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How best to deal with paranoid/delusional clients  

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Jonathan
(@jonathan)
Senior Member

This isn't directly a computer forensic topic but is something that I think computer forensic providers are occasionally faced with. Any input from the Forensic Focus community welcome.

Several times a year we get contacted by private individuals who believe that their laptops/mobile phones have been hacked and that parties unknown are tracking their use of these devices.

While of course this is a possibility, the situation is often assessed (after asking a few questions as why they have come to this conclusion) as a mental health issue rather than based in reality. We would never take on such work; I would however like to point such people towards something helpful (advice? treatment?). How best should we address this?

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Posted : 23/04/2019 10:13 am
redcat
(@redcat)
Active Member

Interesting topic. I have encountered this on several occasions over the years; like you, mental health issues are usually suspected. Similarly, I don't really know how to broach this, as it's a difficult conversation to have even with close family and friends. Being very upfront about the unlikelihood of their devices being hacked and compromised might be useful, as is highlighting how incredibly rare it would be that they are being specifically targeted for any reason. Perhaps some peace of mind could be reached by simply reinstalling/factory resetting and using a good quality security solution afterwards.

That said, I did once encounter this very situation, usual caveats and warnings were issued but it actually transpires the person was being specifically targeted by a nation-state because of a 'previous life'. Bit of an eye-opener to say the least!

I have also worked on a medical malpractice case where the instructing party had been targeted and bullied by former colleagues and ultimately struck off, leading to that client being a trifle paranoid to say the least. The circumstances seemed to have severely damaged their mental health, understandably enough. But just because they were paranoid didn't mean 'they' weren't out to get them.

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Posted : 23/04/2019 10:37 am
Bunnysniper
(@bunnysniper)
Active Member

How best should we address this?

I had to deal with two cases in which the patients saw themselves as victims of a conspiracy and thought they were being persecuted. Both in real life and in virtual life. So I know your concerns and questions, but after talking to a friend on mine, a psychologist, I decided to work for both of them and treat them as normal customers.

As I was told by the psychologist, not working for them makes you part of the conspiracy, too. The patient (or client) then feels strengthened in the delusion of persecution and I could have made it even worse by refusing to work for them.

regards,
Robin

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Posted : 23/04/2019 12:21 pm
jaclaz
(@jaclaz)
Community Legend

I had to deal with two cases in which the patients saw themselves as victims of a conspiracy and thought they were being persecuted. Both in real life and in virtual life. So I know your concerns and questions, but after talking to a friend on mine, a psychologist, I decided to work for both of them and treat them as normal customers.

As I was told by the psychologist, not working for them makes you part of the conspiracy, too. The patient (or client) then feels strengthened in the delusion of persecution and I could have made it even worse by refusing to work for them.

regards,
Robin

Yes, I had similar experiences in my actual field of activity (building/construction) and as well the counsel from a friend psychologist was the same, just behave if the claims were real, document/state that they are not (IF they are not) after having diligently made the (unneeded but necessary 😯 ) objective tests and move on.

Case example
Someone was willing to sue the builder because the electric cabling of a newly bought house was "defective" because lamps burned out "too soon".

Installed a current/tension recorder on the meter.
Changed all lamps with (good) brand ones.
After three months of recording no strange peaks in tension/current were recorded, all lamps survived, case closed.

jaclaz

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Posted : 23/04/2019 12:37 pm
pbeardmore
(@pbeardmore)
Active Member

I had someone make contact late last year who fitted this description perfectly. After a 20 minute discusion, it was clear that it was not computer forensic help she needed. Trying to drop a hint, I advised her of how costs can spiral (she wanted to take a large ISP to court as they had allegedly hacked into every gadget she had in the house), she said she would be happy to sell her house to pay the legal fees!! That's when alarm bells ring.

I told her that, if it was legal action she wanted, then we would only act on instruction from a lawyer so she needed to find a lawyer who would take her case on. I never heaqrd from her again.

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Posted : 24/04/2019 1:03 am
giandega
(@giandega)
Active Member

In my experience, the subject is usually a woman around 50 years old.

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Posted : 24/04/2019 5:34 pm
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