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Forensics (Part 1 of 2)
By josh
11/21/2006 11:24:54 AM
I'm not really sure where I want to go with this blog, so I'm just going to write and see what happens. I am mainly just writing for me, but I've noticed that there seems to be a large number of pornography addicts who's profession deals with computers (at least in the meetings), so maybe it will apply somewhat to others too. I apologize in advance for my long-windedness. (post-script - this is really long!)

What I want to write about is computer forensics. Ok, most of you stopped reading now... For a long time in my line of work I have dealt with computer security and forensics - analyzing what people have been doing on their computers. I've been sent to training on this for work, and am often called upon to "sleuth out" exactly what an employee has been doing with their computer - most of the time that means figuring out where they've been going on the web. When I started into my recovery, I realized that this was not a great line of work for a recovering pornography addict, but I don't think I realized just how important it was to abandon this aspect of my job and skill set. In all the progress I've been making, I guess in the back of my mind I've told myself that I can still perform computer forensics - I just won't look, or I'll look just long enough to see what it is but not really "see" it. It sounds so stupid to write it, and once I put it in words I see just how ludicrous it is. In the forensics that I have done since beginning my counter of sobriety, I can say that I have not actively engaged in looking at the things I've found - how do I say that right - if something did come up I've immediately closed it, or most of the time just not brought up any media - just text. And most of the time it has been with my boss looking over my shoulder. Obviously the text can be bad also. I'd gotten to the point that seeing bad words in urls or image names, etc. didn't register anything with me - it was just evidence. The hard reality is that if you have to make a case against someone, you have to know and see exactly what they've been doing so that no excuses can be made.

I don't think I saw that this became an obsession for me, an addiction in and of itself. It was more than just employees looking at pornography - it was also who had weak passwords, who was sharing their passwords, who was accessing portions of our own network they shouldn't access, who was excessively wasting time and resources emailing jokes and video files, who was storing their personal mp3 collection on the network, what employees were susceptible to social engineering, etc, etc. In one of my blogs I called myself the ignorant crusader, and that's what I was. I went around crusading in the name of security and protecting the company and downplaying any obsession or addiction I myself may have.

I told myself that my motives were good - I wasn't doing this to get people in trouble, I was doing it so they could make changes BEFORE they got themselves into trouble. "If anyone understands the danger and necessity to change your ways, I do," I would tell myself. "I can use my knowledge to help them." Both my boss and I were compassionate and tried to understand and help the employee before drawing a hard line, but the company did have to be protected.

I finally approached my boss. He is a good guy, and very understanding. I told him of my own addiction to pornography, and that I didn't want to be involved in forensics anymore. I felt pretty good about that conversation. There's lots of reasons why I didn't want to give it up. I am a prideful person, and it's hard for me to give up skills and not strive to be the expert in that area. My boss often came to me because I could generally easily and quickly figure something out - I had the right tools and knew how to use them. It is hard for me to give that up. I tend to want to be the expert on everything I am involved in, and have a tendency to get involved in anything going on in the I.T. department at work.

I put the cogs in motion for getting out of forensics, but I guess I didn't recommit myself enough to the concept. This all became abundantly clear to me when something awful happened. I'll be a little technical, so I apologize. I generally use Firefox as my web browser, and I have several "add-ons" for various things - web development, forensics, misc, etc. I was rebuilding my computer at home after a failed hard drive and reinstalled Firefox. I use a tool (FEBE, for you geeks) to back up my profile and add-ons so I don't have to reinstall them all individually when I reinstall Firefox somewhere. I used my profile from my work computer. Along with it came all my cookies, bookmarks, add-ons, saved passwords, and browsing history. When it dawned on me that my work browsing history was now on my home computer my first thought was one of relief that I had nothing to hide. Then I realized that from doing forensics there probably were some inappropriate things in there. Like an idiot, and largely out of habit, I scrolled through and opened any suspicious entries to see what they were (quickly closing them before anything came up). I know you're thinking "what a stupid thing to do", and well, it was. I probably should have just deleted the history - but I always feel like that means I'm trying to hide something, and I don't ever want to feel that way, so I didn't delete it. In doing all this, I left some traces of what I had been doing. I was still in my "I have nothing to hide" mode, so I really didn't even think about it. Later my wife innocently sat down at the computer and found a word on the screen staring back at her. I'm sure at this point her heart dropped into her stomach. She opened up an entry in the history and it opened up to some pornography. She confronted me, and all at once it seemed like all the progress of the last four months disappeared. All the trust was gone. That terrible, awful feeling that had been absent for so long came rushing back. I was physically ill, as was my wife. I couldn't believe that I had caused my wife to feel this way again, and I couldn't believe how stupid I had been not just in that moment, but for a long time. I'm not writing this to make excuses. I'm not trying to say it was all ok because I didn't actually look at anything. What I did was incredibly stupid. The whole concept of what I had been allowing myself to pursue was incredibly stupid. But all the apologizing and explaining in the world couldn't take away what my wife had seen and felt. I've hesitated to even write about it because I don't want her to read it and have all those feelings come back. Even as I write this I wonder if I should just let it go and not write about it. But something in me needs to get it out, needs to record it, and that brings me to the real reason I am writing this novel.

(continued in part 2...)

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"By emulating the Master, who endured temptations but “gave no heed unto them,” we, too, can live in a world filled with temptations “such as [are] common to man”. Of course Jesus noticed the tremendous temptations that came to him, but He did not process and reprocess them. Instead, He rejected them promptly. If we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us! Turning these unwanted lodgers away at the doorstep of the mind is one way of giving “no heed.” Besides, these would-be lodgers are actually barbarians who, if admitted, can be evicted only with great trauma."

— Neal A. Maxwell

General Conference May 1987