Sixth Cyber Lab Opened in Silicon Valley
A Network Whose Time Has Come
Nation's Sixth Cyber Lab Opened in Silicon Valley
Recovering key bits of evidence from a computer severely damaged by fire. Defeating passwords on four zip disks full of kiddie porn. Extracting clues from over 40 computers and hundreds of storage disks from the 9/11 investigation. Tracing an e-mail sent by a kidnapped teenage girl, leading to her safe recovery within minutes.
These are just a few successes of our growing national network of high tech crime labs.
We call them Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories, or RCFLs. Their specialty? The cyber equivalent of dusting for fingerprints: finding evidence of criminal and terrorist activity on PCs, laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, PDAs, DVD recorders, and other electronic devices. Evidence that generates leads, solves cases, and helps establish guilt or innocence in a court of law.
The concept was born in the 1990s, with the spike in criminal cases involving digital evidence. "Why don't we pool our expertise and establish regional labs that can handle everyone's needs for cyber forensics?" we in law enforcement asked ourselves. Congress helped supply the funds, and the first RCFL was launched in 1999.
Today, six RCFLs serve 350 counties in seven states, including all of New Jersey and Kansas. And that's just the beginning. This year, we'll more than double the current number. By year's end, more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies in 15 states will be able to take advantage of these lab services.
First up in 2005: the Silicon Valley RCFL, opened on January 7 in Menlo Park, California. A few details:
- The facility: More than 17,000 square feet of space, featuring state-of-the-art computers, an evidence storage room the size of a basketball court, and a high tech classroom that can train up to 1,000 officers and detectives a year.
- Services offered: Collecting digital evidence at crime scenes, conducting impartial exams, and providing court testimony for law enforcement in Alameda, San Mateo, San Francisco, and Santa Clara Counties; the lab also helps out others in northern California on a case-by-case basis.
- Participating agencies: The Alameda County Sheriff's Office; the Palo Alto Police Department; the San Jose Police Department; the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office; the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office; and the FBI.
- Current staff: Supervisory Special Agent Chris Beeson, the director of the center; eight highly trained forensic examiners; and a lab assistant.
The bottom line, according to San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis: "[W]e're going to take a gigabyte out of crime."