Social Media Forensics: Unveiling the Dark Side of Social Networks

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Social Media Forensics: Unveiling the Dark Side of Social Networks

Social Media Forensics: Unveiling the Dark Side of Social Networks

Today, social media platforms are an essential part of our lives as they offer an easy way of connecting with friends, family members, and workmates. However, it is these same qualities that make them fertile ground for different cybercrimes too. People can easily get away with a lot on such sites because of their anonymity and diversity. For example, perpetrators can use fake accounts to commit fraud, phishing scams or even prey on children among other unethical activities. According to reports; despite strict regulations set by Facebook alone has about 270 million fake profiles which shows how big this problem has become.

The Rise of Social Media Offenses

Social networking sites contain a lot of personal information about individuals hence they become easy targets for hackers who want to use it maliciously when they compromise someone’s account. Stalking, bullying, defamation and sharing illegal or pornographic content are some of the things that can be done with such information. Here are the most common types of social media crimes:

1. Hacking

Unapproved entry into an account is what hacking refers to where one loses control over their social media account. This can happen if a person does not log out from public computers, shares passwords with strangers, uses weak passwords or lets their login email id be compromised.

2. Photo Morphing

Photo morphing involves editing images to change their appearance. With 3.2 billion images shared daily on social media, miscreants can easily download and misuse these images, often morphing them for blackmail or to upload on adult websites.

3. Offer & Shopping Scams

These scams often target women with enticing offers. Victims are prompted to click on a link and forward it to multiple contacts, only to have their personal information stolen without receiving any coupon.

4. Dating Scams

Fraudsters use fake profiles to connect with victims, eventually asking for monetary help or blackmailing them with recorded video calls.

5. Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying includes sending obscene messages, spreading false information, or issuing threats online. Notable examples include the deadly Blue Whale and Momo challenges that led to several teenage suicides.

6. Link Baiting

Link baiting involves sending enticing links that lead to fake landing pages designed to steal account credentials. Social Media Forensics: Combatting Cybercrime

As social media crimes rise, so does the importance of social media forensics. This branch of digital forensics focuses on retrieving electronic evidence from social networking activities, playing a crucial role in the conviction or acquittal of suspects.

Evidence Collection in Social Media Forensics

Evidence collection in social media forensics can be manual or use advanced tools. Manual collection involves visiting websites and taking screenshots, while open source and commercial tools offer quicker, more efficient methods. Investigators must comply with the terms of service agreements of social networking platforms to ensure the evidence is admissible in court.

Stages of Social Media Forensics

Social media forensics involves three basic stages:

Evidence Collection in Social Media Forensics

Manually evidence in social media forensics can be done in two ways: with or without advanced tools. The first one is manually collecting evidence which involves visiting websites, as well as taking screenshots. The latter is quicker, more efficient and more effective. The use of social networking platforms to ensure that the evidence is admissible in the court will require an investigator to follow the terms of service agreements of the platforms.

Stages of Social Media Forensics

Investigative stages in social media forensics provides three basic steps like evidence identification.

  • Evidence Identification
  • Examine the mentioned crime scene for the necessary devices and programs.
  • Look up all social networking accounts the person in question owns.
  • Evidence Documenting (The Jigsaw)
  • Record all sources of evidence
  • Implement several techniques like physical clerking, photography, windows applications in the open source tools (e.g., HTTrack), commercial tools (e.g., X1), and content subpoenas.
  • Secure devices for forensic acquisition
  • Preparation (Arrangement)
  • Crack and open the records found in the registry.
  • Check the social networking footprints of the suspect to ascertain the location with information such as activity logs, profile information, likes, friends and tweets.

Social Networking Applications and Mobile Devices

As of now, the 90% majority of social media users are accessing the platforms through smartphone devices causing the situation where there will be a huge amount of potential evidence getting stored in smartphones. Forensic analysis of a suspect’s mobile device often yields vital leads, yet it has its downsides such as frequent data updates and the use of proprietary operating systems.

The Function of Social Media Forensic Services

Social media forensic services comprise professionals with the expertise of looking into social media-related crimes. A digital forensic social media investigator uses various implements and review methods to expose digital evidence, this in turn supports the police in solving cases as well as in giving the law-breaking defendants/performers their due.


Although social media offers many benefits, it also provides criminals with opportunities to commit cybercrimes. Social media forensics play a significant role in the identification and prosecution of these offenders and thus result in the provision of a more secure online environment to all users. As technology develops, forensic social media investigators too need to keep improving their methods and tools to stay in front of the criminals.