Home News Stories 2008 April

2007 RCFL Program Report

Digital Forensics Labs
All Crimes, All the Time

04/29/08

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A fast food worker in Chicago was robbed at knifepoint by a suspect who fought with a retired cop at the scene before escaping. The responding police officers had the restaurant's surveillance video enhanced by the Chicago Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory. A clearer picture of the suspect was compared against the Illinois Drivers License database, resulting in a match and the apprehension of the suspect.

This is just one of many cases solved during 2007 with the assistance of a Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, or RCFL.

RCFLs are a network of digital forensics labs sponsored by the FBI and staffed by local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel. These labs are available—free of charge—to 4,750 law enforcement agencies across 17 states.

Yes, RCFLs perform digital forensic exams in cyber crime cases, but they contribute to so many more kinds of investigations: terrorism, espionage, public corruption, civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime, and violent crime. These days, computers and other technological devices are such a part of daily life that you'd be hard-pressed to find any type of criminal or terrorist who doesn’t use one. And when they do, RCFL examiners are there to extract and enhance information from these devices that may serve as evidence at trial.

You can read all about the accomplishments of these 14 labs—collectively and individually—in the RCFL Program's Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Report. Here are some highlights:

  • During 2007, RCFL experts conducted 4,634 exams, processing 1,288 terabytes of information. (How much data is that? Consider this: all the books in the Library of Congress equal only about 20 terabytes!)
  • RCFLs provided assistance to 685 agencies (608 were state and/or local).
  • A total of 76,581 digital devices were examined (the most popular media by far—CDs, coming in at 37,424; followed by hard disk drives at 17,378; floppy disks at 11,781; and DVDs at 4,374).
  • An interesting trend: the number of CDs, cell phones, and flash media devices examined doubled from the previous year.
  • A total of 9,762 law enforcement personnel were trained, and, for the first time, RCFL instructors traveled overseas to share their expertise with approximately 169 government representatives (several RCFLs also hosted foreign visitors).
Map of current and planned RCFL sites and terrorities served
Map of current and planned RCFL sites and terrorities served

And expect the above numbers to keep increasing: two sites for future RCFLs were just announced—Los Angeles and Albuquerque.

But solving cases—that’s where the rubber meets the road. And during 2007, RCFLs conducted forensic exams in a number of successful local, national, and international cases, including:

  • The alleged plot by six foreign nationals to attack the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey;
  • The apprehension of the so-called "Bike Path Rapist," who terrorized female bikers in Buffalo for two decades;
  • "Operation Remaster," an undercover investigation believed to be the largest-ever manufacturing case in U.S. history involving high-quality counterfeit movie CDs and DVDs;
  • The arrest of the individual responsible for posting an online message threatening to kill San Diego State University students, just one day after the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech; and
  • The indictment of two California men in a China-related economic espionage case involving the theft of trade secrets on computer chip design and development.


Visit the RCFL website for more information about the overall program and the individual labs.