The Importance of Encryption

At PDL, we spend a huge amount of time carefully considering cyber security and encryption.

Good data encryption is always central to our working processes, and key to the reassurances we can offer our clients – specifically relating to confidentiality, discretion, and data protection.

Find out more below on what encryption is, why it’s important, what we recommend, and how to seek further advice on this subject.

What Is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of encoding information, such that only authorised parties may decipher it. 

Encryption comes in various forms and at various levels of security, meaning it’s really important to understand the options on offer, and choose what best suits you or your organisation.

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a key phrase here. It means only the communicating users can read the messaging content. 

However, it’s important to note that often this phrase is applied to services that arguably should not claim to offer genuine end-to-end encryption, due to some of their data handling processes. For this reason it’s vital to do research to ensure your chosen services offer genuine E2EE.

Why Does Encryption Matter?

The short answer is that it’s an additional layer of defence to your confidential information. 

The specifics may vary here: Individuals and organisations can be subject to cyber attacks and intrusive investigations, people may be targeted for personal reasons, companies can suffer data leaks, or be hacked, and so on. 

If you’re handling sensitive, confidential, or personal information that affects individuals or organisations, encryption is an essential part of your protection against the unauthorised accessing of that information – that is to say, it ending up in the wrong hands.


Importance of encryption

Our Recommendations

At PDL, one of the first things we do with any client who instructs us is to implement our tried and tested processes of encryption. 

We ask clients to join us in using certain softwares, applications and processes – ones we know are the highest level of security available to us. 

As a general recommendation to any individuals or organisations reading, we recommend:

  • Thoroughly researching the encryption and cyber security options available
  • Establishing processes to ensure your cyber security is maintained
  • Seeking advice if needed, to be sure of the changes you implement


We highly recommend the ProtonMail service, which offers genuine end-to-end encryption, and implements various measures to ensure it is (virtually) unhackable, and one of the most secure email providers available. 

ProtonMail states that not even the service itself – never mind hackers – can access or read users’ emails.

At PDL we use ProtonMail, but are not paid affiliates in any form.

Need More Advice On Encryption?

If you want to discuss any aspect of your data encryption and cyber security processes, please contact us for a free initial consultation, during which we can cover information that may be of use to you, and how we can advise you or your organisation on an ongoing basis.

A Private Detective’s Data Security Advice

A very frequent question we receive from our corporate and individual clients who work with sensitive data is how to better protect and secure that data.

This is evidently an issue that has become increasingly relevant in recent years, and looks likely to only continue to do so.

We’re always happy to provide our clients with extensive and comprehensive advice to ensure and improve their data security.

Here is a brief outline of some of the essential points that may be useful to you, whether you work with/around sensitive data, or are protective of your personal information.

Treat Your Devices As Currency 

It’s really important to keep in mind the value of data, in the modern age. This is multiplied tenfold if your work involves handling data, sensitive information, or anything relating to business or security that may be the subject of espionage – which is, we must repeatedly remind our clients, a very real thing.

A perfect example is in a hotel room scenario. Often the first thing we’ll do is put cash, passports, jewellery etc in the hotel room safe. Great – a sensible thing to do.

However this is somewhat undermined when we then leave laptops and tablets out on the side. Often unlocked, easy-to-unlock, or otherwise accessible with sensitive information on display.

In this age of data, our devices are (and contain) a currency, that’s arguably as valuable or more valuable than the actual currency that’s securely stowed in the safe. Put your laptops, tablets and devices in the safe!

A private detective security advice



VPN stands for virtual private network, and it is probably the most straightforward way to ensure a high level of security and encryption.

Using one is about improving your online privacy – even when using public networks – and being able to use the internet with anonymity.

Our general advice is to look at the security and encryption levels across the email servers and messaging apps that you use. Specifically, and bluntly, our advice is to get a VPN.

Our advice on choosing and using a VPN is specific and detailed. Get in touch if you want to discuss this in greater depth.

