A Forensic Examination of Online Search Facility URL Record Structures

Graeme Horsman

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    The use of search engines and associated search functions to locate content online is now common practice. As a result, a forensic examination of a suspect's online search activity can be a critical aspect in establishing whether an offense has been committed in many investigations. This article offers an analysis of online search URL structures to support law enforcement and associated digital forensics practitioners interpret acts of online searching during an investigation. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and DuckDuckGo searching functions are examined, and key URL attribute structures and metadata have been documented. In addition, an overview of social media searching covering Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube is offered. Results show the ability to extract embedded metadata from search engine URLs which can establish online searching behaviors and the timing of searches.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
    Early online date29 May 2018
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 May 2018


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