Computer forensics is the acquisition, examination, and reporting of information found on computers and networks that pertains to a criminal or civil investigation. Every day, individuals in today’s society leave a “digital footprint” of their activity, starting when they wake up. Nearly everything that someone does involving digital technology, even turning on a cell phone, leaves a trace. These traces can then be captured and analyzed in order to gain important information such as cell phone/text messaging call details, account access logs, and cellular tower mapping; e-mail headers and instant messaging logs; digital surveillance equipment from automated teller machines, gas stations, shopping malls, and highway/traffic intersections; server access logs; and personal computing devices that include not only computers, but PDAs, cell phones, smart phones, MP3 players, pagers, etc. Each of these sources can yield wide ranging evidence and valuable information that may prove to be pertinent to criminal investigations.
Offenders involved in criminal activities ranging from murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault to extortion, drug dealing and criminal hacking (e.g. Web defacements and theft of computer files) leave a “digital footprint” of their daily activities that can be analyzed by specially trained law enforcement investigators. Criminals also maintain incriminating evidence on their computers and personal computing devices. If recovered and analyzed properly, information from these sources may prove critical in identifying a suspect, and often time this information yields the most damning evidence of criminal conduct.
Cyberforensics is increasing in importance for the law enforcement community. Computers, digital devices, and the Internet represent the fastest growing technological tools utilized by criminals. In addition, computers and computing devices are increasingly the target, instrument, and/or record keeper of criminal activity. This trend continues to grow exponentially and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Vermont is no exception to this trend, as we have an explosion in the use of the Internet and digital devices as a means to commit and/or facilitate criminal activity. Digital devices and the Internet have given Vermonters instant and unfettered access to anyone from their neighbors down the street to people across the world.
Located at the Vermont State Police headquarters and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, and funded by the United States Department of Justice, the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children (VT-ICAC) Task Force is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators, forensic examiners, and prosecutors in Vermont. These highly trained personnel are charged with the investigation of Internet and high technology crimes (including production and trafficking in child pornography, computer facilitated child sexual exploitation, identity theft, cyber stalking, and computer/network intrusions), the forensic examination of digital evidence and, ultimately, the successful prosecution of these high tech offenders.