With the advancements in computer technology today, many improvements have been made in the law enforcement community for police related investigations. The technology hasn’t caught up to the fascinating and lightening speeds of popular television shows, but nonetheless there are some amazing forensic developments. It is good news for us, but bad news for the criminals.
Can we solve more crime, conduct better criminal investigations in a timely manner, and close more cold cases with computer technology?
Here are three interesting areas of computer forensics:
Data found on many digital devices such as computers, laptops, digital cameras, cell phones, flash drives, and game units could have powerful evidentiary value in any type of investigation.
- Show intent to commit a crime or a premeditation of a criminal act.
- Support or disprove information and statements from a witness, victim, or suspect.
- Expand an investigation revealing other crimes and/or suspects.
- Used in directly related offenses.
- Used as a means of data mining (exporting large amount of data from cell phones or emails) for investigators to create a diagram of a criminal enterprise or a timeline of events.
FIGHTING CRIME WITH HIGH-TECH
It was the digital forensics specialists that cracked the encryption of an al-Qaida supporter. According the FBI, steganography was used to hide invisible messages. FBI examiners can recover encrypted files, deleted files, and passwords with special computer tools that assault a hard drive with 500 million guesses per second.
In 2010, the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories are effective law enforcement crime fighting tools. The agency has 14 labs, 214 examiners, and has processed more than 3,000 terabytes of information (equivalent to 3 million copies of Encyclopedia Britannica).
FINDING MISSING AND UNIDENTIFIED PERSONS
NamUs is an online database and offers a quick search to check for missing persons by the 40,000+ sets of unidentified remains that wait patiently in the medical examiners offices across the nation. In 2010, this database was only used by a fraction (about 15%) of law enforcement agencies. Before NamUs, investigators were bogged down by the slow process of checking each medical examiner’s offices one by one.
NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems) is an easy application to use. It has been designed for anyone including families and police. It allows for data entry of descriptions, photos, fingerprints, dental records, and DNA. The medical examiners can enter the same information of the unidentified bodies allowing searches of the database for potential matches. Many cases have been solved that would have remained cold and unsolved.
It is my hope that these high-tech applications, digital databases, and the forensic experts can help to catch more criminals and solve more cold cases.
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In my award-winning, thriller novel Dead Game, I used technology as the backdrop to create a serial killer that tracks his victims by the high-tech devices they use. Only known as Samuel, his voyeuristic style offers him a way of enjoying the kills over and over again on his computers.