• The Real Truth About Suicide

    The Real Truth About Suicide

    Suicide can happen to anyone. Especially on the worst day of a person’s life. Experts, pundits, and all others who want to pretend that it is something that only happens to ‘other people’ say that there is a sickness or syndrome that causes a person to clock out. The truth… the real truth… is that the same person who made this claim is probably one step from the act themselves (now or in the past), but decided to mask it out of shame or superiority. I’m here to tell you that you need not feel shame about contemplating suicide, nor sympathizing for friends or family members who have decided to commit this ultimate act. Of course it is not a choice to aspire to make, or to be happy of the outcome. However, understanding the choice and sympathizing for those who consider or commit this act is most important to our humanity. Continue reading

  • Bad Funny vs. Funny: What’s the Difference?

    Bad Funny vs. Funny: What’s the Difference?

    In the early nineties I drove from New Jersey to Los Angeles by myself in order to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and screenwriting. I performed my stand-up routine about a hundred times, wrote two screenplays, and produced a well-received short film called “Spytown”. During that time, I also pursued a career in the family business: private investigations. Turns out, I found myself making a lot more money catching bad guys than making people laugh. So now, fast forward more than two decades, I’m the CEO of a successful private investigation firm and still have the bug for being an entertainer. In addition to developing a few writing projects while running my company, I’m also in the Los Angeles comedy scene performing the occasional stand-up spot. Continue reading

  • Hogwarts Should Conduct Background Checks

    Hogwarts Should Conduct Background Checks

    Background Checks – Who are the Slytherin anyway?  And why is Hogwarts teaching them the ancient and forbidden magic arts?  My wife is going through the process of re-watching all of the Harry Potter films.  She’s read all of the books ahead of the films, watched the films in the theater and now she has decided to see them all again.  Perhaps this is in preparation of the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next year at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Besides the first one that had Gary Oldman in it, I always encouraged Wifey to take a niece or nephew to see these movies.  Mission accomplished.  Somehow, though, I have a feeling I’m not going to be able to weasel out of attending the theme park.  To quote a great song of the 1970s “The Things We Do for Love”.  10cc had it right.   Continue reading

  • The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence

    The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence

    The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence – Anyone who knows me or follows me online knows that I’m a pretty open person. I share almost everything I’m up to.  Anyone I know (or any stranger for that matter) can experience with me my lunch, thoughts on a number of odd topics, and even what I’m doing with my dog, Chauncey. In fact, right now you can click any link on the right of this page and learn a plethora of details about my exploits, both past and present.  You may say that this is bad for someone in the investigative profession. You are not alone. Overwhelmingly, security professionals of a certain level preach this concept as gospel. I’m here to tell you that, in the 21st century, “security by obscurity” is the most ludicrous method of keeping secrets. Continue reading

  • The Dark Web Ain’t As Dark As You Think

    The Dark Web Ain’t As Dark As You Think

    I have recently been asked several times by clients and colleagues about the dark web.  When I began writing this article I was still debating whether I should use capitals when addressing the dark web.  After a few thoughts, I decided that it does not warrant its own title.  The dark web is as much a proper place as a dark alley.  Before I discuss my reasoning here, I should give you all a quick synopsis of what the dark web actually is, and it isn’t what you may think.  The Internet, as we know it, is a network of millions of servers that connect to one another and, as a result, catalog one anothers’ contents.  This enables search engines like Google and Bing to index the information for free and resell it to their consumers for a profit, financed by advertisers. Continue reading

  • Fakes in Film: American Gangster

    american_gangster_posterWelcome to ‘Fakes in Film’, the first in a new series of articles featuring counterfeit goods and trademark infringement featured in movies and television.  More and more, this topic is being included in pop culture and we want to be there to show it to you.  Some references will be old/retro and some will be completely new.  So here goes…

    One of my favorite crime films of the last decade is Ridley Scott’s epic “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The film chronicles the rise and fall of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Washington) who is pursued by the flawed hero Richie Roberts (Crowe).

    As a businessman I quickly connected with Lucas’ recognition of eliminating the middleman to connect directly with the supplier. He immediately doubled his profits after this step and gained respect from his peers by how he eliminated said middleman.  As a crime-fighter I related to Roberts’ pure motives and focus on the prize.  He wanted to stop Lucas’ criminal activities at all cost.  He did.

    What does this film have to do with trademark infringement?  Of all films in recent years this sticks out with me the most.  Frank Lucas (Washington) is enjoying the spoils of the success of his uncut heroine on the streets on 1970s New York City.  What many may not recall is that he created a brand for this drug called “Blue Magic”.  When a competitor began using his trademark to distribute substandard drugs, he quickly met with this individual and explained the situation to him as follows:

    • “Blue Magic is a brand name; as much a brand name as Pepsi. I own it. I stand behind it. I guarantee it and people know that even if they don’t know me any more than they know the chairman of General Foods.  What you’re doing, as far as I’m concerned, when you chop my dope down to five percent, is trademark infringement.”

