Alison Chung is not wired like most people. This can present challenges socially, but from a business perspective, it’s her competitive advantage as the owner of a consulting firm that is essentially a digital detective agency.
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1 How often does Alison use digital devices when she's with her family?
2 What was Alison's upbringing like?
3 In what languages did she read detective stories?
4 What subject did she excel at?
5 How much was the write-off the client had written to the law firm?
6 How long had Alison been answering questions when she was enquired about box 97?
7 Who usually hires her company?
8 What is the worst part of her job?
Sometimes people ask me, you know, ‘when does it get busy for you?’ And I say, you know, ‘whenever there’s lying, cheating and dishonesty, it’s busy. And I’m sorry to say, we’re a little bit on the busy side.’
TeamWerks is a technology consulting firm with a particular focus in computer forensics. Whenever there’s a question as to who did what when, it is probably on some digital device, ready for somebody like me to find. We can tell you the text messages that were sent even if they’re erased.
My family members will not allow me to be in the presence of their digital devices. When I visit, everybody locks everything up.
I had a very traditional upbringing. My parents were very strict. When I was naughty and my mother would say go to your room, I was thrilled because behind closed doors I would be doing puzzles and pretend to solve crimes. I read every detective novel in English and Chinese that was available.
I really liked math because it was easy for me. I was good with numbers.
That was a time during the tech boom so there was a lot of business to be had. So I just kind of went with my gut and said, you know what, I just want to form a small company and I just want us to work on tech projects.
Ok, we just received this hard drive.
We fell into the forensics. I received a call from some law firm partners I had known and they said we need somebody to go through more than 20 boxes of computer code because their client had written a one-line $50,000,000 write-off and the IRS’ questioning whether or not that write-off is valid.
I’ll never forget this; there were five men in half-glasses and they looked very stern and they said ‘Good morning. Who is that girl?’ And, one of the attorneys said ‘Oh, that’s our expert.’ The five IRS lawyers started laughing and they said ‘How much do you want to bet that we can break her down?’ And the first half-glasses looked at me and said, ‘Yes, Ms. Chung, our expert witness here, would you care to explain to us what happened in box number 78?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I would be delighted to.’ And so, the inquiry went on and on, and box after box. I think it was at the end of the fourth hour, the question was ‘OK. What happened to 97?’ I said ‘Oh, that was an exciting time. 97 was a good box.’ And at that point, I smiled to myself, I knew I had them.
When they said that we won, I was screaming for joy and I said ‘Give me another one! Give me another one!’
Embedded in all this code, that is a nugget of information that will be prove to be useful.
We get hired by the lawyers to examine computers and then, it’s not until you get into the bowels of the system and you look at who is talking to whom, and you realize, ‘oh my gosh, this is organized crime.’ And so at this point, I have a decision to make: I could resign or just tell the truth. It is dangerous, it is risky.
I have thought that I might be in physical danger doing this job because of the robberies but because I am Buddhist, I believe that when it’s my time, that’s when it will be. I’m not fearful. But I have taken the necessary precautions and I think that’s enough.
I always wanted to solve mysteries, I just didn’t know that I was going to be a digital detective. I think differently, I look at things differently. I mean, sometimes, I go to social events and see somebody and I’m wondering, ‘Wow, I wonder what’s on their computer.’
3 English and Chinese
6 four hours
8 the risk of physical danger