MIAMI COUNTY — In a rapidly-changing society, criminals are taking to cyber space in increasing numbers. Whether computers or cell phones, crimes are being committed with the assistance of electronic and digital media in increasing numbers. In order to combat cyber crimes, law enforcement agencies must become experts at locating digital evidence to prosecute cyber criminals.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office has teamed with the U.S. Secret Service in the fight against cyber crimes. As part of the U.S. Secret Service Task Force, Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak was able to send Detective Todd Cooper to a pair of schools, operated by the Secret Service in Hoover, Ala., to learn the techniques and procedures necessary to extract data from cell phones and computers in order to solve and prosecute crimes.
The classes, which include a four-week course in 2018 and a five-week course that Cooper recently completed, are technical and required Cooper to meet admission criteria to be accepted. The course is not one that is “just” applied for, according to Duchak. Cooper was nominated by the Secret Service to attend the courses and Duchak said he heartily approved his attendance.
“The cost of the course is 100 percent covered (by the Secret Service),” Cooper said. “Even the laundry.”
Once Cooper successfully completed the courses, all of the computers and tools necessary to do diagnostics and forensics to extract necessary data from cell phones and computers is provided to the sheriff’s office by the Secret Service.
As part of the agreement and being part of the task force, when the Secret Service needs cyber investigation assistance, Cooper and the Miami County Sheriff’s Office will provide their help.
“As part of the task force, I think this past year, I’ve done maybe six phones for them,” said Cooper.
Most often, cases where Cooper’s expertise is needed by the Secret Service involves investigations in this area, he said.
While investigators with Cooper’s skill set are rare, more law enforcement professionals are being trained to combat cyber crimes.
The equipment and training ultimately allows Cooper to extract necessary files — evidence — from computers and cell phones.
“It gives the ability to locate and find files, particularly deleted files,” Cooper said. “They provided us with several programs that actually goes in and digs that stuff out.”
“Technology is always changing, and more and more, a lot of criminal investigations are greatly impacted if we can recover digital evidence from some of these difference media devices,” Duchak said.
Duchak said since Cooper attended the first course more than a year ago, he has recovered information from approximately 140 cell phones.
“He has captured critical information that has allowed for prosecution to occur, not only for our department, but also for other agencies within the county and a few outside the county.”
“It is critical to law enforcement to keep up with technology,” Duchak said. “The crime labs and other places that a lot of the digital evidence would go to are just overwhelmed. Without being able to get that information quickly can impact a criminal case, so Detective Cooper’s skill set and the equipment, he is able to get that information out, a lot of times in close to real time, where we never had that luxury before. We had to get in line and wait, and wait, and wait. It has greatly enhanced our ability to get digital data quickly.”
When the name of the U.S. Secret Service comes up, people usually think of the men and women who protect the president of the Untied States. In reality, when the Secret Service was formed in 1865, their sole mission was the protection of U.S. currency. That later evolved into protection of the president and other dignitaries. In 2003, the Secret Service was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security and handles cases involving not only currency but any crimes involving money, whether cash or the cyber transfer of funds.
Reach Mike Ullery at firstname.lastname@example.org
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