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White-Collar Crime

Authorities Struggle to Cope With ‘Tsunami of Digital Evidence’

Posted Oct 7, 2009 5:17 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As cybercrime has exploded in recent years and even traditional crimes ranging from harassment to murder routinely involve Internet-related communication, authorities in many jurisdictions increasingly are struggling to keep up with what Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley calls a "tsunami of digital evidence."

Although his office, which handles state prosecutions in the country's most-populated county, has expanded its roster of high-tech prosecutors and investigators from two to 20 in recent years, most of the state and local law enforcement entities that handle some 90 percent of the nation's felonies aren't as well-funded, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Generally, federal agencies such as the FBI, tend to have the greatest resources, the newspaper says. The bureau can put a team of tech experts onto a plane to respond to what it considers the most serious cyber threats anywhere in the world, reports Federal News Radio.

And, as detailed in another ABAJournal.com post, the FBI has just announced charges against 100 defendants in the United States and Egypt it what it describes as the largest cybercrime case ever pursued in this country.

Even relatively low-cost law enforcement measures can make a significant difference in fighting cybercrime.

In the Los Angeles DA's office, senior investigator Justin Feffer routinely uses his iPhone to check for any unencrypted wireless access points in the vicinity of a suspect's residence. This can prevent authorities from raiding the wrong house, if the suspect has taken advantage of a innocent neighbor's unprotected Internet service, according to the Wall Street Journal.

File-sharing software, which can leave all of the files on an individual's home computer exposed on the Internet if it's not properly used, is also a potential major pitfall for the unwary. Hundreds of people have had their tax returns and other confidential information stolen because of file-sharing errors, Feffer tells the newspaper.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Record ‘Phish Phry’ Bank Cybercrime Bust Nets 100 in US & Egypt"

ABAJournal.com: "Phishing Scheme Nets ‘Enormous Haul’ of Hotmail Passwords, N.Y. Times Says"

Digital Communities: "Making Cyber-Security a National Priority"

Media Newswire (press release): "Nations Defend Computer Networks, Websites"

New York Post: "NY enforcers: $10K-a-day crime ring had int’l link"

Washington Post: "Soldiers' Data Still Being Downloaded Overseas, Firm Says"

Updated at 6:45 p.m. to link to related New York Post article and move Modesto Bee and Threat Level links to related ABAJournal.com post about FBI "Phish Phry" sting.

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