National Cyber Security Awareness Month
FBI, Partners, Offer Online Cyber Training for Law Enforcement First Responders
Since the advent of the Internet and, more recently, the proliferation of technological gadgets—like cell phones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, even wearable technology—criminals of all kinds are increasingly leaving behind a trail of digital evidence when committing their crimes.
So it’s imperative that law enforcement agencies around the country—in particular, the first responders to a crime scene—have a working knowledge of how to survey and secure electronic evidence in addition to the physical evidence that they’re more accustomed to, like fingerprints and DNA.
But being truly effective at securing digital evidence requires an extra level of cyber knowledge. That’s why the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)—concerned about the lack of affordable basic cyber training for officers in mostly smaller and some mid-size police agencies—contacted the FBI and asked for assistance. And in response, the FBI’s Cyber Division—with the IACP and cyber experts from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh—developed the Cyber Investigator Certification Program (CICP). This self-guided, online training program is now available—free of charge—to all local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal law enforcement personnel.
CICP’s inaugural course, launched in October 2015, specifically targets law enforcement first responders. “The goal of the course,” explains Special Agent James McDonald from the Cyber Division’s Cyber Training and Logistics Unit that oversees CICP, “is to improve a first responder’s technical knowledge by focusing on best practices in terms of investigative methods specific for cyber investigations.” He added, “The more first responders understand about technology, the less chance there is of errors being made while securing a crime scene involving digital evidence.”
Observed each October, National Cyber Security Awareness Month is the perfect time of year for individuals, businesses, and other organizations to reflect on the universe of cyber threats and to do their part to protect their networks, their devices, and their data from those threats.
The first responders course—which doesn’t have to be taken in one sitting—features nine modules; each one focuses on a particular topic, like software, hardware, the Internet and social networks, encryption, legal tools, and digital evidence. Each of the modules uses a “you are there” style where trainees can see the instructors and follow the presentation as though they were in the classroom. The instructors include top-notch cyber experts from the FBI and Carnegie Mellon, other law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors’ offices.
The modules drill down further into each of the topics with everyday information of vital importance to law enforcement first responders. For example:
- The software session includes a primer on such topics as metadata, operating systems, backup systems, apps, Internet communication, and the cloud, while the hardware lesson covers things like specific digital devices, electronic storage, and networks.
- The legal skills training goes into how to conduct search warrants and consent searches involving digital evidence as well the ins and outs of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
- The digital evidence module offers instruction on recognizing potential sources of digital evidence, securing a digital device, and documenting the crime scene.
Running throughout the overall training course is a realistic case scenario of a digital crime. The scenario, which makes use of professional quality and engaging videos, focuses on the aspect of the investigation involving first responders. And once the entire training session is completed, the officer receives a course certificate.
This first responders course is just the first one out of the barrel. The FBI and Carnegie Mellon are nearing completion of four cyber training courses (collectively called Level 1) that are designed to be more case specific and target beginning to intermediate-level detectives. These courses will focus on the crimes of digital harassment, online fraud, child enticement, and identity theft, and will also feature case scenarios—based on actual investigations—that highlight best investigative practices for crimes with a cyber angle.
“The more first responders understand about technology, the less chance there is of errors being made while securing a crime scene involving digital evidence.”
James McDonald, special agent, FBI Cyber Division
And in the developmental stages are three Level 2 training courses designed for intermediate to advanced detectives to investigate network-based crimes. Some of the topics to be covered will include malware, worms, and viruses.
Nearly 5,000 law enforcement officers have enrolled in the first responders course so far, and we expect that number will continue to grow.
As FBI Director James Comey, who is featured in an introductory video at the beginning of the first responders training, said, “Our collective success in analyzing crime scenes depends upon your ability to both assess and secure an increasing amount of digital artifacts, so it is important that we use best practices in working with digital evidence.”
Course Feedback from First Responders
- “I’m very impressed with the FBI First Responder course. The content is very current and informative....I’m looking forward to the rest of the course and to what else is in the works.”
- Senior parole officer, New Jersey
- “I love the program so far—however, I only see one training class available. Can you explain how I might find others?”
- College public safety officer, Mississippi
- “Just completed the FBI first responder course under the Cyber Investigation Certification Program and loved it. Is there an ETA as to when the subsequent classes will be offered online? And thank you very much for putting together this program.”
- Senior criminal investigator, Colorado
- “The entire course was put together very well. The program covered very basic information and progressed to more detailed topics—all of which were relevant to the investigative work I am assigned....I wish I had this training years ago. With budget constraints and full-time investigative responsibilities, there are not many training options available. This course was free and I was able to complete the modules on my own time.”
- Law enforcement officer
- “The first responder course was fantastic! I am looking forward to the next course in the Cyber Investigator Certification Program.”
- Investigator, U.S. Coast Guard