    This illustrates to me, more than the usual venues, how brand recognition is so important that it transcends even legal commerce.  Brands rule, baby.  They rule completely.  Even though many of us spend our time trying to stop criminals from infringing on our clients’ trademarks, they too care about their own brands.  Irony?  yes.  Another way to track them?  Yes also.

    Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

  • Rob’s Jobs Series: “The Seaver Method”

    The Seaver MethodTom Seaver was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with a 98.8% vote on the first ballot. Even 21 years afterward, this is the highest consensus of all time. I know you’re asking, “Why does Rob Holmes, a private eye, care about a pitcher from the 70s in regard to being a private eye?” He was voted by his critics to be more qualified than anyone that came before, or after him, to be in the Hall of Fame.  Back in the 1970s, when he was at his peak performance, a reporter asked him when he decided to change pitches. His response was, “I throw the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.”  This is the best business advice I have ever received.  Still, after many years in business:

    1. I develop an arsenal of weapons.
    2. I decide which one is the best, then prioritize.
    3. I strike the first bastard out.
    4. I keep throwing the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.
    5. I throw another great pitch until it doesn’t work no more either.
    6. Repeat until the opponent is defeated.

    In investigations, or even business, this is always the case. I’ve read books written by great businessmen like Trump, Welch, Collins and the like.  But the only thing that resonates with me is the “Seaver Method” that says sticking with what works is always the best thing to do.  No matter what the theory is… what works is all you know.  Keep at it until it don’t work no more.  Then move on to the next idea.  And so forth.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  • Replica Handbags and Black Hat SEO

    Google Gives Update on How It’s Combating PiracyAs I do in a normal day, I was patrolling the mean streets of the web looking for websites selling fakes.  On this particular day, one site came to my attention.  How does a church website with no e-commerce component show up as a top search engine result for replica handbags?  When I examined the website’s source code, I observed that there was a javascript injection placing links into their website unbeknownst to them.

    Below is an example of what I observed:

         
         elementId = Math.floor(Math.random() * 10001);
         document.writeln('
    ‘); document.getElementById(‘block’ + elementId) .style.display=’none’; <a href=”http://xxxxxx.com/db-gestion/pmd/styles/default/images/ icons/brandname/brand-name-products.php”>brand name products</a>

    Search engines rank websites based on inbound links from legitimate websites.  A javascript injection like this created invisible links to the bad guys’ website the search engines can see but the viewer cannot.  The way this is done is by finding an open doorway into a legitimate website that does not have the latest security updates.  This is an example of a black hat technique that helps increase search engine results for their illegal site.  The lesson to be learned (besides keeping your software updated) is that there are many hidden efforts behind marketing contraband products and, in turn, many clues left behind if you know where to find them.

    Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

  • Branch Offices for Counterfeit Luxury Goods

    During one of my strolls through the dark alleys of the web I came across another interesting black hat search engine optimization technique: branch offices for counterfeit luxury goods installed within legitimate sites.  At first observation, the website I saw selling counterfeits looked like any other.  But, after a closer look, the URL appeared to be much longer than the typical domain-based URL like fakestuffseller.com.  Instead it looked like this: http://legitimatesite.com/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/ brand/boots/brand-boots.php.  I noticed an extra directory ‘/includes/‘ that looked out of place and perhaps would not be in the normal structure of this particular legitimate website.  My next step was to test my theory and delete the extra crap (/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/brand/boots/brand-boots.php) from the URL, leaving it to be simply legitimatesite.com.  As I has suspected this led me to a perfectly legitimate university website.

    The two questions you are asking right now are “how?” and “why?”.  Allow me to enlighten you.  The “how” is similar to what I explained in another recent article I wrote regarding black hat search engine optimization techniques where hackers find weaknesses (like unlocked doors) in websites whose security software is not up to date.  Once that vulnerability is detected, the hacker can install thousands of his own websites within your website without your knowledge and, perhaps, for years before you even notice anything is strange.  The reason they do it is so that they can create tens of thousands of websites selling counterfeits.  Since this is done on a mass scale, the criminal is only minimally affected when your lawyer takes down poor old legitimatesite.com.  He has an unlimited supply.  Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

  • Brand Protection and Social Media

    In the era of telecommuting and coffee shop branch offices, Facebook has replaced the watercooler, LinkedIn is the new resume and Skype is the new boardroom. Let’s face it. Your online ‘brand’ has become your most public persona. Along with the vast benefits that social media bring a new world has opened up for fraud, misinformation and brand abuse. Holmes is not only a top brand protection investigator. He is also the one-man marketing department for his firm. Combining his two passions of trademark investigations and social media, he will take you on his journey from creating his first blog, designing his firm’s website, and planning a social media strategy and then arm you with brand protection tactics that he employs for his clients.  Rob gave this talk, entitled Brand Protection and Social Media in June 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

Sincerely, neruaelle

A Guilt-Free Lifestyle

Hi-Tech P.I.

Helping people see the forest for the trees, online.

Holmes, P.I.™

Can you dig it?