How NOT to redact a PDF – Nuclear submarine secrets spilled

by Graham Cluley on April 18, 2011 | Comments (6)

Filed Under: Data loss, Privacy

Is this PDF properly redacted?If you’re an organisation that is making public an internal document, you best make sure that you have deleted or blacked out any personal, confidential or actionable information.

The act of obscuring the sensitive information is known as “redaction”, and – for obvious reasons – needs to be done properly if you care about privacy and avoiding a potentially damaging data leak.

In the old days – before PDFs and Word documents – you might have redacted a document with a thick black marker pen, ensuring that anyone who made a photocopy of the document wouldn’t be able to see the censored words. Things are different with electronic media, of course.

Unfortunately, time and time again we’ve seen sloppy security procedures make it far too easy for unauthorised parties to view information in electronic documents that should have been properly redacted.

The last example which has made numerous newspaper headlines, involves the British Ministry of Defence, which was found to have published a PDF document online, unintentionally revealing information about nuclear submarine security.

The PDF, entitled “SUCCESSOR SSBN – SAFETY REGULATORS’ ADVICE ON THE SELECTION OF THE PROPULSION PLANT IN SUPPORT OF THE FUTURE DETERRENT REVIEW NOTE”, was published on the parliamentary website following requests under the Freedom of Information Act. However, although sections were supposed to be protected through redaction – it was possible to copy-and-paste the blacked-out text straight out of it.

Quack quack oops!

As the Daily Star explained:

The bunglers turned the text background black - making the words unreadable - but crucially left them in place. That meant anyone wanting to read the censored sections just had to copy the text.

This was a real school-boy error to make – as anyone with even an ­elementary knowledge of computers would know how to read the “redacted” content.

If you want to learn how to properly redact Adobe PDF files, here’s a great guide describing how to do it with Acrobat X Pro.

Good luck, and remember that simply marking text will not actually remove it from your sensitive PDFs. You also have to apply redactions!


Posted in Uncategorized

Prosecutors Knew Of FBI’s Forensics Flaws For Years, ‘The Post’ Reports

by Joseph Shapiro
Apr 17, 2012 — The Justice Department has long known that flawed forensic work by FBI experts may have helped convict innocent people, but prosecutors rarely told defendants’ attorneys, according to The Washington Post. Problems were seen in analyses of fingerprints, hair and fibers, bullets, polygraphs and other areas.
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For years, the U.S. Department of Justice has known that flawed forensic work by FBI experts may have led to the convictions of innocent people, but prosecutors rarely told defendants or their attorneys, according to an investigative report in The Washington Post.

The newspaper’s series is only the latest by journalists to question some of the most well-known tools of forensic science. NPR, working with PBS Frontline and ProPublica, has done related reporting over the past two years.

That includes a story last month that revealed new evidence in the case of Shirley Ree Smith, a California woman charged with killing her 7-week-old grandson by shaking him violently. The story by NPR, Frontline and ProPublica raised questions about the original medical examiner’s report, which was key to convicting her.

Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown commuted Smith’s sentence.

Also this year, a Texas court threw out the conviction in another case NPR questioned. Now Ernie Lopez, who was convicted of raping an infant and charged in her death, faces a new trial.

In today’s Washington Post, reporter Spencer S. Hsu says Justice Department officials began reviewing cases after defense attorneys pointed out problems with evidence coming out of FBI labs. But the review was limited.

“As a result,” writes Hsu, “hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects.”

In one case, a Texas man — whose death penalty was based on the FBI’s questionable analysis — was executed more than a year after the Justice Department began its review.

The Justice Department, in a statement to NPR, noted that it established a task force in 1996 to let prosecutors know about the investigation of practices at the FBI labs.

“The Task Force undertook an exhaustive effort involving thousands of cases to ensure that defendants’ rights to a fair trial were not jeopardized by the performance of a criticized lab examiner,” according to the statement. The FBI labs are used by federal, state and local prosecutors. The Post article says that “while many prosecutors made swift and full disclosures, many others did so incompletely, years late or not at all.”

The Post series notes that of all the forensic techniques to come out of crime labs, only DNA evidence has been scientifically validated and “able to consistently and accurately link a piece of evidence to a person or single source.” Still unproven, but often used, are analyses of fingerprints, hair and fibers, marks on bullets and shell casing, handwriting and the use of polygraphs.

In an interview with All Things Considered airing Tuesday, Hsu tells host Audie Cornish that from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, “the FBI lacked written protocols and invoked highly subjective techniques” to conduct hair and fiber analysis.

And Tuesday night, forensic science comes under more scrutiny in a documentary by PBS Frontline, working with ProPublica and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Their reporting looks at how flaws in fingerprint analysis led to the false arrest of an Oregon attorney, who found himself on trial for participating in the 2004 terrorist bombings in Spain that killed 191 people. After a judge dismissed the case against Brandon Mayfield, the FBI offered a rare apology.

