For this interview I am going to speak to someone that many of the regular visitors to the site might not be aware of Chris ‘The Forensic Guy’ Stanko.
I was scrolling through Tik Tok one evening and stumbled across this guy who was brute forcing passwords on a Galaxy S9 and was fascinated and so watched a few more videos and subscribed.
After a few weeks I noticed he has a YouTube channel so of I went and subscribed there too and am still actually working my way through the videos but it’s a different kind of forensics than I am used to being more hardware focused, there are some great videos on his YouTube channel, and you should check them out as really fascinating.
Chris posted a great 5-part series on the channel on ‘Digital Forensics’ which I will post now for you to watch.
A really nice guy (isn’t everyone in Canada ?).
If you haven’t already, I recommend going straight to his Tik Tok and subscribing along with the YouTube as its great seeing the different ways data is restored, dead drives are brought back to life, mobile phones that are locked out are brut forced open but all of these with great descriptions about what he is doing so you can learn to.
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With full Computer Forensics Certification, Data Rescue Labs Inc can not only recover your data but we can also provide computer forensics and expert witness services. We can investigate any digital device and provide full comprehensive reports that can be used in courts. Out team is certified in the digital forensic field by ISFCE, and our certification and experience is indispensable in order to testify in court. We have been involved in many high-profie cases with a 100% success rate.
Hope you enjoy the interview as much as me and be sure to check him out at the social places and online ?
I first come across you on Tik Tok and then from there subscribed on YouTube but I never noticed until checking now you are almost at 200k followers across both platforms, how did the social media aspect come about from the day to day job, and has it become an important part of what you do?
I started YouTube in 2016 and it was mainly to get customers for our business. At the time it was just a small portion of what I do and I didn’t put much effort into it, with my content being so niche, the subscribers and views were very low and remained so for some time.
Eventually, I stepped it up with the content and the subscriber count started to climb. During the pandemic in early 2020, I also joined TikTok as a joke, as everyone else did. I then quickly realized that there is a huge potential to bring in more customers and expose the masses to this branch of IT and digital forensics that is normally behind closed doors.
My videos gained traction on TikTok rather quickly and I have met some really cool people on both platforms and really don’t see myself going forward without a social media presence. In this day and age, if you are a company and don’t have a presence on one of the few large social media platforms, you are missing out on business. Being able to connect with customers and potential customers is imperative.
Did you think it would grow this much and is it something you would like to grow further?
I was very surprised when some of my early videos started hitting 100k+ views and I loved reading comments from people who have never seen or heard of the type of work that I do. If you told me in 2019 that I would have a nearly 200k follower TikTok account two years later, I wouldn’t believe it, especially when seeing how painfully slow my YouTube growth was.
How did you get into forensics, was that path you decided early on when getting into it all?
Believe it or not, in my early 20s I was driving heavy trucks but was always into computers as a hobby at a very early age. Starting off with my first Commodore 64C in the late 80s. By the time I was 29, I did not want to be a career truck driver,
I wanted something different, something I already enjoy as a hobby. I went back to school right after I turned 30, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do exactly but I knew it would be in IT. At school I met my now business partner, we both took Computer Forensic boot camp from ISFCE.comand discussed starting a Data Recovery company that could eventually branch off to digital forensics and the rest is history. This November, we will be 12 years in business.
Most of the videos I watch are quite hardware orientated like drives, phones and stuff but do you get to delve into the digital forensic side of things as well?
I made few videos on just digital forensics but those videos never did very well and I don’t think I could convert viewers of these videos into potential clients. I made a few videos that would only discuss digital forensic topics and eventually scrapped the whole video for the fear that it would just bore people.
I decided that If I were going to make a video on that topic, I will do so if I had an interesting case and without disclosing any specific details of said case. I made a video last year on my youtube channel, where I talked about Forensic report writing, my thought process, and the end result of the investigation. I have had more cases like that but unfortunately, NDAs are a thing and without these spicy details, the video would just be boring.
It is something I would love to try my hand at (data recovery) but I have NO experience with electrics, solders and the like but between watching you and the amount of game console repair videos my youngest watches on tik tok I do think it looks interesting. How would you recommend someone get started in this side of things?
Just go for it! I heard a quote once that couldn’t be any more true. Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.
I can’t tell you how many test devices I have destroyed at learning what I do. We purchased endless devices. You just have to start practicing and when you make a mistake, you learn from it and then you know what not to do the next time.
Can you talk me through the tools and software you use?
I will narrow it to the most important ones:
For forensic work, Cellebrite UFED is the most important for any phone investigation, followed by Magnet Axiom which can handle phones and computers, and various other devices.
For data recovery PC3000 Portable and UDMA can repair firmware issues on hard drives and SSD drives, DeepSpar Imager, and USB Stabilizer — just to name a few.
We have so many more tools that I would rather invite your readers to watch my 5 part YouTube series «Digital Forensics — What you need to know» where I discuss digital forensics from education to tools we use here. I made it into a playlist right on my YouTube channel.
I thought about possibly trying to join the police force in their digital forensics department but there was a section in the job application page warning about stuff you might see and saying that a psychologist would be available 24/7, you must have seen some stuff in your time as well. Anything interesting you can share with us?
There is this one aspect of digital forensics where you might work with CSAM material. Anytime Law Enforcement deals with these types of imagery, they have access to psychologists and other mental support workers, and rightly so.
This kind of support is something I don’t have access to for free, thus I limit my CSAM exposure to only 1-3 cases a year. These kinds of cases are very hard on an investigator and if I can avoid them, I do.
Is there any other aspect of “hacking” that you would like to dabble in or possibly do already, I see you cracking passwords a good bit already?
My hacking is mainly on a hardware level but very limited, I also crack passwords on phones and other devices. I would love to discuss this in more detail but some of this work is protected by NDAs.
Where do you keep up your skills, any sites, podcasts, YouTube cannels etc that you check regularly to stay in the know and yes this is so I can check them out for my own knowledge and growth? ?
I network with people in the industry mostly, In the 12 years of being in this field I have met some very interesting people and most of us help each other out.
I have my forensic contacts and my data recovery contacts. I also watch various DEFCON YouTube videos, or anything else interesting I can find on there, and most importantly I watch many webinars from various vendors like Magnet, Cellebrite, AceLab, and TeelTech.
What is the plans for the rest of the year and getting into 2023 at work and on social media?
I don’t particularly have a plan for 2022 and 2023, I am trying to take it day by day, but I would like to step up my game with YouTube content quality rather than quantity of uploads.
I just went through a small YouTube burnout in December 2021 and didn’t make a video until April 2022. It was probably because I challenged myself to make 1 video per week starting in January 2021 and I kept that going until December but I burned myself out in response, some weeks were fairly stressful in pushing content out.
- The Forensic Guy’s Tik Tok = https://www.tiktok.com/@forensicguy
- Data Rescue Lab’s YouTube = https://www.youtube.com/c/DataRescueLabsIncMississauga/videos
- The Forensic Guy’s Website = https://www.forensicguy.ca/
- Data Rescue Lab’s Instagram = https://www.instagram.com/datarescuelabs.inc/
- Data Rescue Lab’s Website = https://www.datarescuelabs.com/