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How the San Bernardino terrorists tried to conceal their digital footprints

San Bernardino Terrorists Evidence

This past Wednesday, the world watched in horror as a husband-and-wife team terrorized the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California before leading authorities on a harrowing chase that lasted for a few hours. When the dust settled, the two suspects — Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik — were shot dead by police, but not before they managed to kill 14 innocent people and injure many more in a bloody rampage that included the use of high-powered automatic weaponry and pipe bombs.

In the wake of the tragedy, which has naturally reinvigorated a passionate debate about gun control, authorities are in the early stages of piecing together not only the motives behind the attack, but how it was carried out. In the process, authorities have discovered that both Farook and Malik took a number of pro-active measures to conceal their digital footprints.

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The Washington Times reports that the couple, just 24 hours ahead of the planned attack, attempted to remove and destroy any digital evidence which would either a) point back to them or b) clue authorities in as to how the attack was conceived, planned, and carried out. As a result, the couple not only erased their respective email accounts, they also destroyed hard drives and smashed their smartphones to bits with a hammer.

Officials involved in the investigation said the couple appeared to have gone to great lengths to conceal themselves and make difficult investigation of their plans — further suggesting premeditation.

What’s more, authorities discovered that a cellphone found on Malik’s person had only recently been purchased. Two other discovered cellphones, which were found to have been smashed, will reportedly be sent to the “FBI’s forensic lab in Washington for examination.”

Additionally, investigators, upon visiting the couple’s home, found that their home computer was missing both its motherboard and its hard drive. As the investigation — still in its preliminary stages — continues, one can only hope that authorities can amass as much evidence as they can. At this point, however, that seems to be a challenging proposition given the great lengths the couple undertook to hide and/or destroy any digital evidence that would help investigators.

That said, the couple wasn’t 100% successful in erasing their online identities. For instance, it was recently revealed that Farook still had a dating profile up online.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.