Question Data Sharing 

This is about your right to ask organisations who request your information why they want it, and who they will share it with. This is something that they are required to tell you.

Often they slip under the radar, or hide their detail behind simplistic fronts, to ensure they get your data, which is then sold on – very quickly.

A prime example is encountered when you connect to the wifi in a cafe. In our rush to get online we usually simply click the tick box to give agreement to the terms and conditions. Usually what we’re consenting to here is for our information to then be sold on.

As such it could also be argued that this wifi isn’t really “Free” but rather that whilst the price isn’t strictly monetary, we as the users, and our data, are the product and financial incentive in the deal.

Remember It’s Not All Digital!

Data security is largely about bringing cyber security to the front of our minds, to catch up with the rapidly escalating digital age. A prime example of this is – as asserted above – the need to cultivate habits like putting our laptops in hotel room safes.

However, in this process we mustn’t lose our awareness that not all data is digital. Our laptops in the hotel safe is entirely undermined if we then leave a physical piece of paper with sensitive information on it by the bedside, or our credit card sitting on the hotel room desk.

Protecting ourselves in an all-encompassing, multi-discipline endeavour nowadays, and we must be on the ball.

What Questions Should I Ask A Private Detective?

Hiring a private detective is an important decision for all clients, whether corporate clients or private individuals.

Getting it right is key to efficiency, trust, cost, and ultimately a successful outcome.

It’s important to ask a private detective any questions you may have, to better understand their credentials and how they work, so that you have essential trust in them when working together.

If you’re contacting a private detective it’s most likely because you’ve been in some way wronged or find yourself in a situation where you need help in some form.

So make sure the person you’re instructing to help is in fact going to help and not hinder.

Here’s our suggestion on what questions to ask a private detective:

What Is Your Background And Experience?

An important first question, because background and experience is key. A private detective learns his/her trade and gains their skill from years of experience.

An experienced detective with a background in key areas such as police, government etc is more likely to have what’s necessary to get the job done well and thoroughly for you.

Make sure you ask about their background and experience and that you like what you hear.

Are You Willing To Meet Me In Person?

Of course, if the detective is in London and you’re in Melbourne, doing so would be difficult and perhaps unrealistic in terms of time, logistics and costs.

However, if it’s reasonable to meet then an unwillingness to meet is a red flag. A client should feel they understand and trust the detective they are instructing.

At PDL – as long as we feel safe to do so – we will always meet with any client or prospective client.

Do You Have A Contract Or Agreement Form?

Any formal, professional service should have some form of contract or agreement to set out the terms of the service and working relationship.

It is equally important for both detective and client, ensures details are clear and specific, and both parties know where they stand throughout.

Are You Insured?

Essential in a client’s due diligence is ensuring a private detective they’re working with for the first time is professional enough to have done their own.

Do a quick risk assessment. If something was to go wrong what is the risk/loss to you?

Do You Have A Limited Company? What Entity Am I dealing with?

An error we see in many situations we’re investigating after the event is that people have been stung when not knowing who/what entity they were dealing with.

Little things help clients here, such as asking for a formal estimate on headed paper, checking the name on the bank account you’re sending payment to, checking if the company is a sole trader or a limited company.

What’s Your ICO Number?

Every UK company should have an ICO number. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is in charge of UK Data Protection.

The Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018 require every organisation or sole trader who processes personal information to pay a data protection fee to the ICO, unless they are exempt.

There are checks that you can do to make sure the detective or investigation company you’re dealing with is on the register i.e. Searching the register.

Who Will Handle/Work On My Case?

It’s understandable that a private detective or investigation company does not want to provide names of their detectives and operatives or too much detail on their processes as this may affect the investigation.

However, it’s good to know who’s who and who will be doing what, roughly speaking. At least ensuring you know the basic details – enough so as to feel involved and that things aren’t being kept from you. If they are, that’s another red flag.

Are You Willing To Be A Witness In Court If Needed?

