This is the final blog in a Hillard Heintze series on the top trends in 2015 we expect to see driving best practices in investigations, security risk management and law enforcement program improvement in the U.S. and worldwide. 

This month, we have explored the top trends for 2015 in security risk management (Part I and II) and law enforcement as well as our Part I companion to this blog on top trends in corporate investigations, which we published earlier this week.

Trend #5: Investigations into Corporate Social Responsibility Claims and Activities Will Increase

As investors, governments and corporations push for more sustainable practices, due diligence will become even more important in identifying issues related to corporate social responsibility, especially relative to overseas partnerships.

Is your partner in Honduras or the Philippines contributing to unhealthy deforestation of lands?  Are the agricultural and labor practices of your vendors or partners in Indonesia fair and sound with respect to sustainability, labor practices and wages?

One of the major drivers of this trend in corporate investigations is the millennial generation, a growing and important demographic in the workforce. Millennials are animated and passionate about issues of corporate social responsibility.  As author Kevin Roose noted in Young Money, his treatment of millennials in the workforce, they are willing to work long hours for good pay, but are equally motivated by issues of social justice and responsibility.

Trend #6:  Advanced Technologies Will Serve up Both Opportunities and Acute Challenges for Digital Forensic Investigators

Popular communications technologies and applications such as SnapChat and CyberDust will test digital forensic investigators.   Forensic investigators are already challenged to collect data that often resides in and across a multitude of social media applications.  This can present forensic investigators with complex recovery hurdles.

Now, however, technologies such as CyberDust and SnapChat offer real-time interaction, and data deletion after a predefined interval, usually 5 to 10 seconds after review by the recipient.  Recent hacking exploits, however, have undercut some of the claims around destruction and deletion.   With the proliferation of some of these applications and communications protocols, the classic “paper trail” that often underlies successful investigation will be harder to identify and preserve.

Trend #7: Social Media Monitoring Tools Will Expand

Responsive to corporate demand and need in the security risk and intelligence space, the market will see new social media data mining and monitoring tools and techniques which aren’t simply adapted or repurposed from their marketing and public relations origins.  These tools, and their trained users and analysts, will continue to complement traditional investigative techniques and methodologies in employee misconduct, executive hiring and litigation support matters, among other areas.  Having the right tools and knowing how to use them will allow investigators to zero in on a target location for public chatter, organize and collect data more efficiently, or detect previously unknown associations and affiliations.

Trend #8: Investigators Will Use Social Media to Investigate Threats

As mentioned in our top trends in law enforcement blog, social media will play a larger role in investigations this year.  Corporate HR and security departments will engage in more background investigations related to threats broadcast on social media.  News and headlines are, unfortunately, rife with tragic stories from school shooters to urban hitmen who publish their intentions and ill-will beforehand.  These investigations will be more tactical than strategic. They will seek to identify a propensity for violence or acts and conduct which might be predicates to violence. In some cases, the investigations will focus on the identity of the person broadcasting the threat, as the associated accounts can be held in fictitious names or identified with online “handles.”  These investigations will often require liaison with local or relevant law enforcement authorities.