Digital Trail- Compared to shows like Black Hat and RSA, the Paraben Forensic Innovation Conference (also known as the Digital Forensics and Incident Response conference) doesn’t get much attention. But PFIC DFIR brings together some of the world’s foremost digital forensics and security experts for keynotes and training sessions on everything from threat intelligence to understanding the dark web.
Ahead of this year’s conference in Park City, Utah, we caught up with cybercrime investigator and dark web expert Cynthia Hetherington, CEO of Hetherington Group. She has led numerous cyber intelligence investigations, working side-by-side with Fortune 500 companies, the FBI, and Department of Defense; her firm has also taught almost 300,000 corporate security professionals how to gather evidence from the dark web.
We discussed the high-profile cyber stalking and corporate espionage cases she’s worked on during her career, and how users can protect their identities, stay safe online, and clean up the data left in our clickstream, which she calls our “digital exhaust.” Here are edited and condensed excerpts of our conversation.
PCMag: I listened to a podcast where you described how you got started in the private investigator world. After a graduate degree in library science, local law enforcement professionals in New Jersey asked you to guide them through the pre-browser world of alt.forensics listservs, via the Gopher protocol, and you made it into a career.
Cynthia Hetherington (CH): [Laughs] Back then, in the early 90s, I was Google before Google existed. Being a librarian was the perfect civil service job; I should be retired now and living in some fancy gated community. But when those cops came in and asked me to show them how the internet worked, I quickly realized there was a future in this and haven’t looked back.