Alumnus David Kalat looks for hidden clues in a digital domain

Posted: April 21, 2017

dkalat.jpg?itok=bkyWstDA David Kalat (MS '11) could be considered a Sherlock Holmes of the digital world. However, unlike Holmes hitting the streets of London for clues, Kalat's brand of sleuthing involves using computer forensics, electronic discovery, and data analytics to find the sometimes deeply concealed facts in a case. As a director of the Berkeley Research Group LLC's Global Investigations + Strategic Intelligence Practice, Kalat conducts forensic investigations to settle disputes among parties, usually in the form of litigation. 

According to Kalat, in a forensic examination, the "eureka" moments are less about the contents of files and more about finding when the files were accessed, deleted, or shared.

"I worked a bank hacking case once where my findings involved evidence that a rogue IT consultant had used a secret backdoor to log into the network and then copy and delete customer data records. My investigation wasn't concerned with the contents of those records—but instead about firewall logs, timestamps on database initialization files, and other artifacts of user activity in the server’s operating system," Kalat explained.

He started working in the area of computer forensics for the consulting firm of Duff & Phelps after receiving his MS in library and information science through the Leep online program. In his new job, he discovered "an upside-down world where instead of users implementing organizational tools to manage information, information systems are implementing organizational tools to manage users."

Prior to his forensics work, Kalat worked in video distribution. He received his BA in film and video studies from the University of Michigan in 1992 and worked for more than a decade as DVD producer for his independent label, All Day Entertainment, which was dedicated to "movies that fell through the cracks." 

"From 1997 to around 2009, I restored quite a few interesting 'lost' films like Fritz Lang's swan song, The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Edward Dmytryck's blacklisted classic Christ in Concrete, Claude Chabrol's version of Patricia Highsmith's Cry of the Owl, and a whole collection of films by B-movie auteur Edgar Ulmer," Kalat said.

He started writing professionally in 1997 with his first book, an academic study of Godzilla movies. He has published five books on film history as well as contributed chapters to five other anthology film books. For ten years, he blogged for Turner Classic Movies. He gave up the blog last summer when his focus changed to writing about information security and forensics.

Kalat thrives on the challenges in his job at the Berkeley Research Group.

"I get to spend every day confronting complex logic puzzles with no obvious answers, and it's up to me to figure out how to tackle them. And every once in a while, someone brings me a strange piece of technology with an especially difficult puzzle around it, and it’s like Christmas," he said.

He feels that there has never been a better time to be an information scientist, and he encourages current students to think broadly about career possibilities.

"There is a wide world out there, and it's full of information-related problems," said Kalat.

Filed Under: alumni news, alumni profile, Get to know