NEW ORLEANS — There was a time when a detective in a trench coat and fedora would lift fingerprints and collect other evidence by hand to figure out who did what.
But that was a different time. These days, our fingerprints are often digital, and what we do online and on our phones can be traced in fractions of a second.
WWL radio and its owner, Entercom broadcasting, say they used a forensic investigator -- a modern-day Dick Tracy -- to figure out who sent a homophobic message on the station's Twitter account targeted at host Seth Dunlap.
Their conclusion, according to this police report: It came from Dunlap's own phone.
“It’s not a complicated process if you have access to everything,” said cybersecurity expert George Schiaffino.
Schiaffino says that much like our fingertips, every electronic device has a unique number assigned to it. This is known as an IP address, and it's what the radio station says it used to connect the tweet to Dunlap's cellphone.
"I don't think most people are aware of their digital footprint and how clear it is,” Schiaffino said.
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Cybersecurity experts say it doesn't matter what device you're on or what you're doing: Your actions are tracked in some way, shape or form. And in a matter of seconds, someone can connect the dots.
No law enforcement agencies have named Dunlap as a suspect in the case, and police say the investigation continues.
Editor’s Note: WWL-TV Channel 4 News shares content with the radio station but are separate entities owned by separate companies.
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