Even if you may not expect it, your case could lead to legal proceedings. So it’s good to know that your private detective or investigation company will stand up when it counts, even if this is simply a signed witness statement

How Does Your Fee System Work?

Can they transparently set out how their fee system works? If their website doesn’t display their fee system, ask. Don’t let fees by one of the surprises in your case.

At PDL we aim to be as open as we safely, responsibly, professionally can on every element of how we work. You can read about our fee system here.

Ultimately, when working with a private detective it’s really important that you trust them, have faith in the experience/credentials, and are comfortable working with them. So make sure you ask the questions you want to ask, and have the conversations to need to have, to get to that position.

Trusted Private Detectives


Trust is quite possibly the single biggest concern for our clients and potential clients. Quite understandably, before they agree to work with a private detective, they want to ascertain that that private detective is a trustworthy operative, working with honesty, transparency, diligence and a strong ethical code. Especially as very often the client’s need to hire a private detective may itself have arisen from an apparent breach of their. It is a sensitive issue – one we work extremely hard to overcome.


It can sometimes take a few weeks consultation for a client to feel comfortable and confident to instruct us, and this is often down to previous bad experiences with incompetent, untrustworthy or rogue private detectives.

The most uncertain clients often cite previous instances in which a detective they’ve instructed has unfortunately proven under-qualified or incompetent. This even stretches to detectives taking a client’s initial payment then ceasing communication, or taking payment then not actually completing the task in hand – for example, taking payment for a surveillance service, not undertaking the surveillance, and reporting no findings.

Experiences like these have naturally made the client more guarded in future dealings with private detectives, meaning we need to work to show how trustworthy they are. This includes demonstrating our strong, established background in the industry, as sadly there are unqualified operatives with little genuine experience.

Trusted private detective



We’re wary also of conveying too negative a message about the state of the industry. This stems from our frustration with the industry, having many times faced the challenging (but rewarding) task of restoring the trust of a client whose trust has been damaged elsewhere.

Not all private detectives are rogues, of course, very far from it indeed. Certainly we pride ourselves on our transparency, honesty and ethics. We’d like to see an honest conversation about the trust issues in the industry and play our part in re-building essential trust in the profession.


The success we achieve for our clients speaks for itself in the number of referrals we receive from previous clients and other trusted sources.

Having had a referral from a trusted colleague, friend or associate, many of our clients begin working with us secure in the knowledge that we’re a thoroughly trustworthy, ethical company.

With all clients, any trust concerns are quickly eased as we begin to deliver clear results early on. Or even following an initial conversation, we do our utmost to provide the reassurances they need. Our trustworthiness is something on which we pride ourselves, and something that’s crucial to our ongoing successful working relationships.


The best way for us to allay any trust concerns you may have is to have a chat. To discuss how and why you can trust us, or anything else about our services, get in touch

The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann:
Rogue Investigators?

In my last post, on Netflix’s “Dirty John” I mentioned enjoying watching a film or TV series in my rare moments of downtime. When I’d finished the aforementioned series, Netflix pointed me in the direction of “The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann”. This documentary on the well-known, incredibly sad story greatly intrigued me, as someone in the investigation industry.

Of course, it wouldn’t be professional of me to speculate on the case itself, but one aspect I am well-placed to comment on is the investigative element – specifically the involvement of two private detectives – Spanish company Metodo, and British investigator Kevin Halligen. The stories surrounding these detectives’ activities really serve to highlight an issue that’s a real personal bugbear – rogues in the industry.


Disappeared to Madeline McCann Private detectives

Metodo – McCann Case Misconduct?

Certainly it’s clear that investigator Julian Peribanez – working at the time for Spanish investigation company Metodo – had the passion and determination to succeed. Something on which, sometimes, it’s impossible to put a price. However, some of the practices Metodo used during the investigation are questionable, to say the least.