The Frontline documentary also looks at other dubious uses of forensic evidence, from the testimony of a “smell” expert in the trial of Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of the first-degree murder of her 2-year-old daughter, to a story NPR reported last year on how flawed bite-mark identification was used to convict two innocent men in Mississippi.
Source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2012, NPR

See article here…

Posted in In The News

Los Angeles Handwriting Expert Beth Chrisman Gains Celebrity Status in and out of the Courtroom

Los Angeles Forensic Document Examiner, Beth Chrisman, finds success in courtrooms and on television. The youthful and intelligent handwriting expert has been outing forgers and frauds on daytime TV as well as in court rooms in across Southern California.

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) April 09, 2012

Daytime TV viewers might not know her name, but if they watch any courtroom genre TV shows, they will probably recognize her face. Beth Chrisman is that youthful and intelligent handwriting expert who has been outing forgers and frauds on daytime TV over the past few years. In March of 2012, syndicated Swift Justice re-runs featuring Beth Chrisman were already running in markets nationwide, after first airing in February of 2012. In the past two years, she has appeared on the syndicated courtroom shows: Swift Justice with Nancy Grace, Judge Karen, and Swift Justice with Jackie Glass as well as consulted with Judge Joe Brown’s staff. If those viewers from Burbank were to walk down the halls of the L.A. Superior Court building… they might see her there too. Since moving her forensic document examination business from Texas to Los Angeles four years ago, she has had over a hundred clients and has been named a court qualified handwriting expert in Ventura, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles County Superior Courts as well as the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

Just like trial attorneys, courtroom genre producers are constantly in need of a qualified and eloquent expert witnesses to give added insight to the evidence at trial. Unlike a civil courtroom testimony, the forensic document examiner (aka: handwriting expert) only gets a few minutes to explain her microscopic observations, her courtroom exhibits, and the results of her analysis. In real life, an expert witness may spend hours on the stand elaborating on their extensive training, reviewing exhibits, and detailed analysis procedures as they are examined by attorneys from both sides of the case.

According to Swift Justice Producer, Jessica Guerra, “Not only was Beth prepared ahead of time, she also was able to improvise and provide clear, articulated opinions on the spot, when unexpected situations popped up during taping. Because Beth is so knowledgeable about her field, she always finds a way to convey complex ideas and give her expert opinion with simplicity and clarity. I will hire her again and again.”

“Not many forensic document examiners are ready for Prime Time,” says Bart Baggett, an internationally recognized handwriting expert who has appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live, Texas Justice, Judge Judy & the Today Show. He continues,”TV Producers find it refreshing to find an actual working forensic handwriting expert who understands the medium of live television. Let’s face it; most industry experts aren’t very clear or concise in an everyday conversation. You can imagine what the added pressure of brevity and live TV does to their confidence. Courtroom genre TV shows have no actors, no scripts, and the judge enters a binding legal decision. The on-air experts must be vetted and qualified to step on that witness stand.”

“During my twenty years of television production, it has always been a difficult task to find and hire an expert that is both court qualified, as well as someone who understands the fast-paced world of television. Beth Chrisman is a seasoned professional who fills that bill. She is articulate, smart, concise, and a joy to work with,” says Debbie Alpert, Senior Producer of the television show, Judge Joe Brown.

Because Beth Chrisman lives and works in Los Angeles, she has a short commute to the Ventura, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino county court houses. Likewise, many major courtroom TV shows taped in or near Los Angeles.

Read more:

Posted in In The News

Check Forgery

Has someone forged your name on checks or withdraw slips?

This just happened to my sister.  She immediately phones and said will you please take a look at statement?  I think one of the withdraw slips has been forged!?!

Yes, indeed it had been.  Someone walked into the bank, filled out the form, presented it to a teller and took some cash that was not theirs.  If this has happened to you and you are finding no results from you bank, call me, I can help you.  Sometimes, it just takes a letter from a document examiner.

Beth Chrisman


Handwriting Expert California

Posted in Uncategorized

Wills, Forgery and Document Examination

The topic of wills and forgery is a frustrating one.   After handling a few cases revolving around probate as well as my own personal family experience, I have realized that sometimes the wishes of the decedent are not clear to the loved ones left behind.

Thus, there is fighting, unhappiness, bitterness and eventually attorneys, judges and even document examiners.  All of this can become quit expensive in terms of monetary value but can also be detrimental to physical and emotional well being of those involved as they ‘fight for’, ‘hold on to’, ‘keep’ the things they believe and feel are rightfully theirs as heirs.

Over the next few months I am going to educate myself and blog about ‘How to prepare for your death’, as morbid as this sounds it is a fact that we will all eventually face.  If our affairs are in order then the loved ones we leave behind can grieve or party, but not have to ‘fight’ over the belongings.

I welcome input from others more educated in this field!

I believe the first step is to consult with a professional, an attorney that specializes in estate planning.

If you feel this is too expensive and not an option for you, let’s explore options here as well.

Posted in Wills, Forgery and Document Examination

Hello world!

Hello!  I am Beth Chrisman, forensic document examiner.  I have examined over 4,000 documents regarding wills, deeds, contracts, checks and more.

If you suspect forgery, I may be able to help you even if it is to help find a document examiner in your area.


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