Just as criminals have become tech savvy, so have the cops. Authorities across the globe use cyber squads and task forces to track down such online criminals as computer hackers and pedophiles. Along with old-fashioned police work, online investigators also use software and electronic devices to crack computer criminal cases.
Computer forensic investigators have software and electronic devices that allow them to track and collect evidence against online criminals, such as IP addresses and email and user account information. In certain cases, authorities can intercept online communication content in real time, as if it were telephone wire taps.
Authorities use these techniques primarily to catch child pornographers/pedophiles and hackers whose tools of the trade include bots, worms, viruses, spyware and malware, causing billions of dollars in damages annually.
Investigators can use what is known as a Pen/Trap device to intercept real-time online communications. This is part of the federal wire-tap laws, which were beefed up after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Authorities can use such techniques to compile cases against hackers.
Child pornographers are targeted using sophisticated software that tracks images and communications on peer-to-peer networks, where authorities have discovered widespread use of those who traffic in such illegal content. Once authorities capture the illegal child pornography, they can obtain IP addresses and other identifying information to track down and prosecute child pornographers.
Forensic technicians also can use techniques that allow them to decode encryptions and passwords on suspects' seized computers.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice head a governmental cyber-crime unit focused on Internet criminals. Investigators from agencies worldwide participate in a multifaceted approach to online crime.
The cyber crime unit uses computer expertise and investigative tools in its effort to fight “computer intrusion” and the spread of malicious code; sexual predators and child pornographers; criminals who target intellectual property; and organized Internet fraud groups.
The FBI also uses “Infragard,” a program in which government investigators partner with the technology industry and academia to share and gather information on cyber crime.
Agents often pose as children in Internet chat rooms hoping to lure pedophiles, who often are arrested after setting up meetings to have sex with someone they believe to be a child.
The undercover agents can communicate with chat room users but must wait for another visitor to pursue sexual conversations and meetings with what are believed to be minors.