"The Digital Suspect", a 13News Exclusive - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

"The Digital Suspect", a 13News Exclusive


As crime evolves with the digital nature of the world we live in, investigators are evolving as well; finding ways to keep up with the fast paced growth of technology.

13 News' Matt Groves visited FBI headquarters in Chicago for an exclusive story on "The Digital Suspect".

"We're looking at crime across the board.  From child pornography cases to healthcare fraud, to mortgage fraud, to drug dealers," said John Dziedzic, Lab Director at the Chicago Regional Computer Forensics Lab.

Pixels, images and text messages mean nothing to some, they're just part of everyday life.

To investigators at the Chicago Regional Computer Forensics Lab, the RCFL,  those items are digital fingerprints, extending a physical crime scene to the unseen digital crime.

"There's been several incidents where we've had homicides that were committed in the city of Chicago where the last text message is, "hey can you meet me over here?"  And that happens to be where the guys lying dead and the last person that sent him the text message is the person that killed him," said Dziedzic.

Since the lab opened in 2003, a lot has changed.  Not only with the types of crimes but with the ability to track them.

Matt asked Dziedzic the question, "When you first started with the RCFL 80% of the cases that came in dealt with child pornography.  That's down to 20% but it's not because there are lesser offenses?"

According to him, "It still is prolific as it was, it's just that the criminals have picked up on the fact that they can use digital media to commit the fruits of their crimes and to facilitate their crimes."

Criminals forget about cracking safes. Now they attack online accounts.

"Its much easier to rob a bank through 25-30 strokes of a keyboard, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet than it is to walk in with a weapon and maybe get, two, three, four thousand dollars."

Special investigators track keywords, searching for patterns or abnormalities on seized hard drives.

Digital forensics can cover anything that you use in digital media.  Your personal computer, your laptop, your tablet.  Even your cell phone can be scanned for images, for videos, for files.  It's all possible evidence.

One investigator specializes in cellular devices.

"We can get information like contact information, phone logs, images, videos, ring tones, things like that; MMS messages, text messages.  Everyone seems to be doing that these days," she said.

Even how you get from point a to point B can be traced from your GPS.

"And if you want to know where the person was, where they were going.  That's important in a lot of cases."

And the cases are coming in more often.  RCFL labs across the country train detectives and officers in the art of digital forensics investigating but they also do their part to make it simpler.

Easy to use kiosks enable investigators to pop in cards from phones and cameras giving them direct access to things they can use as evidence.

While the kiosks are easy, other aspects are not.  Recruiting from local police departments for training proves near impossible with officer numbers dropping in many places.

Dziedzic says the outcome is worth the investment.

"The hope is, that the law enforcement community as a whole comes to the realization that digital evidence is the future of law enforcement.  Regardless of numbers and how many we want, we want to build a capacity.  That's our goal, is to build the capacity and to have a front line or a triage line that can assist us in performing digital forensics."

If you think Rockford is off the map when it comes to digital forensics, you're wrong.

There is an easy to use kiosk at Rockford's FBI office.

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