VOL. 133 | NO. 58 | Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Walker Named President Of Black Swan Digital Forensics
By Kate Simone
Jim Walker has been named president of Memphis-based Black Swan Digital Forensics, the only forensics lab in the U.S. that focuses exclusively on data recovery from digital devices such as cellphones, vehicle systems, computers and social media accounts. Walker comes to Black Swan after more than 30 years of military and public service at the federal, state and local level, including eight years as Alabama’s director of homeland security and more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, where he was an Airborne Ranger and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Hometown: Clarksville, Tennessee
Experience: Prior to joining Black Swan Digital Forensics, I spent more than three decades in the military and public service at the federal, state, and local level. Previously, I served as the Alabama Mississippi state liaison for the BP Gulf Coast Claims Facility. I was hired by Ken Feinberg to assist in the economic recovery of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I also served as the director of homeland security for the state of Alabama for eight years, where I had the opportunity to be the catalyst behind Virtual Alabama, a Google-based platform for homeland security that has been replicated and utilized across the nation. I also served my country on active duty in the United States Army as an Airborne Ranger and retired as a lieutenant colonel. I felt this new opportunity in digital forensics to be so groundbreaking, it compelled me to leave the public sector.
What talent do you wish you had? I wish I had the ability to minimize the divisiveness that seems to be permeating our country right now. Healthy debate and disagreement has always been a part of our national narrative, but we as Americans are now making it commonplace to devolve our professional opinions into personal attacks against fellow citizens who don’t share the same opinions. My sensing is that we are, and always have been, better than that.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? I could say my parents or a handful of national leaders or soldiers I’ve been blessed to serve with, but the simple truth is the most influential relationship in my life is the personal relationship I have with Jesus Christ. I would be completely lost without Him.
What attracted you to Black Swan Digital Forensics? Black Swan is poised and ready to change people’s lives by shining a much-needed spotlight on the digital truth in today’s high-tech world. These irrefutable facts will provide the information needed for justice in the courts. I find Black Swan’s mission very appealing and relevant in our world today, and their ongoing commitment to research and development in this ever-evolving field gives me confidence that we can be leaders in providing what we like to call “digital DNA” to solve crimes, stop cyber-bullying and help justice prevail for the innocent and the guilty.
What are your goals for the company? Like most business leaders I want to create velocity and revenue to grow our business. This begins with an aggressive marketing and messaging campaign that speaks to the relevance of our work, and the significant ways we can change people’s lives.
Tell us a little about how digital forensics is used and what “digital DNA” can uncover about a person. Similar to the unique biological DNA each person possesses, digital DNA is just as unique and is present in so many places, like phones, tablets, on social media, computers, our cars, or any connected appliance, like Alexa. No two people share an identical digital footprint, and there is a treasure trove of digital information available about each of us if a skilled forensic examiner knows where to look.
At some point, we’ve all deleted an embarrassing photo, a Facebook post we regret, etc. Is this deleted information really “gone”? I hate to deal in absolutes, but it is safe to say most, if not all, digital data is recoverable, even those that are deleted. It is an understatement to say people, especially children, need to use digital devices in a smart and responsible way or risk the consequences of acting irresponsibly.
How is digital forensics changing law enforcement and the legal system? There will be in excess of 30 billion internet of things (IoT) products and devices in place by the end of the year 2020. Just imagine the vast quantities of evidence and digital data that will be available to determine guilt or innocence in criminal and civil court cases. Today’s innovative defense attorneys, prosecutors, and law enforcement professionals see the “art of the possible” in the digital world, and I fully anticipate each of these disciplines will engage Black Swan in meaningful ways to help them discover the digital truth. History will not reward those who fail to consider the utility of digital forensics in our judicial system.
