There's a new kind of investigator in the house — an investigator for the information and computer age — called the cyber sleuth. The cyber sleuth is trained to examine computer bytes the way G-men were trained in fingerprints. These investigators are dedicated to and effective in Internet crime fighting.
Computers and the Internet have opened the world and all it has to offer to anyone with an Internet connection, but this technology is a double-edged sword. It has made education available to those with no time or opportunity to attend regular classes, and it has given friends and family on different continents the ability to keep in touch. However, the other side of this situation is that the Internet is an ungoverned no-man's land where criminals search for — and find — opportunities to hurt others for their own gain. Crimes are showcased on YouTube, Black Planet, MySpace, Face-book, and other social information sites. Pedophiles roam the Net looking to lure children into their traps. Gangs use the Internet to send messages, advertise criminal exploits, and plan for future crimes. Con artists send offers of jackpot winnings and false investment opportunities around the planet, and terrorists use the Web to further their plans.
The answer to this, at least for now, is the cyber sleuth. Social information sites are difficult to police. Besides child pornography and pedophiles, cyber sleuths investigate insider traders, hackers, violent criminals, and terrorists.
One example of cyber detecting is the case of Thomas Murray, a Kansas State University professor charged with murdering his wife. Cyber sleuths confiscated his computer hard drive and analyzed it. When they discovered search terms such as “killing quietly and quickly,” and “murder for hire,” Murray tried to argue that he had been researching script concepts. The jury didn't buy it, however, and sentenced him to life in prison.
Although the FBI's cyber unit is way ahead of most players in cyber crime fighting, a nonprofit organization is ahead of the FBI. The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) has access to funds and equipment not even the FBI has. NCFTA is an extension of the Pittsburgh High Tech Crimes Task Force, composed of federal, state, and local law enforcement. Microsoft is a closely involved partner, donating funds and lending an analyst to the group. These investigators have the most technololgically advanced equipment on the planet, and are always looking for better equipment and more effective techniques. Private and law enforcement cyber-sleuths alike are always ready to help with cases. This is why they exist — to share their specialized skills and knowledge. PIs need to form networking relationships with these investigators.
Computer forensics is a fairly young discipline. It's in the state of technology that DNA was ten years ago, but it is growing fast. If you are proficient with the computer, you may want to look into further training in computer forensics. The FBI has listed cyber crime as a top priority — third in line behind terrorism and counterintelligence — so the need is strong.
Cyber sleuths are working hard to stem the rising tide of Internet crime. The problem lies in the fact that cyber laws are weak. If you are interested in monitoring online activity, you may want to take a look at the Urban Dictionary,