This relates in particular to surveillance operations. As an outside observer, but one with over 25 years in the industry, with a focus on quality, success of service, and ethical conduct at all times, it is plainly apparent that so much of what we at PDL build into good surveillance services was absent.

Here are a few of the most crucial standards of good surveillance, and how Metodo didn’t meet them:

  • Multiple Operatives Needed: We would use a disciplined cell of multiple dedicated surveillance operatives. Metodo used only one private detective
  • Specialist Tools / Equipment / Vehicles Needed: The key is of course that subject under surveillance is unaware. Metodo did not even change their surveillance vehicle, working several days straight in the same car.

A good private detective knows his/her weaknesses, and knows when it’s right to delegate or call in specialist teams. The above errors are ones that properly trained surveillance operatives simply wouldn’t make. The bad surveillance practice exemplified by the above points led to the Russian suspect at that time becoming aware he was under surveillance.

Additionally, Metodo gave press interviews and statements which would appear to falsely claim they were close to solving the case. A private investigation company (as opposed to a public service with certain public duties) giving press interviews is something we deem wholly unprofessional. This is something we’d never do at PDL – not least due to our duty to private clients, but moreover legally, due to our nondisclosure agreements.

Kevin Halligen – Rogue Investigator?

It would appear that British investigator Kevin Halligen used the position and power he held to benefit from some of the funds intended for the Madeleine search. Halligen denied doing so, then later was convicted of a separate fraud in the USA and imprisoned.

Taking on any client, whether a business matter, matrimonial matter, or anything else is a very serious process. The accuracy and honesty an investigator provides to a client informs decisions going forward and are vital in the success of any investigation.

Halligen was trusted to find a missing child, and it would appear he may have had a personal agenda in mind, and acted wrongly and dishonestly.


Notwithstanding that I was not present and didn’t work on any investigations in relation to these matters, it would seem that these private detectives may have been lax and taken advantage of the situation, exploiting it to their advantage after something evidently unthinkable happened to the McCanns.

Netflix’s Dirty John: Does That Really Happen?!

It’s not often, but when I do have some downtime, I like to watch a film or a TV series. Recently I discovered a series on Netflix called ‘Dirty John’. The name didn’t particularly capture my attention, but the preview video certainly did. One episode later, I was hooked and ended up for the first time, ‘binge-watching’ a series.

Dirty John is a dramatisation of a true story, and the whole storyline is extremely familiar to me and my team here at PDL.

Dirty John

Mum meets an ostensibly charming new man. Some of her family take to him, though others see that something is not quite right, finding him a bit too good to be true. With many complications – money and assets involved, children being pushed out as Mum is blinded by love, a family member instructs a private investigator to research the new man’s past. Something that turns out to be very revealing.

From experience, I can say that many elements of the story are true to life. As I sat and watched, going “Oh no” and “No, don’t” I got to thinking about all the cases we’ve worked on at PDL over the last 25 years. Pondering similar cases I’ve encountered, I thought about how, simply put, ‘you don’t really know someone until you know them’. Love can cloud our judgement.

Background checks can help to understand a person’s past, and confirm their back story. I’m often asked how these things turn out, in the end. My answer is that generally, provided the person’s motive is correct when instructing the investigator, we will usually find something wrong there. Often our instincts are fairly reliable. Sometimes of course, it turns out to be entirely innocent, which is just a good result for both investigator and client.

We have to move with the times, of course. The world has moved on and the internet has made things move so fast over the past 15-20 years. Everything operates on a global level now, and we have to do so too, investing in people and intelligence sources and technology more than ever, to continue to achieve answers and success for our clients.

Dirty John’ covers just one story of course, whereas we’ve seen many different situations over the years and continue to do so. But if asked “Does this really happen?” I’d have to say yes, the events in ‘Dirty John’ do really happen – and any viewer who has experienced something similar will understand that – and yes we do help people to resolve these situations. 

To discuss background checking in more detail, and how we can help you simplify these situations, get in touch with PDL now