Electronic Crime Scene
A review by Detective Neil
Murray, Inglewood Police Department
The Twenty First Century has officially
arrived. Along with it, all of the technical advances that have made our life
more pleasurable, easy, exciting, unpredictable and yes, informed. Just as the
Twentieth Century brought us huge industrial advances and changed the life for
mankind forever, this century has brought strides that few would have predicted
fifty years ago. We are truly on the brink of providing a basis by which
technology will propel us into a period of prosperity that is unlike any other.
These advances have been seen in every facet of
our lives. From transportation to construction, from manufacturing to
agriculture and from industry to communications, our lives have been certainly
changed for the better. The basis for all of this of course is the computer.
The channel and focus of all of these advances
is our ability to communicate with one another in more proficient, expeditious,
varied and cost efficient manner. The computer and computer chip has been the
catapult for these vast and profound changes. The future is absolutely beaming
with possibilities with expectation of greater things to come. The world that
my grand children live will be greatly improved from the one that now exists.
The computer will be at the forefront of those compelling changes. With all the
wonderful things that science and technology have brought to our civilization,
ferreting out the criminal mind and the desire to engage in criminal acts has
not taken place. More so than ever before the crooks have seized the
opportunity that the aforementioned advances have created. As usual, criminals
have turned a positive advantage into an opportunity to prey upon society and
make it victims.
When I attended the Los Angeles County
Sheriffs Academy some twenty four years ago, the wide use of the computer in law
enforcement was in its infant stage. Trainees were not tutored in the
nomenclature of computers. Nor were we provided with any idea of what was to
come, in regards to the impact computers would make on our lives and the work we
were training to engage in. We were provided with the basics such as crime
scene investigation, protecting the crime scene, securing evidence and the
preservation of the same. We were told how to collect evidence, and when the
need existed, transport it and make it available for courtroom presentation. We
were told that in various types of crimes there were certain types of evidence
that would no doubt exist. And it had to seized and subsequently analyzed.
Proper analysis of certain items at crime scenes would certainly reveal their
respective evidentiary value.
Preliminary crime scene investigation was but
one of the many things taught at the academy. As indicated, times have changed
and the need for cops to become smarter is here. With the advances of the
computer and the fact that criminals are now more sophisticated, this need for
law enforcement to update their tactics to keep up with the crooks is
paramount. Becoming savvy about the computer and the different types of crimes
that criminals are committing with them, is a responsibility of those of us who
are engaged in front line police work.
The information contained in
Electronic Crime Scene Investigation-A Guide for First Responders (available
free of charge and downloadable from the Department of Justice)
helps line cops do just that. Step by step it explains the basic workings of
the computer and provides the names of the various parts that make it work. It
does not try to go into the technical aspects of this medium, but keeps it
simple for the layman to understand. Not only does it talk about just
computers, but really as the title suggests, anything that deals with electronic
communication. Criminals are certainly using pagers, cell phones, cordless
phones, answering machines, digital cameras and the like to commit there
criminal acts. Clearly the whole range of electronic communication and
information storing, has got to be looked at by law enforcement as a method that
can be used by criminals, to exploit as a tool to victimize.
The book explains and identifies the various
parts of the computer that should be identified by law enforcement as possible
evidence of various electronic criminal acts. The Central Processing Unit,
keyboard, mouse and monitor are but a few of the main components of the computer
that must be identified by law enforcement officers when engaged in the
preliminary investigation of electronic crime. Modems, speakers, fax machines
and printers are also additional pieces of equipment that must be identified.
The fact that most of these electronic devices have the ability to store
information must be part of the knowledge that the preliminary crime scene
responder possesses. How to access that information has got to be one of the
most important aspects of the investigation. Moreover, knowing that you do not
have the expertise to access the information is critical.
The first responder should know who the local
experts are. They can be called upon to assist in removing information that is
critical evidence of electronic crime. Knowing your limitations obviously is
important in this regard to electronic crime scene investigation. The book
additionally talks about seizing evidence and the equipment needed to do that.
Caution must be exercised when dealing with large private networks as violations
of Federal Law could occur. Again, a smart first responder would have the
ability to obtain assistance from professionals. Disconnecting systems and how
that should be done is talked about as well as the need for search warrants.
That of course is one of the very first things an investigator might want to
do. The book goes on to talk about packaging the electronic equipment for
transport to a secure facility and the need to avoid exposing certain items to
magnetic environments. This includes the storage of said items for the
inevitable presentation in court. An excellent overview of what must be done
for first responders to secure convictions of electronic device criminals.