You recently tweeted that “Black Swan Digital Forensics is going to be the catalyst to STOP #CyberBullying.” Why are you making this a priority, and what services can you provide a family whose child is being cyberbullied? Our nation’s First Lady, Melania Trump, has made stopping cyber bullying one of her signature causes, and she is right in doing so. The pervasive use of social media platforms is the new normal in our high-tech society, and an easy target for cyber bullies intent on wreaking havoc in our homes, schools, and workplaces. Statistics show ten percent of children subjected to cyber bullying attempt suicide. This is unacceptable! Black Swan can determine the who, what, and when in cyber bullying cases, and can provide the legally admissible evidence to stop it.
Along with being a retired Army Ranger, you served as Alabama’s director of homeland security for eight years. How has your background shaped your thoughts on the use of digital forensics? As both a soldier and homeland security professional you always have to assess your current situation and think about what happens next. So much of our history is wedded to the history of technology, and smart professionals employ every tool in their arsenal to solve the problems of today, and anticipate the problems of tomorrow. Digital forensics is a rapidly evolving field that can solve complex problems today with plenty of room to evolve going forward.
Do you see any privacy concerns with the use of digital forensics – e.g., could this technology be abused when in the wrong hands? There is always a way for unscrupulous people to abuse technology for improper purposes. There are several areas in digital forensics where legal questions arise and we have talented attorneys working with us to ensure we always operate within the boundaries of the law. The team at Black Swan is committed to being a change agent for good, and that includes always following the law. No exceptions!
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? When I think about the honest, decent, compassionate people all of my children have grown into I get very emotional. I’m incredibly proud of each of them. That, and somehow earning the love and respect of my wife, Niki, are my greatest accomplishments.
What do you most enjoy about your work? The common denominator in every job I’ve ever had is people. I’ve been incredibly blessed for decades to roll up my sleeves and work alongside America’s finest – our soldiers, first responders and the committed professionals working to positively perpetuate the American experience we are all a part of. Today, I am equally impressed at the professionalism and skill of the team of experts at Black Swan. Looking into the eyes of my Black Swan teammates is the same as looking into the eyes of soldiers and police officers – they just want to serve and make life better for others.
If you could give one piece of advice to young people, what would it be? I tell young people God didn’t give you this life just to take up space. Find something positive you are passionate about and set out to make a difference that benefits others. Don’t fixate on money, fixate on your purpose, and achieve it. If a young person can’t wrap his or her head around that, I just tell them to be the person their dog thinks they are. That usually resonates.
Cary Fowler, chair of Rhodes College’s board of trustees, has been named the 2018 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership, sponsored by the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello. The award recognizes achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson excelled and held in high regard. Fowler is the former executive director of Global Crop Diversity Trust, an independent international organization that provides support for the ongoing operations of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
Diversified Trust has promoted two employees in its Memphis office. Amy Hudson was promoted to vice president from senior associate. Hudson, who works closely with client services, graduated from the University of Memphis. Cheri Wells was promoted to senior associate after serving as a part-time receptionist and an office administrator in the Memphis office. Prior to joining Diversified Trust, she was an elementary teacher, principal and office manager.
Keith Blanchard, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis has been awarded Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Blue Spirit Award for his impact on local youths. The Blue Spirit Award recognizes a highly respected, trusted Boys & Girls Club professional who exemplifies a personal commitment to improve the lives of children and teens Boys & Girls Clubs serve. Blanchard was nominated by BGCA leaders and personally selected by BGCA president and CEO Jim Clark.
Murray Lace has been promoted to account executive at Obsidian Public Relations. Lace joined Obsidian in May 2015 as a level 2 intern and was hired as an account assistant that August. She was promoted to account specialist in January 2017 and began focusing her work in the entertainment and restaurant industries.
Beth Wilson, public relations manager at inferno, recently received her Accreditation in Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America and Universal Accreditation Board. The APR designation, which typically requires at least five years’ experience in the profession and a year of study and preparation, proves a PR professional has demonstrated competency in the knowledge, skills and abilities required to practice public relations effectively.