Computer forensics key in Harris murder case

Remember when your mom told you to clean up your room, and when she came back it was spotless?

Because everything was hidden under your bed.

Well that's exactly what happens when you tell your computer to delete files. It just hides them really well.

As a website developer, murder suspect Justin Ross Harris knows his way around a computer. But so do the police. That's how they uncovered his apparent double life of sexting and his penchant for videos about death.

RELATED | New warrants explore personal troubles of Ross Harris

PHOTOS | Justin Ross Harris July 3 court hearing:

"We talked a little bit about these computers; have you guys done examinations on these computers?" asked Cobb prosecutor Chuck Boring of Detective Phil Stoddard as he sat on the witness stand in Harris probable cause hearing Thursday.

"We have," Stoddard responded.

"Are you finished with your examination of these computers?"

"We've only scratched the surface," Stoddard answered ominously.

"These experts in law enforcement have been trained in computer forensics," said Greg Evans of Hi Tech Crime Solutions. "They have the best software in the world that will go in and go through each sector. It may not take a day. It can take a month; it can take a week; or it can take 6 months depending on how much data you have on there."

Harris had access to at least three computers. And police say it's clear he was covering his tracks in all of them.

Prosecutor Boring to Stoddard: "Based upon your review of these computers and other devices he's had contact with is it obvious that he's deleted some of the things and from cross referencing these phones and items?"

Detective Stoddard "Yes."

But in cyberspace, "delete" doesn't mean "gone."

"When you delete a file on your computer, it's still there," explained computer security expert Evans. "It just renames the sector to say this is just unused space right now. And then something else can write over top of it."

Evans says the same applies to your tablets and cell phones. The files are there and not there. At the same time.

"People think 'Well, this is a cell phone. Once I delete a picture or text message or my contacts, it's gone'" said Evans. "No. Even when you hit 'reset' on your phone, that information is still stored on that hard drive."

There's plenty of privacy software out there to encrypt what you do and where you go on the web. For most folks it's not worth it, since they don't have anything to hide.

And that's very likely what Harris' defense team will say about him as well when his case goes to court.

RELATED | Defense: Ross Harris a 'loving' father who made a mistake


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