Law enforcement equipped to battle cyber crime - - The News for South Mississippi

Law enforcement equipped to battle cyber crime


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Cyber criminals beware. A growing number of law enforcement agencies in South Mississippi are actively pursing crimes committed through the Internet.

Such crimes include everything from child pornography, to credit card fraud and identity theft.

"Any crime you can think of that you can do on the street, you can do through the internet," said Sgt. Donnie Dobbs with the Biloxi Police Department.

Dobbs has investigated plenty of computer crimes since taking over the Biloxi PD's cyber crime division in 1997.

He relies on a silent partner named "FRED" which stands for Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. The computer allows investigators to copy a suspect's hard drive.

"What you do is you make what's called a mirror image, which is an exact duplicate copy of the suspect's drive. Then after that you sort through that evidence or that mirror image to try and find what you're looking for," Dobbs explained.

Dobbs said a growing number of criminals are turning to cyber space. The old fashioned "confidence schemes" can just as easily happen anonymously, on-line.

"Now, they're actually doing it on computer. Cause I can actually sit on a computer, and I can reach out to a thousand people. And if I get ten people, then I've been successful," he said.

The veteran police officer says the advanced law enforcement technology allows investigators to uncover digital evidence the suspect may have thought they deleted.

"If you think you've gotten rid of it on a hard drive, you actually haven't gotten rid of it on a hard drive. With the software, with the technology that law enforcement has today, we can basically pull anything back."

One recent, high profile cyber crime case was the arrest of former Ocean Springs police officer Steven Futral, who was charged with possession of child pornography.

Mississippi's Attorney General oversees the I-CAT program: Internet Crimes Against Children.

"What we want to do is deter it and work with local law enforcement to catch those that we already know have downloaded child porn," says Attorney General Jim Hood.

Attorney General Hood said the program to track child pornography crime uses the same technology that's popular with music lovers.

"Lime wire is a file sharing technology. The kids use it to download music. And the kids know what it is. Perverts use it too, to download porn. But when you download lime wire you click "I agree" in order to get that product for free. And nobody reads it. Well, that agreement says other people can come on your computer and look at what you've downloaded," said the Attorney General.

As with street crime, the goal of those fighting illegal internet activity is to stay one step ahead of the cyber criminals.

"Law enforcement has some good technology out there, so we can actually track these individuals," said Sgt. Dobbs.

Dobbs says Mississippi State University now offers a program to help train law enforcers in fighting cyber crime. The University's "Center for Computer Security Research" offers computer forensic training courses for police officers from around the state.

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